Birch Bayh, One Of The Best Senators Of Late 20th Century Dead At Age 91, A Truly Creative Legislator Who Should Have Been President

Former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh, who served in the Senate from 1963-1981, passed away this week at age 91.

Birch Bayh was one of the best United States Senators of the late 20th century, a truly creative legislator who should have been President.

He competed in 1976 for the Democratic Presidential nomination against Jimmy Carter and many others, and he was the favorite of this blogger and author.

This is a man who promoted the passage of the 25th Amendment, providing for an Acting President if the President was incapacitated, and of the appointment and approval of a Vice Presidential replacement when there was a vacancy in that office.

This was the reaction of Bayh and others after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and with Lyndon B. Johnson having had a serious heart attack in 1955, and with potential successors being House Speaker John W. McCormack (age 73), and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Carl Hayden (age 86).

Bayh also promoted the 26th Amendment, giving 18 years olds the right to vote, and he also sponsored the unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment, which failed of passage by enough states.

He also sponsored Title 9 of the amended Civil Rights Act in 1972, ending quotas for women in higher education and giving women equal opportunity to participate in sports.

Additionally, Bayh saved Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy when they were both in a small plane crash in 1964.

Bayh was the father of Indiana Governor and Senator Evan Bayh. He won three close races in Indiana, and then was defeated by future Vice President Dan Quayle in 1980.

One comment on “Birch Bayh, One Of The Best Senators Of Late 20th Century Dead At Age 91, A Truly Creative Legislator Who Should Have Been President

  1. D March 17, 2019 10:36 pm

    I had not realized, until I came across this blog topic, that Birch Bayh had died last Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Thank you, for this, Ronald!)

    I found an interesting report on Birch Bayh here: “Former Indiana sen. Birch Bath dies at 91” (By CNHI News Indiana, March 14, 2019 @

    “[Birch Bayh] also led an effort in 1969–70 for an amendment that would have made the popular vote, not the Electoral College, the deciding mechanism by which the president is elected.

    “The measure easily cleared the House, and it was thought to be only a handful of votes short in the Senate. But, as Bayh noted, it never was called to the Senate floor for a full vote.”

    The report also notes (as has Ronald):

    “A strong advocate for women’s rights, [Birch Bayh] was the author of Title IX, which in 1972 for the first time prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in the classroom and on the athletic field. Bayh also was strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, which fell just short of ratification.”

    Birch Bayh was more on the left than his son, Evan. I think a big part of that had to do with where U.S. politics were in the different periods applicable to Birch and Evan.

    Bayh was one of numerous Democratic incumbent U.S. senators who were unseated in the 1980 U.S. presidential election, a wave for the Republicans which included the unseating of Democratic U.S. president Jimmy Carter by Republican pickup winner Ronald Reagan. (This was U.S. Senate Class #03, which were most recently on the schedule in 2016.) Reagan’s party coattails resulted in +12 pickups. (Reagan flipped 17 states in addition to 1976-to-1980 Republican holds of 27.) From those twelve, nine incumbent Democratic U.S. senators who were unseated. In addition to Indiana’s Birch Bayh, they were: Georgia’s Herman Talmadge; Idaho’s Frank Church; Iowa’s John Culver; New Hampshire’s John A. Durkin; North Carolina’s Robert Burren Morgan; Washington’s Warren Magnuson; Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson; and, from South Dakota, 1972 Democratic U.S. presidential nominee George McGovern. (With exception of Carter’s home state Georgia, all applicable states were carried by Reagan.)

    It is good that Birch Bayh was able to live such a lengthy life.

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