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Thurbert Baker

Born December 16, 1952, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker was raised by his mother, Mary H. Baker, on a small rural farm. He attended public elementary and high schools in Rocky Mount and, in 1975, received a B.A. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He graduated from Emory University School of Law in Atlanta in 1979.

From 1979 to 1985, Baker worked as a public defender before entering private practice. He was senior partner of the Baker and Shivers law firm from 1985 to 1997, during which time he won election to the Georgia House of Representatives, where he served from 1989 to 1997. He was named assistant floor leader for Governor Zell Miller in 1990 and floor leader in 1993.

Since 1997, Baker has served as the attorney general for the state of Georgia, the first African American to hold this position. Baker initiated the passage of legislation that increased penalties for domestic abuse cases, including a provision that made it a crime to commit an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child.

Baker serves on the executive committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), is convenor of the NAAG Civil Rights Committee, and also served as chairman of NAAG's Conference on Violence Against Women. He is also an adviser to the Harrell Center for the study of domestic violence at the University of South Florida.

Baker has been a board member of the DeKalb County Library, the National Medical Society at Emory University, and the DeKalb College Foundation, and is a trustee of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Baker, the 1975 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) individual sabre champion, was recognized in 2002 by the ACC as one of the top fencers in conference history when named to its fiftieth anniversary fencing team.

Baker and his wife, Catherine, live in Stone Mountain, Georgia. They have two daughters, Jocelyn and Chelsea.

Accession Number

A2003.193

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/15/2003

Last Name

Baker

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Rocky Mount High School

O R Pope Elementary

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Emory University School of Law

First Name

Thurbert

Birth City, State, Country

Rocky Mount

HM ID

BAK02

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Natalie DiSantis (assistant)

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida

Favorite Quote

It Doesn't Get Any Better.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

12/16/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Hamburgers

Short Description

State attorney general Thurbert Baker (1952 - ) served two consecutive terms in the Georgia House of Representatives before becoming the first African American elected as attorney general for the state of Georgia, where he initiated legislation in the General Assembly increasing penalties for domestic abuse cases.

Employment

Baker & Shivers

George House of Representatives

State of Georgia

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Thurbert Baker's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Thurbert Baker lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Thurbert Baker describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Thurbert Baker describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Thurbert Baker talks about his mother's occupations in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Thurbert Baker describes his family life growing up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Thurbert Baker recalls his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Thurbert Baker remembers the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in rural North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Thurbert Baker talks about attending O.R. Pope Elementary School, Baskerville Elementary School, and Parker Junior High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Thurbert Baker recalls his favorite grade-school subjects and his desire to become a lawyer

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Thurbert Baker describes attending Primitive Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Thurbert Baker describes St. James Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and the role of music in his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Thurbert Baker talks about the teachers that influenced him at O.R. Pope Elementary School and Parker Junior High School in Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Thurbert Baker describes race relations in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Thurbert Baker describes race relations in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Thurbert Baker recalls his role in student government during the integration of Rocky Mount Senior High School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Thurbert Baker remembers HistoryMaker Jerry Butler performing at his prom at Rocky Mountain Senior High School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Thurbert Baker recounts his decision to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Thurbert Baker describes fencing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Thurbert Baker talks about University of North Carolina Dean and mentor, Hayden B. Renwick

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Thurbert Baker describes his years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1972 to 1976

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Thurbert Baker describes his decision to attend Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Thurbert Baker describes the academic rigor of Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Thurbert Baker talks about Atlanta, Georgia Mayor Maynard Jackson

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Thurbert Baker describes his legal career as a Fulton County, Georgia public defender and as a regional counsel for the Environmental Protection Agency

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Thurbert Baker recounts his decision to run for the Georgia State House of Representatives in 1989 while working in private practice

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Thurbert Baker describes his legislative career in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1988 to 1997

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Thurbert Baker explains how he became Attorney General of Georgia, and the political character of the State of Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Thurbert Baker describes his tough-on-crime initiatives as Georgia Attorney General

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Thurbert Baker talks about preventing crime in the African American community, and the roles of the family and the justice system, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Thurbert Baker talks about preventing crime in the African American community, and the roles of the family and the justice system, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Thurbert Baker describes his 2003 state constitutional conflict with Georgia governor Sonny Perdue

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Thurbert Baker describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Thurbert Baker reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Thurbert Baker talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

4$3

DATitle
Thurbert Baker describes his decision to attend Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia
Thurbert Baker describes his tough-on-crime initiatives as Georgia Attorney General
Transcript
After graduation, you had to decide on, on--you know, you were--well, you, you had--how did you decide on going to Emory [University, Atlanta, Georgia] for law school? That's what I guess we should say.$$Two, two, two reasons: one, I decided early on that I needed to leave [University of North Carolina] Chapel Hill because I was, I was growing too fond of Chapel Hill. You know how sometime you get very complacent in what you're doing. And I, and I thought as I was getting to my junior and senior year in Chapel Hill that, you know, the rest of the world isn't like Chapel Hill. I mean you, you gotta get out and experience it. It's not, it's not always this easy. It's a small town. It was a college town, and everybody kind of caters to the, to the university. I wanted to see a, a, a, a bigger universe, and, and I didn't want to, to stay there. I thought that if I stayed in Chapel, in Chapel Hill for law school, I'd probably never leave. And I've always had it in the back of my mind that I, I wanted to expand my experiences and expand my horizons. So, you know, then it was a question of where to. And, and I had the experience of, of going to Atlanta [Georgia] on a number of occasions just to visit. I was told about Emory Law School, which I understood to be a great law school. I came down to visit. I was so impressed with the city, and I was equally impressed with the law school, and I knew. I mean soon as I set foot on campus and went to the law school, I knew that's where I wanted to go. And so I applied, and I got accepted, and of course the rest is history.$$Well, this is all history (laughter), so. Well, you know, who were some of the instructors, and--at Emory that--were there any instructors that were particularly difficult or, or helpful, or, or any that stand out?$$Both.$$Okay.$$Helpful, I'll, I'll, I'll never forget my, my, my Property instructor, Real Estate Law and Property Issues. His name was William Agner. He's now deceased, but, but he was--they called him the bull. And he, he gave me the best advice for a practicing lawyer that I ever got in law school. He says, you know, Thurbert, he says, winning a case is just half of it. The other half is you gotta get your money, and you know, you gotta get paid. And he says don't ever assume you're gonna always get paid when you, when you handle a case. But he was real practical like that. And, and I always appreciated it. Sometimes law school could be very theoretical. And, and you know, you come out and you know all the theory, but you don't know how to get from your office to the courthouse. And, and it's that practical side that you miss sometimes in law school. But he was real practical. Professor Fear struck fear in all of our hearts. He, he taught Criminal Procedure there at Emory. And I, I will tell you it--I was always intimidated in the class, and as was the other students. And, and I remember, you know, coming in some days, and you try and hide behind the book so you wouldn't get called on. That's a remedy for--that's a solution and, and, and the best way to get called on in his class. He sort of pick you out. "Mr. Baker, lower that book back there, and let me ask you this question." But he was, he was difficult, but he taught us well. But it was always a, a, a tense moment when we sat in those classes.$In terms of the attorney general's office, I know crime and safety is a big, big issue in the State of Georgia. And you were responsible for pushing through legislation for two strikes, you're out law or, or provision in the state government, right? Where--$$Yeah.$$Yeah, what--can you tell us--$$We did, we did that when I was floor leader for then-Governor Zell Miller. And what we were trying to, to address was an increasing rate of, of very crime in this state. You know, what do we need to do, as a, as a state, not only to, to, to punish those individuals who are committing your murders, and your, your armed robberies, and your rapes, and your, your child molestations, I mean what do we do to those people from a punishment standpoint, but also how do we send the right message that we aren't gonna put up with that here in Georgia? And we want to, therefore, deter those kinds of activities, and so we, we introduced and passed the two strikes and you're out legislation, which at that time and still is, some of the toughest legislation in the country to deal with violent, violent criminals. And what we've said is when you commit one of those, we call 'em the seven deadly sins, then we're gonna me sure that there's a minimum amount of time that's served for the first offense. And if you're crazy enough to come back and commit one of those crimes again, then you have to serve life without the possibility of parole. Now I've gotten calls from reporters all over the country since the passage of that, that legislation, wanting to know what we attribute the drop in violent crime rate in Georgia to. And, and I'll tell you, I can't prove this with any degree of statistical certainty, but I will stake my reputation on it, on the fact and the belief that the reason we see that drop is because criminals know that if you commit those seven deadly sins here in Georgia, there's a serious penalty to be paid. And they, they simply don't do it. I mean it's, it's real basic math here, real basic. I, I don't wanna go off and serve ten years, or I don't wanna go off and serve life without parole, so therefore, I don't do the crime. And, and I think it's been a, a tremendous support for us in the law enforcement community.

The Honorable Roland Burris

Born in Centralia, Illinois, on August 30, 1937, Roland Burris received his bachelor's degree in political science from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1959. He then studied at the University of Hamburg, Germany, for a year before entering law school at Howard University.

Burris began his career in 1963 as a national bank examiner for the U.S. Treasury Department. This gave him the honor of being the first African American to examine banks in the United States. From 1964 to 1973, he served as vice president of Continental Illinois National Bank, making significant contacts in both the corporate and African American communities. Burris began his government career in 1973 as director of the Illinois Department of General Services. In 1978, with his election to the first of three terms as state comptroller, he made history as the first African American elected to state office. On November 6, 1990, Roland W. Burris was elected attorney general for the state of Illinois. At that time, the only African American ranking higher in state office was Douglas Wilder, the governor of Virginia. He served as Illinois attorney general from 1991 to 1995. In 1998, Burris unsuccessfully ran for the office of Governor of the State of Illinois.

After his public service career, Burris worked as an attorney with the Peters law firm in Chicago, where he specialized in environmental, consumer affairs and estate law. Previously, he was managing partner of the Chicago-based law firm of Jones, Ware & Grenard, one of the largest minority law firms in the country.

Burris returned to public service on December 30, 2008 when Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed him as a U.S. Senator, filling the seat formerly held by Barack Obama. On January 15, 2009, Burris was sworn in as a U.S. Senator, representing the State of Illinois.

Accession Number

A2000.011

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/24/2000

Last Name

Burris

Maker Category
Schools

Lincoln School

Centralia High School

Southern Illinois University

University of Hamburg

Howard University School of Law

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Roland

Birth City, State, Country

Centralia

HM ID

BUR03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

Only the best is good enough.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/30/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fruit, Vegetables

Short Description

State attorney general, state comptroller, and U.S. senator The Honorable Roland Burris (1937 - ) was the first African American in Illinois elected to state office, where he served as state comptroller and as attorney general before being appointed to the United States Senate in 2008.

Employment

United States Comptroller of Currency, Chicago

Continental Illinois National Bank, Chicago

Illinois Dept. of General Services

State of Illinois

Jones, Ware & Grenard

Buford & Peters LLC

Burris & Lebed Consulting LLC

Burris, Wright, Slaughter & Tom, LLC

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roland Burris interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roland Burris's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roland Burris describes his childhood in Centralia, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roland Burris describes how integrating the public pool inspired his career in law and public service

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his academic success

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roland Burris recalls his political ambitions after graduating from Howard University Law School

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roland Burris relates his family's history

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roland Burris describes his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roland Burris discusses deaths in his family

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Roland Burris learns important lessons from his family

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Roland Burris describes housing at Southern Illinois University

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roland Burris describes the strong black community in Centralia, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roland Burris describes his personality as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roland Burris explains his decision to attend Southern Illinois University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roland Burris talks about remaining active with his alma maters

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his efforts to integrate Carbondale, Illinois in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roland Burris discusses his time as an exchange student in Hamburg, Germany

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roland Burris describes his journey to Howard University's law school in Washington, D.C.: Part I

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roland Burris describes his journey to Howard University's law school: Part II

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roland Burris remembers his time as a law student at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roland Burris discusses the advantages of attending law school at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roland Burris describes his job search following law school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roland Burris discusses his search for a job in the banking industry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roland Burris describes being undervalued at Continental Illinois National Bank

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roland Burris overcomes racism and succeeds at Continental Illinois National Bank

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roland Burris describes making political connections in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Roland Burris describes his first run for political office

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roland Burris recalls racism from whites and skepticism from other black employees as he rose at Continental Bank, Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roland Burris details how he made a name for himself in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roland Burris becomes the first black man in Illinois history to be elected to a statewide office

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roland Burris continues with his story of becoming the first elected black statewide officeholder

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his various political offices in the 1970s and 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roland Burris contemplates reasons for his political success and comments on his 1990 election as Illinois Attorney General

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roland Burris discusses his skills at dealing with people as comptroller for the state of Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roland Burris talks about taking over the office of Illinois Comptroller

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Roland Burris analyzes his significance as the first black Illinois Comptroller

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Roland Burris discusses his work as Attorney General of Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Roland Burris recalls his runs for governor of Illinois and mayor of Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Roland Burris talks about his community and legal work in 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Roland Burris talks about African American political power

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Roland Burris discusses Illinois's black politicians

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Roland Burris remembers figures who influenced his success

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Roland Burris discusses his wife and her educational and career pursuits

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Roland Burris considers his sense of direction in life

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Roland Burris describes his children's accomplishments

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Roland Burris considers his legacy