Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker

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Nancy Landon Kassebaum​ Baker

In office
December 23, 1978 – January 3, 1997
Preceded by James B. Pearson
Succeeded by Pat Roberts

Chairman of the
Senate Labor Committee​
In office
January 3, 1995​ – January 3, 1997​
Preceded by Ted Kennedy
Succeeded by Jim Jeffords

Born July 29, 1932​
Topeka, Kansas
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) John Philip Kassebaum (married 1956–1979, divorced)

(2) Howard Baker (married 1996–2014, his death)

Children Four children from first marriage
Alma mater University of Kansas
University of Michigan
Religion Episcopalian

Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker (born July 29, 1932), usually referred to as Nancy Kassebaum, is an American retired businesswoman and politician, who represented Kansas in the United States Senate for three terms from 1978 to 1997. Her father, Alf Landon, was the governor of Kansas from 1933 to 1937 and the failed Republican presidential nominee in the 1936 race against Franklin D. Roosevelt. She followed in his footsteps as a Moderate Republican, often taking some liberal positions.

Early life and career

Kassebaum Baker was born in the capital city of Topeka while her father was running for the first of his two two-year terms as governor. Her mother was the former Theo Cobb, a pianist. After graduation from Topeka High School in 1950, she graduated from the University of Kansas at Lawrence in 1954 and then obtained a master's degree in diplomatic history from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Before her Senate years she worked in her family-owned Kassebaum Communications, which operated several radio stations in Kansas. In 1975, Kassebaum and her husband were legally separated; their divorce became final in 1979. In 1975, Kassebaum had worked in Washington, D.C., as a caseworker for her Senate predecessor, James B. Pearson, a Moderate Republican, but she returned to Kansas the following year.[1]

United States Senate

A moderate often liberal Republican, Kassebaum was named chairman of the Senate Labor Committee from 1995 to 1997, with the Republican capture of the upper legislative chamber. Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts relinquished the chairmanship and became the ranking member of the committee. Kassebaum Baker teamed up with Kennedy for the passage of the Kennedy-Kassebaum Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, her landmark legislation. Like current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, she was a strong opponent of apartheid and supported sanctions against the government of South Africa.[2]

Though she had voted in 1991 to confirm the African-American Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, Kassebaum Baker by 1995 had soured on the judicial decisions of the conservative Thomas and questioned whether he had sexually harassed his accuser, Anita Hill.[3]

Personal life

She and her first husband settled in Maize, near Wichita, Kansas, where she served on the school board and had four children.[4]

Divorced after twenty-three years of marriage from John Philip Kassebaum, whose name she still used professionally, she married in 1996 the widowed Howard Baker, former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Senate Majority Leader, and a chief of staff to U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan at the height of the Iran-Contra affair. Kassebaum and Baker had been Senate colleagues from 1978 to 1985, when Democrat Al Gore took the seat that Baker vacated. Kassebaum holds the distinction of being the first woman ever elected to a full term in the Senate without a husband having previously served in Congress. ​


  1. Kassebaum, Nancy Landon - U.S. Senator. Retrieved on April 20, 2020.
  2. Curt Anderson. The Free Lance-Star Search. Retrieved on April 20, 2020.
  3. Kassebaum regrets vote for Thomas. Knight-Rider News Service (May 27, 1995). Retrieved on April 20, 2020.
  4. 125 women in Congress: Nancy Landon Kassebaum (July 23, 2011). Retrieved on April 20, 2020.