Samuel Aaron Baker was born on November 7, 1874, to Sam Baker and Mary Amanda McGhee in Patterson, Missouri. Baker’s family was not wealthy, so he worked as a railroad hand and in a lumber yard to save enough money to attend the Southeast Missouri State Teachers’ College in Cape Girardeau. While studying for his bachelor’s degree in law, Baker worked with the school furnaces to pay for his tuition and board. He graduated in 1897, and later obtained his doctorate in law at Missouri Valley College.
Baker had a distinguished career in education. He taught in the rural schools of Wayne County, served as principal at Joplin and Jefferson City high schools, and was city superintendent in Piedmont, Richmond, and Jefferson City. His years of experience and success contributed to his election as State Superintendent of Public Schools in 1918.
While Baker was Superintendent, rural schools received an increase in funding, teachers’ salaries were doubled, and new facilities and programs were created to improve the training of educators. Despite these successes, Baker was not reelected. However, he ascended to a higher position when he was elected governor of Missouri in 1924. He was inaugurated in 1925, and served until 1929, when he retired from political life.
On June 1, 1904, Baker married Nelle R. Tuckley of Jefferson City. The couple had one daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who attended public school in the capital city.← Cole County Confederate Soldiers Memorial Weldon, Betty Goshorn →