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Newton Diehl Baker


Statesman Newton Diehl Baker (December 3, 1871-December 25, 1937) was born in Martinsburg and earned a B.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1892. After receiving a law degree from Washington and Lee University in 1894, Baker practiced law in Martinsburg. In 1896, he became private secretary to U.S. Postmaster General William L. Wilson, also a West Virginian. In 1897, Baker returned to Martinsburg to practice law. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1899. Serving as city solicitor from 1902 to 1912, Baker then spent four years as mayor.

Appointed by President Woodrow Wilson, Baker served as secretary of war from 1916 to 1921. After a successful show of force along the Mexican border, Baker oversaw U.S. involvement in World War I. Gen. John J. Pershing dealt with military decisions, while Baker built a large army and made provisions for supplies essential to winning the war. He helped bring the industry of war to his native West Virginia, including the Naval Ordnance Plant in South Charleston and one of the world’s largest chemical complexes in Nitro.

Returning to the practice of law in 1921, Baker served as a director of the Cleveland Trust Company and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. In 1928, he became president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and President Coolidge appointed Baker to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. In 1929, President Hoover appointed Baker to the Law Enforcement Commission. Commanding Colonel of the Officers Reserve Corps, Baker also received the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal in 1929. In 1932, the Democrat Party considered Baker for nomination for president. He died in Cleveland.

Written by Russ Barbour


  1. Comstock, Jim, ed. West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia vol. 2. Richwood: Jim Comstock, 1976.

  2. Cramer, Clarence. Newton D. Baker, a Biography. Cleveland: World Pub., 1961.

  3. Wintz, William D. Nitro: World War I Boom Town. Charleston: Jalamap, 1985.