Cars and the man: Former Sen. Howard Baker's classic car collection to be sold

Posted at 4:11 AM, Nov 09, 2014

“I love cars and this is one from my small collection — a 1951 Hudson Hornet. This photograph is emblematic of the style and design of 1950s American cars, which I still admire today.” Howard Baker, 2006

That quote from the former U.S. senator from Tennessee with a photograph of the reddish convertible is on the November 2014 calendar of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Institute for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee.

It shows what the car and four other antique ones meant to Baker, who also was a U.S. ambassador and chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. Baker died June 26, and his estate is in a trust.

Baker left the cars, all of which are in seemingly tip-top shape in a garage at his home in Huntsville, Tenn., to the institute, to be sold with the proceeds going to the institute, said his wife, Nancy Kassebaum Baker.

The other cars are a Ford Galaxie convertible, Cord, Lincoln Zephr and a Lincoln Continental convertible.

Steve Moskowitz, executive director of the Antique Automobile Club of America in Hershey, Pa., said he has never seen Baker’s collection but knows people who have.

“The Cord and Hudson are super-desirable. The others, it depends on the year and condition. It’s going to raise a significant amount for the enterprise, depending on the terms of the will. It’s certainly something he contemplated,” Moskowitz said.

Fred Marcum, who was Baker’s senior adviser for 36 years, said it is being determined what may be the best value of the cars and what would be the best return for the benefit of the center.

“We just don’t know yet. We don’t have enough information,” he said.

Matt Murray, Baker Center executive director, said the cars either will be sold through an auction or through a sale, possibly with a national auction firm being used — although such firms usually charge fairly high fees, he said.

“They would have them shipped off to another location,” he said. “That seems cold, to send them to California or Florida. My personal preference would be an auction here or in Huntsville and make it fun and exciting.”

Moskowitz said if he were asked, he would recommend RM Auctions of Blenheim, Canada, which has offices in the U.S., because of the success they have in promoting automobiles and raising money.

The Baker Center’s board of directors has authorized its executive committee to make the decision on what to do with the cars to benefit the center, Murray said.

The executive committee members are businessman Jim Haslam II, board chairman; Don Stansberry, Baker’s law partner, who is his executor and trustee; Tom Griscom, a longtime Baker aide and retired Chattanooga newspaper executive; UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek; Marcum, and Murray.

In a related activity, the Baker Center’s modern political archivist, Kris Bronstad, has completed a survey of documents from Baker’s Huntsville law office, tractor shed and storage unit, as part of obtaining documents of public interest.

“We added documents to the Modern Political Archives that show how Howard Baker’s involvement and influence in national and international matters continued after his senatorial and White House careers, even after his ambassadorship. This will complement the Howard Baker papers we already have at the Modern Political Archives for public research. We are hoping to soon launch a digital exhibit that will make images from Baker’s life and career even more accessible to the public,” Bronstad said in an email.

Friends said those documents will offer further insight into Baker’s later career.

“Kris took a ‘sampling’ of materials that spanned several decades. We couldn’t possibly accommodate the sheer volume of materials at the Baker Center,” Marcum said.

Georgiana Vines, retired News Sentinel associate editor, may be reached at 865-577-6612 or