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Walter Baker Portrait May 2012
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Kentucky Statesman Walter Baker Honored in Katie Murrell Library

Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 [8:52 PM]

COLUMBIA, Ky. -- Libraries helped shape and define the life of the late Walter A. Baker.

The Columbia native discovered the riches stored in libraries when he was a 5-year-old student at the old training school at Lindsey Wilson College.

"He loved libraries and the opening it gave to him and everybody else," said Jane Baker, the widow of the late Kentucky statesman, who died in 2010 at the age of 73. "His love for books and reading started here, and started his eternal quest for learning and his love for people. … His love of people also came from growing up in Columbia."

Members of the Lindsey Wilson community honored Baker Wednesday morning in the college's Katie Murrell Library by unveiling a copy of the portrait made when he was appointed to the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1996.

Baker attended Lindsey Wilson Training School before being a member of Adair County High School's first graduating class in 1954. But even after he finished his education at Lindsey Wilson, librarian Katie Murrell allowed Baker to continue to use the college's collection.

"He told stories about how he would spend hours in the stacks, reading in our library, and what a difference that opportunity had made in his life," LWC Preisdent William T. Luckey Jr. said at the ceremony.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College and then Harvard Law School, Baker began a distinguished law career in Glasgow, Ky. In addition to serving on the bench of the Kentucky Supreme Court, Baker was in the Kentucky Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force; was member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1968-71 and Kentucky State Senate from 1972-81, '89-96; and was assistant general counsel for International Affairs in the Department of Defense during the Reagan administration.

"He was always charming, he was always warm, he was always brilliant and affirming and had an encouraging word to say," Luckey said. "What a statesman Walter Baker was. … If ever we needed a Walter Baker in the world, it is today."

After his death, a good a portion of Baker's personal library was given to Lindsey Wilson.

"The morning before he died, I asked him where he wanted his library -- his pride and joy -- to go, and he quickly said, 'Lindsey Wilson,'" Jane Baker said.

Many of Baker's books sit on shelves next to volumes once owned by Kentucky historian laureate Thomas D. Clark, who also gave his personal library to the college.

Luckey recalled a conversation with Baker in which he told him that he had made several trips to Lindsey Wilson so that he could read from Clark's books.

"He told me he had been spending hour after hour reading from the same books that Dr. Thomas Clark had held in his hand, and how much he had treasured that opportunity," Luckey said. "What a beautiful thing that people will now have the opportunity to read from the same books that were treasured and clutched in the hands of Judge Walter Baker."

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