Tara was born a very bright child. She began walking at 9 months, and reading at 3 years. She attended Kemp Elementary School, Mundy's Mill and Lovejoy Middle Schools where she was active in many student functions and band. While attending Lovejoy High School, Tara was selected most outstanding Social Science student and most outstanding Foreign Language student in the same year. She also finished third in the state high school foreign language competition. Upon her graduation in 1995, Tara received the Hope Scholarship and enrolled in Georgia College & State University. There she was active in student government as well as being an officer in the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. At this same time, Tara was centennial debutante for the Children of the American Revolution. Tara graduated cum laude in 1998 with degrees in both political science and paralegal services and took a position with Hancock & Echols in Forest Park, Georgia. Tara moved to Athens in 1999 and served with Fortson & Bentley until her acceptance in the UGA School of Law where she served as a student senator. She had just completed her first semester. Tara was a member of the Augustan Clayton County Chapter of the DAR as well as the past president of the Button Gwinnett Society of the Children of the American Revolution. Tara had many things in store for us. Such a beautiful life ~ So full of promise.
Remembering Tara Baker Gus Suarez last saw his good friend Tara Baker in their contracts class. He had a strange feeling that he should tell her goodbye, but he didn't. "There has not been a day that I haven't regretted my decision," he said at her law school memorial service in April. Tara Louise Baker of Lovejoy, Georgia, was murdered in her off-campus apartment on Friday, January 19, 2001, just hours before her 24th birthday. The killer then set a fire in her bedroom to conceal the crime. No arrests have been made. "The death of a student represents a loss to each and every member of her class and section," said Associate Dean Paul Kurtz, who taught Miss Baker as a student in his first-year criminal law course. "The class is simply not quite as full as it should have been. There is a sense of loss and anger." The law school brought in grief counselors for students in the days following the tragedy, and professors in Section Z canceled classes so Miss Baker's classmates could attend her funeral. Dean David Shipley sent a letter to the families of all UGA law students to advise them of the situation and of the steps being taken to provide reassurance and support, particularly to the 70 members of Section Z. Several personal safety seminars were held over the semester, which were well attended by students, faculty and staff. Police conducted interviews with students, and the law school cooperated fully with all aspects of the investigation. A reward in the case now stands at $26,000, and a billboard in east Athens bearing her photgraph and the words, "Who Murdered Tara Louise Baker?," reminds the community of the heinous crime. The Student Bar Association also collected reward money from students, as well as a generous donation from the Troutman Sanders law firm; if the reward is unclaimed, the contributions will be added to the scholarship fund established in Miss Baker's memory. "She was a remarkable woman," recalled Eric Mueller, another member of Miss Baker's study group. "She was probably the only person I knew who definately knew what she wanted to do." And that goal, without a doubt, said her friends and family, was to study law at the University of Georgia and become a real estate attorney. "We went to a chinese resturant one time and her fortune said, 'You'll make a great lawyer.' Tara was thrilled," her college roommate Ashley Peevy recalled. "She put that note on her bulletin board and later in her scrapbook. She always thought it was her fate to be a lawyer." Miss Baker was remembered as a radiant young woman with a beautiful smile, great attitude and strong commitment to service. "She had an unbelievable desire to learn," said Jack Hancock (J.D.'76), who was Miss Baker's first law firm employer. "When she walked in the door, you knew she was special. There was a glow about her, a smile on her face everywhere you saw her." Miss Baker graduated cum laude from Georgia College in Milledgeville in 1998, earning dual degrees in political science and paralegal studies in three years. She first worked for Hancock & Echols in Forest Park, then served a year as a real estate legal assistant at Fortson, Bentley & Griffin in Athens. Her former supervisor, Pam Dillard (J.D.'88), described Miss Baker as an intelligent, motivated person who was always diligent, attentive, patient and professional. "She didn't talk about what she was going to do," said Dillard. "She just did it in a quiet way." Miss Baker was an active and popular law student who served as a first-year SBA senator. Her devotion to family and friends, as well as her gracious manner and hospitality, were traits warmly remembered by those close to her. Suarez and Mueller both expressed their glee when Miss Baker invited them to join her study group - not just because she was smart, but also because she was a motherly figure who prepared fresh cookies or muffins as well as "the most perfect Southern sweet tea" for every study session. "Tara treated everyone as welcome and special. That was just her way," said Suarez. "She was the quintessential Southern belle - what Margaret Mithcell must have had in mind when she named the quintessential Southern plantation 'Tara'." Miss Baker's father, Lindsay, fought back tears as he shared rememberances and thanked the law school community for its outpouring of love. "Remember as you practice, you are living Tara's dream," he told her classmates. "And as long as you practice, she will practice law too. As long as you remember her, she will forever live in our hearts." From the publication Georgia Law Advocate Spring 2001 Vol. 35, No.2