Elbert H. Baker II

Elbert H. Baker II, Founder of The Baker Foundation

City of Destiny

The Baker story cannot be told without telling of Tacoma, for the family and the city have been a part of one another for nearly a century. The city nestles in a powerful setting: the waters of Puget Sound lap quietly at her feet, the magnificent snow-capped peak of Mount Rainier looms behind her, and the world knocks at her door. Tacoma’s history revolves around bold new ventures, with the promise of a bright and extraordinary future beckoning settlers, lumbermen, manufacturers, and ordinary folk to the shores of Puget Sound. From the earliest days, Tacoma has been a hub of world trade and influence. The Port of Tacoma is Pierce County’s gateway to the globe. This is the sixth largest container shipping port in North America. International trade through this city runs into billions of dollars each year. Trade with the state of Alaska alone exceeds $3 billion.

Tacoma is a city of progress, with a lively cultural scene that offers something for every taste. Highlights include the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, Broadway Center for Performing Arts, the historic Pantages Theater, and the Rialto Theater, which is home to Tacoma Youth Symphony. Museums abound, with the latest addition being the $48 million Washington State History Museum next to historic Union Station. The University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University are considered to be among the top private liberal arts universities in the nation.

A Tacoma Legend

Every city has legends and Tacoma has her share. One of the quiet legends whose impact will be felt for many decades to come is Elbert H. Baker II. From boyhood, Elbert H. Baker IIs’ destiny was closely tied to the development of Tacoma. Mr. Baker was a man of great vision and influence, wielding power so skillfully that few in his community knew how broad or far reaching his legacy would be. This man guided Tacoma and environs along the path to progress, quietly shaping the city through benevolence, working to encourage education and art in his community.

A Newspaper Heritage

Just after the turn of the 20th century, the Cleveland Plain Dealer was being published by one Elbert H. Baker. His son, Frank S. Baker, followed in his father’s footsteps to become a newspaperman. In 1912 the younger Baker left the Boston Traveler to purchase The Tacoma Tribune. From an early age Frank’s son, Elbert H. Baker II, followed in the family tradition, selling newspapers on downtown Tacoma streets. Always entrepreneurial, young Elbert sold newspapers competing with his father’s paper, the Tacoma Tribune. This phase of business ended for young Elbert when his father caught on.

Elbert joined the Tacoma Tribune as a bill collector in 1932, remaining actively involved in all aspects of the business until 1986. During the course of more than half a century he worked in virtually every department at the paper. When Frank Baker died in 1960, Elbert inherited the title of Publisher. The newspaper’s parent company, Tribune Publishing Co., flourished. It encompassed a number of other enterprises, which included radio and television stations and a cable television system.