Robert D. "Bob" Baker was born in Chico, California, to Lester W. and Wilma Vitzthum Baker in 1927. He attended public schools in northern California and Berkeley and graduated from Anacostia High School, Washington, D. C., in 1945. He was in the Army Air Force. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with a B.S.F., 1951, and M.F., 1952. He obtained the Ph.D., from the State University of New York, College of Forestry in 1957. His stepfather, F. W. Grover, was a career-long administrator in the USDA Forest Service, 1930--1970.
During the summer of 1949 he attended forestry summer camp in the Plumas National Forest which began his interest in the managerial/financial side of forestry, reinforced as a camp teaching assistant during summers 1950 and 1951. He majored in forest management for his masters and forest valuation for his Ph.D. His dissertation dealt with the manner in which the USDA Forest Service appraises timber for sale.
He spent summers 1952-1955 as an instructor at the SUNY-Forestry summer camp in upstate New York. This work stood him in good stead for his first permanent teaching-research assignment at Stephen F. Austin State College, beginning in 1956. His tenure in forestry in Texas included nineteen years at Nacogdoches (1956-1974) and twenty-four years at Texas A&M University (1975-date). He has instructed a myriad of present and former Texas foresters.
When he was in mid-career a colleague advised him, "Baker, save a copy of everything you throw away." But the advice was only reinforcement, for, from the first year as a student he has amassed a large collection of materials on forest management, forest measurements, aerial photo interpretation and remote sensing, much of which is in binders by subject, in process of being deposited in the forest history collections at ETRC.
He teamed with his Nacogdoches neighbor, Dr. Robert S. Maxwell, to screen historical materials of the Lutcher & Moore Lumber Company, Orange, and Kirby Lumber Corporation, Houston, which are in the forestry collections at the East Texas Research Center. He was co-author with Dr. Maxwell of Sawdust Empire, the history of forestry and the wood-based forest industry in Texas from 1830-1940, published by Texas A&M Press. This will be brought up-to-date in a companion volume to be co-authored with Bob Bowman of Lufkin. He is also co-author of three regional histories of the USDA Forest Service, and a definitive manuscript history of the National Forests in Texas.
His interest in forest valuation and especially the need to assess private commercial timberland based on its "value of growth," led to research on use-value assessment of private commercial timberland in Texas; much of the wording of the research report is in the enabling legislation passed in 1979. He has done contract work for Texas state agencies overseeing this procedure since 1975.
His professional career includes membership in the Society of American Foresters since 1951, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing since 1956, and the Texas Forestry Association since 1957.He has held elected and appointed offices in each organization. For over twenty years he has represented the Texas Forest Service in the Texas Mapping Advisory Committee, which he now serves as chair.
He has had numerous consulting assignments for organizations such as the USDA Forest Service, forest industry firms, non-industrial timberland owners, law firms, The Native American Rights Fund, and Texas state agencies.
He has been honored by the Texas Forestry Association with its award in Research in 1976, and the Texas Society of American Foresters with its leadership award-Texas, in 1973. He is a fellow of the Society of American Foresters and an emeritus member of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.
At age 70 he is still active as a professor in the Department of Forest Science, Texas A&M University. He resides in Bryan with his wife Mary Ann Brooks Baker, a native of Nacogdoches.
("Robert D. Baker Manuscript." Control File (author unknown). East Texas Research Center. Ralph W. Steen Library. Stephen F. Austin State University).