Birch Bayh is a former member
of the United States Senate, where he was privileged to serve his home state of Indiana, and to be a part of historic legislation
affecting the American presidency and the individual rights of women, minorities and youth.
Senator Bayh’s three-term service in the United States Senate – from 1962 to
1980 – is distinguished by his expertise in Constitutional law. As Chairman of the Constitutional Sub-Committee, Senator Bayh authored two Amendments
to the Constitution:
- The Twenty-fifth Amendment on Presidential and Vice Presidential
succession that created an orderly transition of power in the case of death or disability of the President, and a method of
selecting a Vice President when a vacancy occurs in that office. The Amendment provided for the orderly transition of power
following the resignations of Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon. It also provided the necessary vehicle
for President Ronald Reagan to temporarily pass his duties to Vice President George Bush when Reagan underwent surgery. Prior
to its passage, the nation experienced several occasions when the president was unable to perform his powers and duties, with
no constitutional provision for temporary transfer of these powers to the Vice President. (For example, President Eisenhower
suffered three serious illnesses during his presidency, and Woodrow Wilson was critically ill for more than a year.) Bayh
continues to counsel the White House on implementation of the Amendment.
- The Twenty-sixth Amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 years of age, enfranchising young men and women.
(Prior to the amendment, the right to vote was denied to those old enough to serve their country in the military.)
No lawmaker since the Founding Fathers has authored two Amendments to the Constitution.
Senator Bayh was the author and chief sponsor of
two other closely-fought and nearly-passed Amendments to the Constitution:
- The Equal Rights Amendment, which passed both Houses of Congress, but failed to be ratified by two-thirds of the states.
- The Direct Popular Vote Amendment, which would have abolished the Electoral College. The measure
passed the House, and Bayh enlisted sixty Senate co-sponsors before the measure failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote
of the Senate.
Bayh wrote the landmark legislation Title IX to the Higher Education Act that mandates equal opportunities
for women students & faculty. Prior to Bayh’s legislation, women students were denied equal opportunities under
the law in academics and sports: women students were routinely denied equal access to medical and law schools, veterinary
medicine, engineering programs and the like; they received unequal scholarship assistance and were denied equal participation
in sports. Similarly, female faculty members were denied equal compensation and promotion. Today’s rise of women in
all academic disciplines and in school sports and the Olympics is a direct outgrowth of this landmark legislation.
Senator Bayh is the author
and co-sponsor of the Bayh-Dole Act that enables universities and small businesses to gain ownership of federally-funded copyrights.
It has energized the free-enterprise system and has been called by The Economist “possibly the most inspired piece of
legislation to be enacted in America over the past half-century.”
Following devastating tornadoes in Indiana in 1965, Bayh provided landmark relief legislation
that became the foundation for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Architect, the Juvenile Justice Act, which mandates
the separation of juvenile offenders from adult prison populations; the legislation also established pivotal programs for
the rehabilitation of juveniles.
Senator Bayh played a vital role in the drafting and passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act and
the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bayh’s dedication to protecting minority
rights and the sanctity of the Supreme Court led to his singular effort in defeating the Nixon nominations of Judges Haynesworth
and Carswell to the United States Supreme Court [Carswell was an avowed segregationist]. As a result, the Leadership Conference
on Civil Rights bestowed their highest award on Senator Bayh in 1972 for “his unyielding dedication to human equality
and civil freedom.”
Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, working with the CIA, the National Security Agency,
and the FBI to adopt steps to prevent the abuse of citizens’ rights and to strengthen the nation’s intelligence
gathering capability. During this service, Bayh authored the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Member, Transportation Sub-Committee
of the Appropriations Committee, where he called for and funded efforts to build the District of Columbia’s ‘Metro’
Subway system and to modernize the Amtrak rail system.
Since leaving the Senate in 1980, Senator Bayh served these entities as part of his continued
commitment to public policy:
- Member, William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board
- Chairman of the University of Virginia’s
Miller Center Commission on Presidential Disability and the 25th Amendment and Membership on the Center’s Commission
on Federal Judicial Selection
- Founding Chairman of the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence, a non-profit,
first-of-its-kind organization dedicated to studying prejudice and hate crimes in America.
Senator Bayh’s political
career began at age 26 with his election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1954, where he served two years as Speaker
and four years as Democratic Floor Leader. In 1962, at age 34, he was elected to the United States Senate. He earned a B.S
in Agriculture from Purdue University and a J.D. from Indiana University’s School of Law. For more than four decades,
he oversaw the growing of corn and soybeans on his family farm. He volunteered and served two years in the United States Army.
Bayh is a partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Venable LLP, and he is a Visiting Fellow of the C.V. Starr Center for
the Study of the American Experience at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. He and his wife, Katherine "Kitty"
Bayh, live in Easton, Maryland. He is the father of two sons, Christopher and Evan.
C. V. Starr Center Senior Fellow
C. V. Starr Center, Washington College