Sen. Birch Bayh dies at age 91

Cham­pion of Ti­tle IX fed­eral law that banned dis­crim­i­na­tion against women in col­lege sports and ad­mis­sions

The Star Democrat - - FRONT PAGE - By TOM DAVIES As­so­ci­ated Press

EAS­TON (AP) — For­mer U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, who au­thored two amend­ments to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and cham­pi­oned the Ti­tle IX fed­eral law ban­ning dis­crim­i­na­tion against women in col­lege ad­mis­sions and sports, died at his home Thurs­day at age 91.

Bayh was sur­rounded by fam­ily at his home in Eas­ton, when he died shortly af­ter mid­night from pneu­mo­nia, his fam­ily said in a state­ment. His son, Evan, fol­lowed him into pol­i­tics and be­came In­di­ana’s gover­nor and a sen­a­tor.

The lib­eral Demo­crat had a back-slap­ping, hu­mor­ous cam­paign­ing style that helped him win three nar­row elec­tions to the Se­nate start­ing in 1962, at a time when Re­pub­li­cans won In­di­ana in four of the five pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Bayh’s hold on the seat ended with a loss to Dan Quayle dur­ing the 1980 Ron­ald Rea­gan-led Repub­li­can land­slide.

Bayh (pro­nounced “by”) spon­sored a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment low­er­ing the vot­ing age to 18 amid protests over the Viet­nam War and an­other amend­ment al­low­ing the re­place­ment of vice pres­i­dents. He was the only per­son since the Found­ing Fa­thers to draft more than one amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion.

But it was his work to pass the land­mark Ti­tle IX law that so­lid­i­fied his legacy. He wrote and was the lead spon­sor of the 1972 law, which pro­hibits gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in ed­u­ca­tion — known as Ti­tle IX for its sec­tion in the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Act.

The law’s pas­sage came at a time when women earned fewer than 10 per­cent of all med­i­cal and law de­grees, and fewer than 300,000 high school girls — one in 27 — played sports. Now, women make up more than half of those re­ceiv­ing bach­e­lor’s and grad­u­ate de­grees, and more than 3 mil­lion high school girls — one in two — play sports.

Bayh said the law was aimed at giv­ing women a

bet­ter shot at higher-pay­ing jobs, and he con­tin­ued speak­ing in sup­port of Ti­tle IX’s en­force­ment for years af­ter leav­ing Con­gress.

“It was clear that the great­est dan­ger or dam­age be­ing done to women was the in­equal­ity of higher ed­u­ca­tion,” Bayh said in a 2012 in­ter­view. “If you give a per­son an ed­u­ca­tion, whether it’s a boy or girl, young woman or young man, they will have the tools nec­es­sary to make a life for fam­i­lies and them­selves.”

Ten­nis great Bil­lie Jean King, who worked with Bayh on women’s rights is­sues, re­leased a state­ment with his fam­ily Thurs­day say­ing the for­mer sen­a­tor was “one of the most im­por­tant Amer­i­cans of the 20th cen­tury.”

“Birch Bayh was one of the most im­por­tant Amer­i­cans of the 20th cen­tury,” King said in her state­ment. “You sim­ply can­not look at the evo­lu­tion of equal­ity in our na­tion with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing the con­tri­bu­tions and the com­mit­ment Sen­a­tor Bayh made to se­cur­ing equal rights and op­por­tu­ni­ties for ev­ery Amer­i­can. Birch Bayh was a man of in­tegrity, a leader with un­ques­tion­able char­ac­ter and an Amer­i­can trea­sure.”

Bayh also used his po­si­tion as head of the Se­nate’s con­sti­tu­tional sub­com­mit­tee to craft the 25th Amend­ment on pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sion and the 26th Amend­ment set­ting the na­tional vot­ing age at 18.

The is­sue of pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sion was fresh when Con­gress ap­proved the amend­ment in 1967. The vice pres­i­dency had been va­cant for more than a year af­ter Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion be­cause there was no pro­vi­sion for fill­ing the of­fice be­tween elec­tions.

The amend­ment led to the pres­i­dency of Ger­ald Ford less than a decade later when Ford first suc­ceeded Spiro Agnew as vice pres­i­dent and then took over the White House af­ter Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s res­ig­na­tion dur­ing the Water­gate scan­dal.

Bayh’s push to lower the na­tional vot­ing age from 21 to 18 came amid protests over the Viet­nam War and ob­jec­tions that Amer­i­cans dy­ing on bat­tle­fields were un­able to vote in all states. The amend­ment won rat­i­fi­ca­tion from the states in 1971.

Bayh also was a lead­ing spon­sor of the Equal Rights Amend­ment, which would have barred dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of gen­der. It passed Con­gress but failed to win ap­proval from two-thirds of the states by its 1982 dead­line.

“The only per­son since the Found­ing Fa­thers to draft more than one amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion, Sen­a­tor Bayh de­voted his life to cham­pi­oning the rights of all Amer­i­cans — es­pe­cially women, peo­ple of color, young peo­ple, and oth­ers whom his­tory had too long pushed to the mar­gins,” his fam­ily said in a state­ment.

To­gether with his col­league Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., Bayh was the au­thor and co-spon­sor of the Bayh-Dole Act (1980), a bi­par­ti­san ini­tia­tive that The Econ­o­mist has called “pos­si­bly the most in­spired piece of leg­is­la­tion to be en­acted in Amer­ica over the past half-cen­tur y.”

Bayh-Dole en­ables uni­ver­si­ties and busi­nesses to gain own­er­ship of fed­er­ally funded in­ven­tions so they can be de­vel­oped into new prod­ucts, jobs and busi­nesses through part­ner­ships with U.S. com­pa­nies, thus ben­e­fit­ing the tax­pay­ing pub­lic. It has en­er­gized the free-en­ter­prise sys­tem, help­ing launch thou­sands of new high­tech com­pa­nies; con­trib­uted hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars to the U.S. econ­omy (by one es­ti­mate, $1.18 tril­lion be­tween 1996 and 2013 alone); cre­ated mil­lions of new, high-pay­ing jobs; and aided the de­vel­op­ment of dozens of new drugs and vac­cines. The law is con­sid­ered the in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice for re­search-and-de­vel­op­ment part­ner­ships be­tween the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors.

Bayh had be­gun pre­par­ing to make a run for the 1972 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion when his first wife, Marvella, was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer. He dropped that cam­paign but en­tered the 1976 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, fin­ish­ing sec­ond to Jimmy Carter in the open­ing Iowa cau­cuses but then far­ing poorly in later pri­maries.

Marvella Bayh gained at­ten­tion by speak­ing and mak­ing tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances around the coun­try pro­mot­ing can­cer de­tec­tion and en­cour­ag­ing re­search. But her can­cer later re­turned, and she died in April 1979 at age 46, shortly be­fore her mem­oir re­count­ing her health fight was pub­lished.

Bayh sought a fourth Se­nate term the fol­low­ing year — with their 24-year-old son Evan as cam­paign man­ager — but lost to Quayle, then a two-term con­gress­man.

Born on Jan. 22, 1928, in Terre Haute, Ind., Birch Evans Bayh Jr. moved to his ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents’ farm at the nearby com­mu­nity of Shirkieville af­ter his mother’s 1940 death and his fa­ther’s en­try into World War II mil­i­tary ser­vice.

He grad­u­ated from Pur­due Univer­sity’s School of Agri­cul­ture af­ter spend­ing two years in the Army and met his fu­ture wife dur­ing a 1951 Na­tional Farm Bureau speak­ing con­test in Chicago, which she won as an en­trant from Ok­la­homa. They soon mar­ried and moved to the Shirkieville farm.

For more than four decades, through­out Bayh’s en­tire ca­reer in govern­ment, he con­tin­ued to man­age the grow­ing of corn and soy­beans on his fam­ily farm in Shirkieville, Ind. Of all the pub­lic hon­ors he re­ceived in the course of his life, he was per­haps proud­est of his vic­tor y in the 1944 Camp­bell Soup To­mato Grow­ing Con­test, a statewide com­pe­ti­tion for the best and largest to­mato in In­di­ana.

Bayh won his first elec­tion to the state Leg­is­la­ture in 1954; his son Evan was born the fol­low­ing year. Bayh rose quickly in pol­i­tics, be­com­ing the In­di­ana House speaker in 1959 at the age of 30. He earned a law de­gree from In­di­ana Univer­sity, com­plet­ing law school while serv­ing in the leg­is­la­ture.

Bayh en­tered the 1962 Se­nate race, tak­ing on three-term Repub­li­can Sen. Homer Cape­hart. Bayh boosted his name recog­ni­tion — and cor­rect pro­nun­ci­a­tion — around the state with a catchy cam­paign song open­ing with the lines “Hey look him over, he’s my kind of guy. His first name is Birch, his last name is Bayh.”

Bayh was 34 when elected to the Se­nate and soon be­came friends with the only sen­a­tor younger than him: Mass­a­chu­setts Sen. Ed­ward Kennedy. Bayh and his wife were fly­ing with Kennedy when their small plane crashed near Spring­field, Mass., in June 1964. The pi­lot and a leg­isla­tive aide were killed, but Bayh pulled Kennedy, who suf­fered a bro­ken back and other se­ri­ous in­juries, from the wreck­age.

“The plane could have ex­ploded into a fire­ball at any mo­ment, and Birch was risk­ing his own life to try to save those of us still in the plane,” Kennedy later wrote. “He showed courage and com­pas­sion that I’ll never for­get.”

Af­ter leav­ing the Se­nate, Bayh worked as a lawyer and lob­by­ist in Wash­ing­ton. He re­mar­ried in 1982, and he and wife Kather­ine “Kitty” Helpin had a son, Christo­pher, who is now a lawyer in Wash­ing­ton.

Bayh largely stayed in the back­ground of In­di­ana pol­i­tics as his older son, Evan, was elected to the first of his two terms as gover­nor in 1988. The younger Bayh built a more mod­er­ate im­age than his fa­ther, end­ing his eight years as gover­nor with a high ap­proval rat­ing and then win­ning his first of two elec­tions to the Se­nate in 1998.

He didn’t seek a third term in 2010, say­ing the Se­nate had be­come too par­ti­san. Evan Bayh launched an un­ex­pected come­back bid in 2016 for the Se­nate, but he lost to Repub­li­can Todd Young.

The elder Bayh seemed to revel in the change brought about from the Ti­tle IX law, de­scrib­ing it as the most im­por­tant le­gal step for equal­ity since the right of women to vote was guar­an­teed by the 19th Amend­ment in 1920.

“There was a soc­cer field I used to jog around,” he once said. “One day, all of a sud­den, I re­al­ized that half of the play­ers were lit­tle girls and half of them were lit­tle boys. I re­al­ized then that that was, in part, be­cause of Ti­tle IX.”

Bayh is sur­vived by his wife Kitty, sons Evan and Christo­pher, and four grand­chil­dren.


In this 2012 file photo, for­mer Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., the au­thor of Ti­tle IX in Con­gress, speaks dur­ing a fo­rum in the South Court Au­di­to­rium at the White House in Wash­ing­ton in a gath­er­ing to cel­e­brate the 40th an­niver­sary of Ti­tle IX. Bayh, who cham­pi­oned the fed­eral law ban­ning dis­crim­i­na­tion against women in col­lege ad­mis­sions and sports, has died. He was 91.


In this 2012 file photo, for­mer Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., the au­thor of Ti­tle IX in Con­gress, is ap­plauded by Se­nior Ad­viser to the Pres­i­dent and Chair of the Coun­cil on Women and Girls Va­lerie Jar­rett, left, and ten­nis great Bil­lie Jean King, cen­ter dur­ing a fo­rum in the South Court Au­di­to­rium at the White House in Wash­ing­ton in a gath­er­ing to cel­e­brate the 40th an­niver­sary of Ti­tle IX. Bayh, who cham­pi­oned the fed­eral law ban­ning dis­crim­i­na­tion against women in col­lege ad­mis­sions and sports, died from pneu­mo­nia at his home in Eas­ton, Thurs­day, March 14, at age 91.


In this 1962 file photo, In­di­ana Gov. Matthew Welsh, left, and U.S. Sen. Vance Hardke, right, hoist the arms of Birch Bayh Jr. in In­di­anapo­lis af­ter Bayh re­ceived a sen­a­tor nom­i­na­tion at the Demo­crat state con­ven­tion in In­di­anapo­lis.


In this 1968 file photo, Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., chair­man of the Se­nate con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments sub­com­mit­tee, speaks at a news con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton.

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