> Illinois Cherry Blossom Princesses 1948-2012

« Back to Illinois Cherry Blossom Princesses 1948-2012

1951 Princess Joy Dirksen

1951 Princess Joy Dirksen

A Cherry Blossom Romance

Howard Baker at left was a guest at the 1951 Cherry Blossom Ball in Washington. His father Howard, Sr. was a freshman member of Congress from Tennessee. His sister Mary Baker was the 1951 Tennessee Cherry Blossom Princess.

At the ball, Mary introduced her brother Howard to the 1951 Illinois Cherry Blossom Princess Joy Dirksen who is pictured at right thirty years later in 1981. Joy was the daughter of Sen. and Mrs. Everett M. Dirksen of Illinois. Howard Baker and Joy Dirksen married later that same year.

In 1966, Howard Baker, Jr. was elected as the US Senator from Tennessee. Baker served for three years with his father-in-law, Sen. Dirksen until the older man's death in September 1969.

Howard Baker was elected to the same job his father-in-law had, Senate Minority Leader, in 1977. Then he entered a post Sen. Dirksen never could, that of Senate Majority Leader 1981-1985 during the first term of Illinois-native Ronald Reagan as president.

Sen. Baker served as White House Chief of Staff under President Reagan in 1987 and 1988 and was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Japan by President George W. Bush from 2001-2004. He also had a daughter who was a Tennessee Cherry Blossom Princess.

Unfortunately Joy Dirksen Baker passed away in 1993 after the couple had been married 42 years. Sen. Baker was married a second time in 1996 to former Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, who was the daughter of Gov. Alf Landon of Kansas, the 1936 GOP candidate for President.

While he was Ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Baker several times received the Japan and US Cherry Blossom Queens at the US Embassy in Tokyo more than 50 years after he attended his first Cherry Blossom Ball in 1951.