Birch Bayh, Senator of Indiana Title IX Champion, dies at age 91


Former Senator Birch Bayh, author of two major constitutional amendments and legislation that has significantly improved women's rights in the classroom and on sports fields, died March 14 at her home in Easton, Maryland . He was 91 years old.

The cause was pneumonia, said his family in a statement.

In three quarters on Capitol Hill, the liberal conservative Indiana Democrat has become one of the most productive legislators of his era and the most vocal opponent of political opponents, especially in clashes with Supreme Court candidates. States proposed by the Nixon Government.

In 1980, Bayh was targeted by Republicans motivated by Ronald Reagan's candidacy for the presidency and was defeated by a reckless young challenger, the representative Dan Quayle, future vice president of George H. W. Buisson. But the name Bayh resounded in Indiana and his eldest son, Evan, served as governor and US senator.

Birch Bayh, "just a lawyer from Shirkieville," in his words, was an unlikely avatar of constitutional reform when he arrived in Washington in 1963 after firing a three-term incumbent.

Coincidentally, he landed at the Senate Judiciary Committee, whereas it was only three years from his law school and had more experience as a "student". farmer only as a lawyer.

Senators Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Left, and Birch Bayh, D-Ind., In 1980. (Harrity / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Then chance struck – twice. The chair of the subcommittee on constitutional amendments passed away, and no one wanted what seemed to be a door to darkness. Mr. Bayh volunteered. The assassination of John Kennedy three months later, in November 1963, considerably improved the status of this job.

The accession of Lyndon B. Johnson to the presidency was a stark reminder of a flaw in the succession process. There was no method to replace Johnson as vice president and he had a history of heart disease. The two officials designated by law as first and second heirs – Speaker of the House and Acting Speaker of the Senate – were old and frail.

The subcommittee has become a vector of notoriety. President Bayh jumped on board, becoming the main author and defender of the 25th amendment. Ratified in 1967 after a protracted controversy, the amendment established clear procedures for the appointment of a vice president in the event of a vacancy. It also established rules for the replacement of the president if the holder became seriously disabled.

"A constitutional vacuum that has existed for two centuries has been filled," Bayh said.

During the Watergate crisis, President Richard M. Nixon used the 25th Amendment in 1973 to name the minority leader in the House. Gerald R. Ford (R-Mich.) Vice-President. Ford took over from Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned after a federal investigation into allegations of corruption and extortion unrelated to Watergate. When Nixon resigned the following year, Ford chose Nelson Rockefeller as vice president.

Senator Birch Bayh in 1973. (Margaret Thomas / The Washington Post)

Mr. Bayh also wrote the 26th amendment, adopted in 1971, setting the national voting age at 18 years. He solved a problem dating back to the Second World War, when the slogan "old enough to fight, too young to vote" gained popularity.

EER and Title IX

Then Mr. Bayh co-authored what would have been the 27th amendment, the equal rights amendment, which mandates equal treatment of women in all areas. Congress approved it in 1972. Believing that the measure was likely to sink because of the opposition of the state legislatures, he eventually did, Mr. Bayh issued the title IX of the 1972 Education Act. It banned gender discrimination in schools receiving federal support.

Title IX has been controversial for decades, especially the need for schools to devote equal resources to male and female athletes. Notre Dame football coach, Edward W. "Moose" Krause, an icon from Indiana, warned Bayh: "This thing is going to kill football."

Forty years after the promulgation of Title IX, while Mr. Bayh was honored by professional basketball players, he recalled his argument made in the 1970s: "In a country proud of equality, we can not continue to deny 53% of Americans have equal rights. "

Title IX even had a wider impact in classrooms and laboratories. In an interview, Donna Shalala, Bill Clinton's secretary of health and social services and now a US congresswoman from Florida, said, "Title IX has changed the game. This has created opportunities for students, faculty and administrators. Without this, you will not see as many women studying law and medicine – or sitting in the university presidency. "

Mr. Bayh acknowledged that feminism was a taste that he had acquired with the help of his first wife and political partner, Marvella Hern Bayh. "From time to time," he recalls in 2004, "she would remind me of what life was like in a male world. Without it, I would not have played a leadership role "on women's issues.


Birch Evans Bayh Jr. was born on January 22, 1928 in Terre Haute, Ind., Near Shirkieville, where ancestors had been farming for generations. Birch Sr. was a sports director. In 1935 he moved with the family to Montgomery County, Maryland, when he became director of physical education for the D.C. public school system.

The son was 12 years old when his mother died and he moved to his grandparents' farm in Shirkieville. He grew tomatoes that won a state ribbon and enrolled in the agricultural program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. After a two-year hiatus in military service, he graduated in 1951 with a diversified resume.

His classmates elected him president. He excelled in boxing and baseball. An influential debater, he represented Indiana at the national debate contest organized by the American Farm Bureau in Chicago.

Marvella Hern was Oklahoma's glamor girl, although she is only a freshman in Oklahoma State. Their love meeting at first sight did not distract her. She left with the national award and her fraternity pin.

They were married in 1952 and the newlyweds ran the family farm. But he was restless and in 1954 he won a seat in the House of Representatives of Indiana. Politics was so foreign to his family, he joked, "my dad started to wonder," Where did I go wrong as a parent? "

Other Democrats have not had that kind of scruples. Quickly, the handsome, well-articulated rural representative became the minority leader and then president. While remaining responsible for agricultural and legislative duties, he entered the Indiana University School of Law. He graduated in 1960, joined a law firm in Terra Haute in 1961 and rented the farm.

He had barely begun his new occupation as the Bayhs created a greater ambition: to challenge Sen. Homer E. Capehart, a conservative Republican looking for a fourth term. The goal seemed grandiose. Indiana had voted overwhelmingly for Nixon in 1960 and Capehart was popular.

But the Bayh practiced the politics of retailing relentlessly. "I'd rather shake hands than eat," he liked to say. During a debate, the challenger criticized the outgoing president, who pleaded for a military response to communist Cuba, accusing him of "hawkish". Capehart seized Mr. Bayh by the setbacks and exclaimed, "Do not try to escape!"

The journalists separated them before the shots were fired. Mr. Bayh won by a margin of less than 1%. Time magazine felt that Capehart had lost because "his image was that of a conservative who had just come out of a cave". The elected senator said that voters "are impressed by a guy who works there."

Diligence remained Bayh's hallmark. He was active in drafting civil rights bills under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, though this legislation was unpopular in Indiana.

A late vote on a civil rights measure in 1964 nearly killed him. The Bayhs accompanied Senator Edward M. Kennedy to a Democratic event in Massachusetts, leaving hours later than expected. Their small plane crashed, landing in the evening fog at a rural airport.

Two of the five people on board died. The Bayhs suffered relatively minor injuries, but Kennedy's back was broken. "Is any one alive there?" Called Mr. Bayh from the ground. "I'm alive," Kennedy croaked.

He was also motionless. Four months later, still at the hospital, Kennedy told reporters that he had passed his rescuer's arm around his rescuer's neck while Mr. Bayh, pulling him back, was dragging him out of the wreckage.

Mr. Bayh's national profile improved in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a result of major battles between two candidates for the United States Supreme Court.

When President Nixon named Clement F. Haynsworth Jr., Chief Justice of the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals, to a seat at the High Court in 1969, a seemingly solid coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats supported him. But union leaders and civil rights have considered conservative Haynsworth as an enemy.

Mr. Bayh led the opposition rally. With some allies, he pleaded against Haynsworth, notably by questioning his ethics. Haynsworth had participated in a case involving a company in which he held shares. In an article in the New York Times in 1970, journalist Robert Sherrill said that "Bayh is a master of the gentleman shiv".

The Senate rejected Haynsworth and, in 1970, with Bayh in vanguard, voted against another conservative judge of the court of appeal, G. Harrold Carswell. Nixon accused Bayh and others of overstepping the Senate's powers of advice and consent.

Mr. Bayh responded that the president "is wrong" in constitutional law, in history, and in public policy.

Legislation "inspired"

In the early 1970s, Mr. Bayh had made friends among influential groups on democratic politics: unions, feminists, the civil rights movement. The presidential ambition naturally followed, and he joined the competition for the 1972 bid before retiring after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Marvella Bayh succumbed to a cancer recurrence in 1979. Two years later, Bayh married Katherine "Kitty" Halpin, director of information for ABC News. In addition to his wife, the survivors include a son from his first marriage, Evan Bayh; a son from his second marriage, Christopher Bayh; and four grandchildren.

During Marvella's relapse, the Bayh were frustrated that a promising treatment was not available due to a conflict over intellectual property rights. Medical and other innovations developed with government support, they discovered, have sometimes remained in limbo because of the procedures needed to establish ownership.

Working with Senator Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), Mr. Bayh drafted a patent reform bill introduced in 1978 and enacted in 1980. It simplified practices, accelerating the availability of many processes. scientists.

The Economist magazine has termed it "the most inspired bill in America in the last fifty years."

It was his last legislative achievement. After his defeat in 1980, Bayh turned to the practice of law and eventually formed a partnership with the Venable LLP office in Washington. He never ran for office again but he stayed in the public arena. When the Title IX cases reached the Supreme Court, he drafted amicus briefs defending his best-known legislation.

In 2008, at age 80, he campaigned throughout Indiana for Barack Obama, sometimes making five appearances a day. He told an Indianapolis Star reporter that his 1962 margin rose to two votes per constituency. From where his call to the supporters:

"When all is over and you are so tired that you can not make a phone call anymore, you can not go one step further, just get two more votes for Birch."

Obama took Indiana in 2008 by less than 1%.

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