C. Edwin Baker (1947–2009), Nicholas F. Gallicchio Professor of Law and professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, was one of the country’s foremost First Amendment scholars. He died Dec. 8, 2009.
Baker followed his parents’ example of speaking out against racism
Baker grew up in Madisonville, Kentucky, where he followed his parents’ example in speaking out against racism and other injustices.
After graduating from Madisonville Public High School in 1965, he received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1969. His next stop was Harvard University for a two-year fellowship in law and humanities, followed by Yale Law School, where his favorite professor was renowned First Amendment scholar Thomas Emerson.
After graduation from Yale in 1972, Baker entered academia, teaching at the University of Toledo and then the University of Oregon before eventually moving to the University of Pennsylvania. For a time, he also worked as a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. He began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.
Baker argued for the liberty theory
Perhaps Baker’s most enduring contribution to First Amendment theory is his influential book Human Liberty and Freedom of Speech (1989) in which he argued that the primary justification for freedom of expression rests on protecting individual human liberty (the liberty theory) rather than the traditional marketplace of ideas rationale.
He wrote: “The liberty model holds that the free speech clause protects not a marketplace, but rather an arena of individual liberty from certain types of government restrictions” (p. 5).
Baker also wrote several other books that examine First Amendment–related issues: Advertising and a Democratic Press (1994); Media, Markets, and Democracy (2002); and Media Concentration and Democracy: Why Ownership Matters (2007).
David L. Hudson, Jr. is a law professor at Belmont who publishes widely on First Amendment topics. He is the author of a 12-lecture audio course on the First Amendment entitled Freedom of Speech: Understanding the First Amendment (Now You Know Media, 2018). He also is the author of many First Amendment books, including The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (Thomson Reuters, 2012) and Freedom of Speech: Documents Decoded (ABC-CLIO, 2017). This article was originally published in 2009.