Memorial at Statehouse remembers Birch Bayh's lasting legacy

Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., chairman of the Senate constitutional amendments subcommittee, speaks at a news conference in Washington, Nov. 8, 1968. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)
Birch Bayh Memorial
Memorial service for Birch Bayh
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Indiana is remembering two political giants we've lost this year.

Senator Richard Lugar passed away Saturday and Senator Birch Bayh died a couple months ago.

Former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh was honored with a public memorial service at the Statehouse Wednesday. He passed away in March at the age of 91.

Hoosiers remembered his lasting legacy. It was a crowd you might expect for a giant, a man who walked with Presidents and changes the lives of everyday Americans.

"That is personified in exchange of our sisters, our daughters and our granddaughters," Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said.

Bayh represented Indiana in the Senate for 18 years until he was defeated by Dan Quayle in 1980. During his time in Washington, he helped create Title IX, which bans discrimination against women in college admissions and athletics.

"Title IV. He testified later looking around his agriculture classes and only seeing two women gave him the idea that maybe all was not right. Maybe there were barriers there that somebody ought to take down so he did," Purdue President Mitch Daniels shared.

"According to the National Center of Education Statistics in 2016 women made up 56 percent of under graduate enrollment. Birch Bayh saw something and did something," Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson now Chief Judge of the Southern District of Indiana added.

But there was also the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and so much more.

He sponsored constitutional amendments lowering the voting age to 18 and establishing presidential succession order beyond the vice president. He was - and remains - the only person to author more than one constitutional amendment since the Founding Fathers.

One constitutional amendment he failed to get ratified: abolishing the Electoral College, an idea that remains contentious today.

Birch Bayh, the Democratic senior senator from Indiana, greets and Richard Lugar, the Republican junior senator from Indiana, before a committee meeting at the Capitol building in Washington in 1978. (photo courtesy Susan Fleck via TheStatehouseFile.com)

"Birch Bayh, a white man from a state once the epicenter of the Ku Klux KIan fought discrimination in the halls of Washington DC with every fiber of his being," Representative Andre Carson explained.

"To me Birch Bayh, my dad, was larger than life," Chris Bayh the youngest of the two boys shared.

And there was good reason for that.

"Birch Bayh wrote more of the US Constitution than any other member since James Madison. That is an accomplishment," former Congressman Baron Hill clarified.

His son, Evan, was also a U.S. senator, and served as Indiana's governor. He summed up the sentiment that everyone in the room was feeling.

"It's not very often we can feel the pages of history turning and you can see the end of an era. But in the passing of my father and Richard Lugar that is in fact what we see," Evan Bayh said.

Richard Lugar, the former Democrat Indianapolis mayor and U.S. Senator, ran against Bayh in 1974. Bayh won. Lugar ran again in 1976 against Indiana's other U.S. Senator, Vance Hartke, and won, joining his one-time rival in Washington. Hours after Bayh passed, Lugar talked with John Krull, publisher of our partner TheStatehouseFile.com, and referred to Bayh as “a great shoe-leather politician” whose sheer likability made him effective.

Lugar himself just passed away Sunday. Public memorial plans for him have not yet been released.

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