Newton D. Baker

Last updated
Newton Baker
Newton Baker, Bain bw photo portrait.jpg
47th United States Secretary of War
In office
March 9, 1916 March 4, 1921
President Woodrow Wilson
Preceded by Lindley Garrison
Succeeded by John W. Weeks
37th Mayor of Cleveland
In office
Preceded by Herman C. Baehr
Succeeded by Harry L. Davis
Personal details
Newton Diehl Baker Jr.

(1871-12-03)December 3, 1871
Martinsburg, West Virginia, U.S.
DiedDecember 25, 1937(1937-12-25) (aged 66)
Shaker Heights, Ohio, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Wells Leopold
Education Johns Hopkins University (BA)
Washington and Lee University (LLB)

Newton Diehl Baker Jr. (December 3, 1871 December 25, 1937) was an American lawyer, Georgist, [1] politician, and government official. He served as the 37th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio from 1912 to 1915. As U.S. Secretary of War from 1916 to 1921, Baker presided over the United States Army during World War I.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, counselor at law, solicitor, chartered legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.


Born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Baker established a legal practice in Cleveland after graduating from Washington and Lee University School of Law. He became progressive Democratic ally of Mayor Tom L. Johnson. Baker served as city solicitor of Cleveland from 1901 to 1909 before taking office as mayor in 1912. As mayor, he sought public transit reform, hospital improvement, and city beautification. Baker supported Woodrow Wilson at the 1912 Democratic National Convention, helping Wilson win the votes of the Ohio delegation. After leaving office, Baker accepted appointment as Secretary of War under President Wilson. He was one of several prominent Georgists appointed to positions in the Wilson Cabinet. [2]

Martinsburg, West Virginia City in West Virginia, United States

Martinsburg is a city in and the county seat of Berkeley County, West Virginia, United States, in the tip of the state's Eastern Panhandle region in the lower Shenandoah Valley. Its population was 17,687 in the 2016 census estimate, making it the largest city in the Eastern Panhandle and the ninth-largest municipality in the state. Martinsburg is part of the Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Washington and Lee University School of Law American law school

The Washington and Lee University School of Law is a private American Bar Association-accredited law school located in Lexington in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. Facilities are on the historic campus of Washington and Lee University in Sydney Lewis Hall. W&L Law has a total enrollment of approximately 365 students in the Juris Doctor program and a 6-to-1 student to faculty ratio.

Progressivism in the United States is a broadly based reform movement that reached its height early in the 20th century. It was middle class and reformist in nature. It arose as a response to the vast changes brought by modernization, such as the growth of large corporations, pollution and fears of corruption in American politics. In the 21st century, progressives continue to embrace concepts such as environmentalism and social justice. Much of the movement has been rooted in and energized by religion.

Baker presided over the U.S. military's participation in World War I. He selected General John J. Pershing to command the American Expeditionary Forces, which he insisted act as an independent unit. He left office in 1921 and returned to BakerHostetler, the legal practice he co-founded. He served as an attorney in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. , a landmark case that established the constitutionality of zoning laws. He was a strong supporter of the League of Nations and continued to advocate American participation in the League during the 1920s. Beginning in 1928, he served as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. He was a candidate for the presidential nomination at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, but the convention chose Franklin D. Roosevelt.

John J. Pershing Commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I

General of the Armies John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing was a senior United States Army officer. His most famous post was when he served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) on the Western Front in World War I, 1917–18.

American Expeditionary Forces major formation of the United States Army in the Western Front of World War I

The American Expeditionary Forces was a formation of the United States Army on the Western Front of World War I. The AEF was established on July 5, 1917, in France under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. It fought alongside French Army, British Army, Canadian Army, and Australian Army units against the German Empire. A minority of the AEF troops also fought alongside Italian Army units in that same year against the Austro-Hungarian Army. The AEF helped the French Army on the Western Front during the Aisne Offensive in the summer of 1918, and fought its major actions in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in the latter part of 1918.

BakerHostetler is an American law firm founded in 1916. One of the firm's founders, Newton D. Baker, was U.S. Secretary of War during World War I and former Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.

Early years

Newton Diehl Baker was born on December 3, 1871, in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the son of Newton Diehl Baker Sr. and Mary Ann (Dukehart) Baker. Baker's grandfather, Elias Baker, was a staunch unionist, his father, on the contrary, joined the Confederate Army, served as a cavalryman, was wounded and became a northern prisoner of war. After returning home in 1865, he obtained a medical degree from the University of Maryland Medical School and worked as a physician in Martinsburg until his death in 1906. [3] :19–20

Baker attended the village schools in Martinsburg through his second year in high school and finished his preparatory training at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia.

Episcopal High School (Alexandria, Virginia)

Episcopal High School, founded in 1839, is a private boarding school located in Alexandria, Virginia. The Holy Hill 130-acre (0.53 km2) campus houses 440 students from 31 states, the District of Columbia and 16 different countries. The school is 100-percent boarding and is the only all-boarding school of its caliber located in a major metropolitan area.

In 1892, Baker graduated with bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He attended lectures of Woodrow Wilson, who was a visiting professor at the time. [3] :22 After receiving his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law [4] in 1894, he tried for a year to establish law practice in Martinsburg, and then became private secretary to Postmaster General William L. Wilson, [5] who served in the Confederate cavalry with Baker's father. [3] :21 He stayed in Washington, D.C. until June 1897, then took a vacation in Europe, and returned to Martinsburg. In January 1899, he became a junior partner at Foran, McTigne and Baker in Cleveland. [3] :23

Johns Hopkins University Private research university in Baltimore, Maryland

The Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, abolitionist, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest —of which half financed the establishment of Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution's first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany's ancient Heidelberg University, Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research.

Phi Gamma Delta fraternity

Phi Gamma Delta (ΦΓΔ), commonly known as Fiji, is a social fraternity with more than 158 active chapters and 13 colonies across the United States and Canada. It was founded at Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, in 1848. Along with Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Gamma Delta forms a half of the Jefferson Duo. Since its founding in 1848, the fraternity has initiated more than 180,000 brothers. The nickname FIJI is used commonly by the fraternity due to Phi Gamma Delta bylaws that limit the use of the Greek letters.

Woodrow Wilson 28th president of the United States

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was an American statesman and academic who served as the 28th president of the United States from 1913 to 1921. A member of the Democratic Party, Wilson served as the president of Princeton University and as the 34th governor of New Jersey before winning the 1912 presidential election. As president, he oversaw the passage of progressive legislative policies unparalleled until the New Deal in 1933. He also led the United States during World War I, establishing an activist foreign policy known as "Wilsonianism."

Baker was small and thin. He was rejected for military service in the Spanish–American War because of poor eyesight.[ citation needed ]

Cleveland politics

When Baker moved to Cleveland, his political sympathies belonged to the Democratic Party; he supported the so-called Gold Democrats and their platform of gold standard, free trade, and civil service reform. [3] :23 He built a successful legal career and became involved in local politics. He helped the Democratic candidate Tom L. Johnson to become the mayor of Cleveland, and under his mentorship started his own public career. Johnson was a passionate advocate of Georgist political progressivism. Baker became exposed to Johnson's politics and also became a Georgist. [1] [6] He assisted Johnson in his fights against city's utility monopolies, e.g., Cleveland Electric Railway Company owned by Mark Hanna, which made Baker popular among Clevelanders. [3] :45

After serving as city solicitor from 1901 to 1909, he became mayor of the city in 1911. [7] As a city official, Baker's main interests were providing Cleveland with electricity (he built a municipal light plant), public transit reform, hospital improvement, and city beautification. [5] [8] He was a strong backer of Cleveland College, now a part of Case Western Reserve University. His crowning achievement as a mayor was the passage of the home rule amendment to the Ohio's constitution, which was approved by voters in 1912. It granted Cleveland a right to draw its own charter and conduct the city business without state interference. [9]

When Baker worked on Wilson's behalf at the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore in 1912, he was considered as a possible vice-presidential contender. [5] He and Wilson had been acquaintances since they were both at Johns Hopkins in the 1890s, and Baker played a vital role during Wilson's Democratic nomination for president at the convention by securing votes from Ohio delegates. [10] Wilson wanted to bring him to Washington D.C. Though offered the post twice, Baker declined to serve as United States Secretary of the Interior during President Wilson's first term.

In 1916, following his tenure as mayor of Cleveland, Baker and two other partners founded the law firm of Baker Hostetler.

Secretary of War

As the United States considered whether to enter World War I, President Woodrow Wilson named Baker Secretary of War, because Baker was acceptable to advocates and opponents of American participation in the conflict. The post also required legal expertise because of the War Department's role in administering the Philippines, the Panama Canal, and Puerto Rico. The New York Times called him a "warm supporter" of the President. At 44, he was the youngest member of the Cabinet. [5]

One historian described his relationship to the military: [11]

A civilian's civilian, Baker saw the military as a necessity, but he had no awe of people in uniform, no romantic feelings toward them, and no dreams of glory. ... On the day President Woodrow Wilson announced Baker's appointment as secretary of war, he admitted his ignorance of military matters. "I am an innocent," he told reporters, "I do not know anything about this job." But he had a sharp, analytical mind and considerable skill at administration.

As Secretary of War, Baker presided over the American military participation in the World War I in 1917 and 1918, including the creation of a nationwide military draft. Baker selected Gen. John J. Pershing to head the American Expeditionary Forces. At Baker's insistence, Wilson made the American forces an independent fighting partner of the Allies against the Central Powers, rather than letting American troops be used to replenish British and French forces as those nations advised. At one meeting with British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, Baker told him that "if we want advice as to who should command our armies, we would ask for it. But until then we do not want nor need it from anyone, least of all you."

He was occasionally attacked by military professionals who thought him incompetent or a pacifist at heart. He said, "I'm so much of a pacifist, I'm willing to fight for it." [12]

In 1917, Baker was elected an honorary member of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati.

In 1918, Wilson told Baker that he hoped he would follow him into the White House in 1920.

During Baker's term, Emmett Jay Scott served as his Special Advisor of Black Affairs.

Later years

After stepping down as Secretary of War in 1921, Baker returned to practicing law at Baker & Hostetler.

For several years he was the leading proponent of American participation in the League of Nations. [12]

In 1922, the Encyclopædia Britannica published a brief account of Baker's life that drew sharp criticism. It said, in part, "The charge of pacifism was often brought against him and his career generally as Secretary was widely condemned throughout the United States." Among the prominent names who called the Encyclopedia to account were Livingston Farrand of Cornell and Ernest M. Hopkins of Dartmouth. [13]

At the 1924 Democratic National Convention, during discussion of the party platform, Baker was the principal advocate of language committing the party to American membership in the League of Nations. After losing in the platform committee, which advocated a national referendum on the question, he raised the issue on the floor of the convention.

Though he had no chance of winning over the delegates to support his position, he delivered a speech that was the highlight of the convention, "political oratory at its peak" according to an exhaustive account of the convention: "According to reporters, men and women everywhere burst into tears. It was a tour de force, emotional and bordering on hysteria." [14] He drew upon memories of Wilson, who had died just five months earlier.and pleaded for a return to Wilsonian idealism: [15]

On fields of Europe I closed the eyes of soldiers in American uniforms who were dying ... and oh, they were so superb and splendid: never a complaint; never a regret; willing to go if only two things might be: One, that mother might know that they died bravely, and the other, that somebody would pick up their sacrifice and build on earth a permanent temple of peace. ...

And I swore an obligation to the dead that in season and out, by day and by night, in church, in political meeting, in the market-place, I intended to lift up my voice always and ever until their sacrifice were really perfected. ...

I served Woodrow Wilson for five years. He is standing at the throne of God whose approval he won and has received. As he looks down from there I say to him: "I did my best. I am doing it now. You are still the captain of my soul. I feel your spirit here palpably about me." He is standing here, through my weak voice, his presence not that crippled, shrunken, broken figure that I last saw, but the great majestic leader is standing here, using me to say to you, "Save mankind, do America's duty".

When his allotted 20 minutes expired, the crowd roared for him to continue. After an hour he left the lectern to a tremendous ovation. Speakers who tried to argue against him were booed. Yet the final vote went against him by a margin of more than 2 to 1. [16] According to a New York Times editorial,

For a moment that vast audience was lifted from partisan thoughts to heights from which it could have a glimpse of the promised land of peace. ... Not only did Mr. Baker do his best, but he made one of the best and most moving speeches heard of late in any political meeting. He showed himself a disciple worthy to wear his master's mantle. He too has the spirit of prophecy upon him. [17]

Later at the convention, he nominated former Governor James M. Cox of Ohio as his state's "favorite son." [18]

In 1928, President Coolidge appointed Baker a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration of The Hague, and he was reappointed to another six-year term by Roosevelt in 1935. [19] [20] In 1929, President Herbert Hoover appointed Baker to the Wickersham Commission on issues relating to law enforcement, criminal activity, police brutality, and Prohibition. [21]

He remained active in Democratic Party affairs and was considered as a serious prospect for the Democratic nomination for President in 1932, when he declined to announce his candidacy but worked behind the scenes in the hope of being chosen if Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to win the nomination.

Yale University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1932. [22]

Baker argued before the U.S. Supreme Court as counsel for the property owner in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. , a landmark case that established the constitutionality of zoning laws. [23]

Baker served on the Board of Trustees of Johns Hopkins University beginning in 1918 and was considered for appointment as president of the institution in 1928. [24]

In 1936, he resigned as a member of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Committee after serving for 26 years. [12]

He published a lecture in pamphlet form as War in the Modern World in 1935. [25]

Personal life

Elizabeth Leopold Baker Elizabeth Leopold Baker.jpg
Elizabeth Leopold Baker

Baker married Elizabeth Leopold, a faculty member at Wilson College, on July 5, 1902. They had two daughters and a son. [26]

He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Christmas Day, December 25, 1937. [12] He was buried in Lake View Cemetery. His wife died on August 24, 1951. [26]


During World War II the Liberty ship SS Newton D. Baker was built in Panama City, Florida, and named in his honor. [27]

In 1957 Western Reserve University, now Case Western Reserve, erected the Newton D. Baker Building in his honor. Located on the corner of Adelbert and Euclid, across from Severance Hall, it served as a large unit of general purpose classrooms and administrative offices. The building was torn down in November 2004.

The Georgetown mansion Baker occupied while Secretary of War, now known as Newton D. Baker House, is on the National Register of Historic Places. [28]

The law firm he founded, Baker Hostetler, is one of the nation's 100 largest firms.

Baker High School and Newton D. Baker School of Arts located on W. 159th Street in West Park, Cleveland are both named after Baker. A dormitory at Ohio State University, dedicated in 1940, is named Baker Hall (see information about the building) in his honor. [29] The Newton D. Baker dormitory at Washington and Lee University is also named for him. The Veterans Administration Hospital in his hometown of Martinsburg WV was originally named the Newton D. Baker Hospital and is still referred to as such by local residents.

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  1. 1 2 Noble, Ransom E. "Henry George and the Progressive Movement." The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, vol. 8, no. 3, 1949, pp. 259–269.
  2. Johnston, Robert D. The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2003
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Craig, Douglas B. Progressives at War: William G. Mcadoo and Newton D. Baker, 1863-1941. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.
  4. Cramer, C. H. "Newton D. Baker." Newton D. Baker (1871-1937). Washington and Lee Law School, n.d. Web. 04 June 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Former Cleveland Mayor and Militant Political Ally of Wilson Gets Post, The New York Times, March 7, 1916. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  6. Dawley, Alan. Changing the World: American Progressives in War and Revolution. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  7. Baker, Newton Diehl - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
  8. Wilson, Richard L. American Political Leaders. New York: Facts on File, 2002, p. 25.
  9. Home Rule - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
  10. O'Brien, Steven, Paula McGuire, James M. McPherson, and Gary Gerstle. American Political Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 1991, p. 18.
  11. James P. Tate, The Army and its Air Corps: Army Policy Toward Aviation 1919-1941 (Air University Press, 1998), 3
  12. 1 2 3 4 Newton D. Baker Dies in Cleveland, The New York Times, December 26, 1937. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  13. Indignation Grows over Baker Article, The New York Times, October 9, 1922. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  14. Murray, 144-6, 151-2
  15. Text of Debate on League, The New York Times, June 29, 1924. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  16. Murray, 153
  17. Mr. Baker's Speech, The New York Times, June 30, 1924. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  18. Robert K. Murray, The 103rd Ballot: Democrats and the Disaster in Madison Square Garden (NY: Harper & Row, 1976), 138
  19. Baker is Reappointed to The Hague Court, The New York Times, January 6, 1935. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  20. President Appoints Newton D. Baker a Member of Hague Arbitration Court, The New York Times, June 3, 1928. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  21. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, Volume 1, edited by David Levinson, page 1708.
  22. $3,192,297 in Gifts Announced at Yale, The New York Times, June 23, 1932. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  23. Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926).
  24. Baker Considered for Johns Hopkins, The New York Times, April 4, 1928. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  25. Miscellaneous Brief Reviews, The New York Times, October 13, 1935. Accessed February 6, 2011. War in the Modern World, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935. (Milton Academy Alumni War Memorial Series.)
  26. 1 2 Mrs. Newton Baker, Widow of Wilson Aide, The New York Times, August 24, 1951.
  27. Williams, Greg H. (25 July 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN   1476617546 . Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  28. District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites, 2009. Accessed February 6, 2011.
  29. John H. Herrick Archives: Baker Hall. Accessed February 6, 2011.

Further reading

Primary sources

Political offices
Preceded by
Herman C. Baehr
Mayor of Cleveland
Succeeded by
Harry L. Davis
Preceded by
Lindley M. Garrison
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Woodrow Wilson

March 9, 1916 March 4, 1921
Succeeded by
John W. Weeks