A. Y. Baker, political boss of Hidalgo County from 1918 to 1930, was born in Uvalde in 1874, the son of Thomas G. and Verda (Bates) Baker. The elder Baker was a Spanish-American War veteran. A. Y. Baker joined the Texas Rangers in 1896 and went to the Rio Grande valley. As a ranger he made valuable allies and was accused of brutal acts. In one such incident in Cameron County, Ramón de la Cerda, owner of a small ranch abutting the King Ranch, was killed. The next year, 1903, Baker was brought to trial for the murders of Cerda and his brother. Baker's defense attorney, James B. Wells, Jr., argued self-defense and won an acquittal. In 1904 Baker retired from the rangers and started work as a mounted customs inspector, in which capacity he began to build an agriculture and real estate fortune from lands he acquired inexpensively. During this period he also married Lena Sapington.
He left his job with the United States Customs Bureau in 1908, when he was elected treasurer of Hidalgo County. In 1912 he exchanged offices with Sheriff John Closner, the county boss who wanted to be treasurer. Baker became boss in early 1918 when Closner was charged with misappropriation of county funds and forced to resign his position as treasurer. The foundation of Baker's political control of Hidalgo County was his patriarchal relationship with local Mexican Americans. He provided charitable favors to them and supported the segregated Mexican schools. Enemies disparaged him as "the multimillionaire sheriff of Hidalgo County." Baker, president of the Edinburg State Bank, was indeed a millionaire, who lived in what his wife described as a "palatial mansion." He died of a stroke on November 1, 1930, in Edinburg and was survived by his wife and three children. See also BOSS RULE.