Lawton_Lawton said goodbye to a man who left his mark on the community, Tuesday. Funeral services for John Baker, one of the last Buffalo Soldiers, were held as family and friends remembered him. They remembered him as "...a soldier, a first class horseman, and a businessman."
Baker was part of the segregated 9th Cavalry with honors for 20 years, until it was taken off active status in 1944 during World War II. He continued to serve his country in the Army until 1959, moving to Lawton to open a janitorial service that he operated until 1990.
Instead of a funeral, Baker's family called it a celebration - honoring the life of a man who trail blazed new opportunities for African Americans. The Union Baptist Church was overflowing with people there to honor his life.
Command Sergeant Major "Tiger" Gaines spoke of the impact Baker made as one of the last original Buffalo Soldiers. "I'll say today, if it wasn't for John Baker and the Buffalo Soldiers, and the soldiers today, we wouldn't be where we are today," said Gaines. He says Baker didn't like to talk about those hard days in the 9th Cavalry - he liked to talk about how it made him a better man.
"He always said, 'You know, as a black person,' ...he used to call me young trooper... he said, 'We ain't where we want to be, we're not where the constitution says we should be, but from where I came from, we're a heck of a lot better than we used to be,'" Gaines remembered.
Baker went on to start a successful janitorial service in Lawton, but his true passion was for horses. He and his wife founded the Lawton Silver Spurs Riding Club, and friends say his love for horses was second only to his family. "John Baker was a very modest man - too modest for the things he's done," says Gaines. Family members, friends, and his fellow soldiers say they won't forget him. "We're gonna miss him, the community's gonna miss him. He was a great man."