(WBIR) Hundreds gathered at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center of Public Policy on the University of Tennessee campus Monday to pay their respects to one of Tennessee's most respected statesmen.
Howard Baker Jr, the former Senator and U.S. ambassador, died at his home on Thursday.
"He was a trooper, all the way to the end," said Cissy Baker, daughter of the late Senator. "My brother and his wife Nancy and I were with him when he passed away at his home In Huntsville, what he called the center of the universe."
TIMELINE: Remembering Howard H. Baker Jr.
On Monday, people slowly filed by Baker's flag-draped casket in the rotunda of the Baker Center.
"The idea of laying in state here at the Baker Center was actually my father's idea. About six months ago we were attending a Baker Center board meeting and I was walking out with him and he stopped me. And held my arm and said 'when I die, I would like to lay in state at the Baker center'. And ah…I cried," said Baker.
The viewing was a chance for the public to come out and pay their respects to the statesman.
"I really think this is beautiful. And the changing of the guard is really cool, so I think some are grieving and say it's a sad occasion, but I really see it as a beautiful celebration of Howard Baker's life," said Baker.
More than 700 people stopped by, including former Governor Don Sundquist and former UT football coach Johnny Majors.
"Everything he did, he did it right. And there hasn't been a moment since I've known him that I wasn't extremely proud of what he did," said Sundquist. "One of the regrets I have in my life is that Howard Baker was never President of the United States. He would have been a wonderful President. "
Baker said it was wonderful sharing memories with so many Tennesseans, including residents who drove from Scott County.
"Tennesseans are like family," said Baker. "When we moved to Washington when Dad was elected to Senate, he said 'Don't ever forget that Tennessee is your home.' And we've never forgotten."
A motorcade escorted the body of Howard Baker Jr. to Huntsville late Monday afternoon. Baker said Tuesday, her father will be buried across the street from where he was born.
His funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 1 at First Presbyterian Church in his hometown of Huntsville, Tenn.
Baker is survived by his wife, Nancy Kassebaum, a former Kansas Senator, and his two children, Darek and Cynthia, whom he had with his first wife, Joy. Baker was married to Joy until 1993 when she died of cancer. Joy Baker was the daughter of former Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen.
In lieu of flowers, the Baker family requests that contributions be made to the following:
Howard H. Baker Jr. Center of Public Policy 1640 Cumberland Avenue Knoxville, TN 37996
Howard H. Baker Jr. Medical Scholarship Fund PO Box 600 Huntsville, TN 37756
People can send their condolences online at www.rosemortuary.com.