Bobby Baker (United States, 1928- )


Figure 1.--The Congressional pages were invited to the White House in 1943, here they are with Mrs. Roosevelt. Note that the House pages wear long trousers, but the more traditional Senate insisted on dark knicker suits for the boys, even though knickers were going out of style. Bobby who was 14 years old when he arrived hated them.

Few people were more astute students of the United States Congress than Bobby Baker a protoge of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Bobby crew up in a small town in South Carolina and was very much impressed with himself until he found out when he first arrived in Washington during 1943 during World War II to serve as a Senate page that there were a lot of other boys as bright as himself. He arrived in Washington still wearing long-handled underwear. He was upset when he found that he would have to wear knickers--which he detested. He though at age 14 he was too old to wear knickers. The House pages had already switched to long pants.

Family

Bobby's father was the son of a millhand and had little opporunity for education, although he loved learning. He did manage to become a mailman as he did well on the civil sevice test and became a popular man in Pickens. Bobby was frriends with a boy from a wealthy family. When he turned down the offer to be a Senate page, the boy's father offered it to Bobby. Bobby's father insisted he take the oppprtunity, although Bobby wasn't happy about it.

Youth

Bobby seems to have always been known as Bobby, even as an adult. His actual nane was Robert Gene Baker. Bobby crew up in a small town in South Carolina.

Boyhood Clothing

I am not sure about his clothing growing up in South Carolina, but apparently he did not wear knickers, at least as an older boy.

Education

Bobby went to school in Pickens, a small South Carolina town. Apparently he did well in school and was praised, perhaps "too much" he later said. Apparently the schooling was not up to the academic standards of many of the other boys selected to be Congressional pages.

Senate Page

Bobby was very much impressed with himself until he found out when he first arrived in Washington during 1943 during World War II to serve as a Senate page that there were a lot of other boys as bright as himself. A merchant seaman he met scarred the gullible boy with tales of Japanese spys. He was very unhappy at first, in part because his school in Pickens had not prepared him for serious academic competition he found in the Capitol Page School. he was also physically small which caused additional problems. He recalls one incident as a page. They were invited to lunch and a movie at the White House after which Mrs. Roosevelt took them up to their private quarters to meet President Roosevelt who showed them a captured German helmet and chatted with them for some time. The only problem was that the next day the FBI called at the school. The boys had taken so much silverware that there wasn't enough for an upcoming state banquet. When the school headmaster asked why he was not going back to his quaters to fetch the missing silvewear for the FBI, he replied, "No sir. I wan't raised to steal silver, and I don't steal silver. I've got better manners than that." He came to love the Senate. He would rub his hands over the desks wher Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas, Andrew Jackson, and others carved their names and marvel. He was thrilled to hear the graet World War II leaders (Churchill, Madame Chang and others address the Senate. He writes, "I hustled to the front of the chamber to sit on the carpeted step where alert and ambitious page boys posted themselves; so great was my enthralment that I even forgot for a few moments that I wore those hated little boy knickers." [Baker, p. 30.] He reports that the most well liked senator among the page boys was an unassuming senator from Missouri, Harry Truman, who he writes was the most genteel man he ever met.

Senate Page Clothing

When Bobby arrived in Washington, he was still wearing long-handled underwear. Apparently his parents thought ir would be cold as far noryh as Washington. When the other boys initiated him by beating him with brooms they had a good laugh at the old-fashioned underwear. He was upset when he found that he would have to wear knickers--which he detested. He though at age 14 he was too old to wear knickers. The House pages had already switched to long pants. He writes, "The uniform of a Senate page boy, alone, was hateful to me in the extreme. The knickers we wore implied that we were juveniles, of low rank, less than full citizens. Girls giggled at them and adults often teased us about them. I hated them with a passion difficult to fully measure. Years later, when I had the power, I ordered that page-boy knickers be replaced by long trousers." [Baker, p.29.] Knickers were going out of style in American, even the Scouts dropped them in 1943. All the Senate pages war them, even the teenagers older than Bobby.

Political Career

Few people were more astute students of the United States Congress than Bobby Baker. He first worked for Senator Kerr, one of the most venal men in the Seanate at the time--and one of the most powerful. Baker later became a protoge and loyal assistanr of President Lyndon B. Johnson. He became the Secreatry to the Senate Majority Leader. Johnson came to rely on him and was to say, "He is the first person I talk to in the morning and the last one at night." The Baker scandal was one if the first to rock the Johnson Administration.

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson was the 34th president of the United States. He oversaw an unprecedented era of social reform in the United States and worked unceasingly toward a Great Society for the Nation. Great progress was achieved in civil rights which had a profound impact on the political system, especially in the South. His program to eradicate poverty made important progress, especially for the elderly. His social program, however, floundered as a result of the divisive Viet Nam War. Even so, the Johnson Administration succeded in enacting one of the most important programs of social reform in American history. The historical assessment of the Johnson Administration continues to be clouded by the conduct and eventual failure of the War.

Sources

Bobby Baker with Larry King, Wheeling and Dealing: Confessions of a Capitol Hill Opperator (W.W. Norton: New York, 1978).







HBC






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Created: May 20, 2002
Last updated: May 2002