Retired Lieut. Col. William Baker died Monday, Sept. 24 at the Martinsburg, W.Va. Medical Lighthouse Center for Hospice Care from complications associated with multiple myeloma cancer and a cerebrovascular event. He was 86.

He was a resident of Gettysburg, Pa. and Oak Bluffs. He was born on Nov. 26, 1931, in Amsterdam, Ga. and was adopted by his grandparents, Angeline and Ned Keaton, at 11 months old after the death of his mother, Julianne Lee Baker.

He graduated as valedictorian of his class from the college preparatory program of Attapulgus Vocational High School in 1949. He was a Georgia State Quiz Contest winner, earning a full scholarship to Howard University where he graduated cum laude. He was the recipient of the Distinguished Military Graduate Award as number one in his ROTC program.

He received his master of business administration degree in controllership from Syracuse University, distinguishing himself at the Ballistic Research Laboratories, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. where he published The Role of Cost Discounting in Weapons Systems Evaluations in 1969, co-authored with assistant Robert Williams. He was the recipient of the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars and other medals for service in Vietnam.

His crowning achievement was the reinvestigation of the Brownsville, Tex., incident of 1906 for which he received the coveted Pace Award from Secretary of the Army in 1973. After extensive research, he prepared a case which reversed President Theodore Roosevelt’s decision in the incident and upon which the Secretary of the Army made the decision to correct the injustice by changing the discharges of the soldiers involved to honorable, signed by President Nixon. The decision’s reversal brought national acclaim to Mr. Baker, the United States Army and the civil rights of the nation. Secretary of the Army, Robert F. Froehlke, described his contributions: “Baker’s achievement has brought favorable acclaim to the Army in the field of civil rights and have a positive commitment to elimination of racial injustice.”

He documented this work in his book, The Brownsville Texas Incident of 1906: The True and Tragic Story of a Black U.S. Army Battalion’s Wrongful Disgrace and Ultimate Redemption.

Mr. Baker worked as a financial manager for Rohm and Haas Chemical Company (now Dow Chemical) in Philadelphia and retired in 1993. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and a charter member of the Delta Epsilon Boule, Sigma Pi Phi fraternity.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Dr. Bettye Foster Baker, two children, William Rhett Baker and Janet-Lucylle Baker, Esq., and three grandchildren, Julianne Frances Walker, Andrew Bryant Walker and Wesley Baker Walker; four sisters, Catherine Baker Scarver, Ethel Baker, Priscila Baker, Dr. Helga Baskett-Tippitt, and one brother, Samuel Baker; first cousins, James Taylor, Mamie and Sonny Austin, Dorothy Watson, Barbara Noel, Gladys Harris, Dr. Walter Smith, Judge Greg and Linda Mathis, Dr. Eugene and Donna Hardin, and a host of family and friends.

Services will be held at Dunbarton Chapel, Howard University Law School, 2900 Van Ness St. NW, Washington, DC on Oct.13 at 11 a.m. A viewing will be held at Dunbarton Chapel prior to the service from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Lieutenant Colonel Baker will receive full military honors at Arlington Cemetery once scheduled.