Birch Bayh Senatorial Papers

Senator from Indiana, 1963-1980

Biographical Note:

Birch Evans Bayh was born January 22, 1928 in Terre Haute, Indiana. He attended public schools in Indiana; served in the United States Army, stationed in Germany, from 1946-1948; and after Army service attended Purdue University, graduating with a B.S. in 1951. Following graduation he married Marvella Hern in August 1952, and attended Indiana State University in Terre Haute for two years while also running the family farm. In 1954 he was elected to the Indiana State Assembly, serving there until his election to the United States Senate in 1962. Meanwhile he entered Indiana University, Bloomington's School of Law in 1957, receiving his J.D., awarded with distinction, in 1960. While a law student he continued as a state representative and served as Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives in 1959.


In 1962 Bayh ran as a Democrat for the office of United States Senator, defeating incumbent Republican Senator Homer Capehart.


His committee service was extensive. During his eighteen years in the Senate, Bayh served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments and as such was a prime mover in the drafting of three amendments to the United States Constitution. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment, concerning presidential succession and disability (documented in his book, One Heartbeat Away), and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which set the voting age at eighteen rather than the previous twenty-one, were ratified. The third, the Equal Rights Amendment, was defeated. He advocated reform of the electoral college, eventually pursuing a constitutional amendment establishing direct election of the President in each Congress.


Bayh sponsored and co-authored Title IX of the Higher Education Act, the section that pertains to equal opportunity for women in all programs and activities, including sports, in educational institutions that receive federal funding. He was chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1977 through 1980. As a member of the Judiciary Committee's Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee, he was the chief architect of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which established a separate judicil system for juvenile offenders. He was closely involved in the efforts seeking District of Columbia representation in Congress and played an important role in reforming laws pertaining to patent, antitrust, and alternative energy development, including establishment of and leadership in the National Alternative Fuels Commission which promoted the development of ethanol. He served on the Senate Public Works Committee for a decade, participating in decisions that led to federal criteria for clean air and clean water regulations. He also provided leadership within Congress in forming programs for the assistance of disabled citizens and the mentally ill. Throughout his professional career he championed causes relating to senior citizens, the handicapped, women, and all minorities. He has worked strenuously to increase cancer research and has served as chairman of AIDS Action Council.


Bayh ran for reelection in 1980 but was unexpectedly defeated by the Republican candidate Dan Quayle. Following this election he formed a law firm in Washington, D.C., served as Chairman of the Institute Against Prejudice and Violence from 1984 through 1994, and was appointed to the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board by President Clinton in 1995. Birch Bayh continues to practice law in Washington with the firm Venable, Inc.



The Collection (800 linear feet):

The collection contains virtually complete documentation of the operation of a very active and diversified senatorial office, including some committee staff files. Legislative, Indiana, Press, and Political Department tasks overlapped, and staff members moved within these departments and into and out of committee responsibilities as well as the work demanded. Interwoven with these activities are Bayh’s two runs for the Presidential candidacy in 1972 and 1976. There is extensive legislative mail as well as a complete run of press files.



Status of the Collection:

Detailed processing of the collection was supported by a two-year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission in 2010-2012 and is currently being completed.  There is an overview finding aid for the collection, with links to individual finding aids, which are being added as series are completed. 



Researcher Access:

Research use is possible with adequate advance notice. Contact Kate Cruikshank, Political Papers Specialist,, 812-856-4601.



Additional Resources on Birch Bayh:

Committee service record

Itemized listing of press releases in the Birch Bayh Senatorial Papers collection:

Press Releases 1963-1968

Press Releases 1969-1972

Press Releases 1973-1976

Press Releases 1977-1980
Biography and text from The Art of Leadership: A Companion to an Exhibition from the Senatorial Papers of Birch Bayh, United States Senator from Indiana, 1963-1980 (copyright held by Trustees of Indiana University)

last updated: 2/28/2013