Paul Baker was born in 1911 in Hereford, Texas. His family moved to Waxahachie when Baker was eight years old. Baker graduated from Trinity University with a degree in drama in 1932. He continued his studies at Yale University, earning his master's degree in 1939. Baker married Sallie Kathryn "Kitty" Cardwell in 1936; they had three children. During World War II Baker served in the United States Army as a Special Services Entertainment Officer. He received the Legion of Merit Award in 1945 for his work reorganizing the entertainment branch in the European Theater of Operations.
Paul Baker's teaching career began as a drama professor at Baylor University in 1934. He established a standalone drama department at Baylor in 1940, and served as the inaugural chair of the department. Baker designed Studio One, a state-of-the-art theater facility at Baylor in 1941. In 1963, controversy arose when Baker produced Eugene O'Neill's "Long Days Journey into Night" without censoring the language. After Baker was reprimanded by the Baylor administration, the entire drama department faculty resigned in protest. Baker and his fellow faculty members then moved to San Antonio to establish the theater department at Trinity University, where he taught until his retirement in 1976. Baker founded the Dallas Theater Center and Graduate School of Drama in 1959. He taught graduate courses at the Dallas Theater Center from 1959 to 1982, and collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright to design and build the Kalita Humphreys Theater for the organization.
Baker was well known for his Integration of Abilities curriculum for teaching drama. Published in 1972, they are based on the "elements of form": space, movement, color, silhouette, line, sound/silence, rhythm, shape, and texture. This curriculum promotes a philosophy of individual creativity.
Baker resided on his Central Texas ranch in retirement, and was awarded the Texas Medal of Arts in 2007 for his contributions to arts education across the state. He passed away in 2009.