December 25, 1937: Statesman Newton Baker Dies at 66 in Cleveland

Dec 25, 2017

Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Library of Congress

Statesman Newton Baker died in Cleveland on Christmas Day 1937 at age 66. The Martinsburg native earned a law degree in 1894 and practiced law briefly in his home town. In 1896, he became private secretary to U.S. Postmaster General William L. Wilson, a native of Charles Town and former president of West Virginia University. After a year in Washington, Baker resumed his Martinsburg law practice before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, where he served as city solicitor and mayor. 

In 1916, he was appointed secretary of war by President Woodrow Wilson. Baker oversaw U.S. military involvement in World War I. While General John J. Pershing dealt with military decisions, Baker built up a massive army and acquired essential supplies. He also brought the industry of war to West Virginia, including the Naval Ordnance Plant in South Charleston and a large munitions factory in Nitro. World War I ended before either facility had been completed.

After leaving office in 1921, Newton Baker returned to Cleveland, where he practiced law and served on various boards. He also worked in the administrations of Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.