Nannette A. Baker (’78)

Category: Alumni Professional Achievement | Awards

2016 Alumni Professional Achievement Award Winner

Nannette Baker began her career as a broadcast journalist before making an about-face and entering the legal profession. Today she serves as chief magistrate judge in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis.

Baker was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to parents who were educators. Her father was on the faculty at Tuskegee Institute until she was five, when the family moved to Liberia as part of a US Agency for International Development effort to establish teacher training schools. Her mother homeschooled her for the five years they were in Liberia. Baker graduated from UT’s College of Communication and Information in 1978 and spent more than a decade as a television news reporter, anchor, and talk show host in Knoxville, Memphis, and St. Louis.

In the early 1990s Baker decided to shift careers. After graduating from the St. Louis University School of Law in 1994, she served as a judicial law clerk for Odell Horton, a federal judge in Memphis. She then worked as a defense lawyer with the St. Louis firm Lashly & Baer and later moved to Schlichter Bogard & Denton, also in St. Louis, where she represented railroad workers who had suffered on-the-job injuries.

In 1999, Baker became a circuit court judge in the City of St. Louis. Five years later, she moved to the Missouri Court of Appeals, becoming the first African American woman to serve as chief judge of the Court of Appeals in 2008. She was appointed to the federal court in 2011.

Baker is an active member and board member of many legal societies and has received numerous accolades. She has served as a member of the UT Alumni Association’s Board of Governors and the College of Communication and Information’s Board of Visitors.