Alton F. Baker, Sr.

Born: February 14, 1894, Willoughby OH
Died: October 27, 1961, Yakima WA
Inducted: 1985

Associated with:
Register-Guard, Eugene OR, 1927-1961
Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland OH, 1919-1927

Biography:
Alton F. Baker, Sr. was born in Willoughby, Ohio, on February 14, 1894, to Mr. and Mrs. Elbert Hall Baker. His father was publisher of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He attended school in Ohio, graduating from Cornell University.
     Before the United States entered World War I, he went overseas as a volunteer in the American Field Service attached to the French Army. Despite a crippled leg which he had from birth, he later became a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army Air Corps in France. In February, 1919, Baker married Mildred Moody of Binghamton, N.Y. There were five children: Alton Baker, Jr., publisher of the Register-Guard from 1961-81 and Chairman of the Board from 1981 on; Louise Baker Little; Edwin M. (Ted) Baker, publisher of the Register-Guard from 1981 on; Herbert C. Baker, M.D.; and Richard A. Baker.
     Also in 1919, Baker began his newspaper career as an advertising salesman and then as a reporter on general and police beat assignment for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
     He, his father and his brother Frank (formerly publisher of the Tacoma News Tribune) negotiated the purchase of the Eugene Guard in 1927, and Alton Sr. brought with him from Cleveland the Plain Dealer's star reporter, William M. Tugman, as managing editor. Baker published the daily Eugene newspaper until his death in 1961.
     In 1930, Baker purchased the Eugene Morning Register from Frank Jenkins. He then added the Sunday Register to the evening Guard, ceased publication of the morning newspaper at that time, and called them The Eugene Register-Guard. (Mr. Jenkins had first sought to purchase the Guard, to which Baker replied, “I did not come here to sell a newspaper, I came here to run one.” Three months later, Mr. Jenkins sold the Register, most likely because he felt there was room for only one newspaper in those depression years.)

Posthumous praise:
"Alton Baker personified quiet dignity in activating a dedicated concern for his fellow man. As a giant in journalism, he shaped his community through both the written word and personal contributions." -- Then-governor Mark Hatfield of Oregon

"Alton Baker was a man of many talents whose great modesty belied his capabilities. As publisher, he guided the development if the Eugene Register-Guard into one of the great papers of the West, but he adhered firmly to the rule of freedom for its news and editorial staffs in the discharge of their responsibilities." -- Former governor Charles A. Sprague, then editor of the Oregon Statesman

"The Eugene Register-Guard has a national reputation as one of the best small-city daily newspapers in this country. Excellence in a newspaper, as in any complex institution, is attributed to many factors and many persons, but the analysis leads inevitably in the end to the door of the publisher’s office." -- Charles T. Duncan, Former Dean of the School of Journalism at the University of Oregon

"Alton F. Baker, an unassuming, modest man, was for more than 30 years publisher of the Eugene Register-Guard. With William Tugman as his managing editor, Mr. Baker shaped the Register-Guard into the basis for what it is now. Because of Mr. Baker’s reluctance to be recognized for his civic contributions, he was not a widely recognized individual in Eugene, yet his journalistic policies came to fruition in a daily that has been recognized nationally for its excellence. Under his guidance, his newspaper became an active citizen of its community." -- Roy Halverson, Associate Professor, University of Oregon School of Journalism