Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker Jr. dies

Published On: Jun 26 2014 12:40:57 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 26 2014 06:03:55 PM CDT

Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker Jr., who asked what President Richard Nixon knew about Watergate, has died. He was 88.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander confirmed Baker's death in a news release Thursday.

Baker has Kansas connections. He been married to the daughters of two prominent Republicans. Baker's late first wife, Joy, who died of cancer, was the daughter of former Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen. In 1996, he married former U.S. Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, the daughter of the late Kansas Governor Alfred M. Landon, who was the Republican nominee for President in 1936.

Baker, a Republican, served 18 years in the Senate. He earned the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike and rose to the post of majority leader. He served as White House chief of staff at the end of the Reagan administration and was U.S. ambassador to Japan during President George W. Bush's first term.

His question at the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings - "What did the president know and when did he know it?" - became famous. It instantly focused the nation's attention on the cover-up that - more than the Watergate break-in itself - eventually brought down Nixon's presidency.

Baker died June 26, 2014 his law firm announced.

Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement on Sen. Baker's death:

"Howard Baker loved his country and served it well in a life dedicated to public service," Brownback said.