Birch Bayh


Distinguished Alumni Service Award (2009)
J.D., 1960; LL.D., 1995
President's Medal for Excellence (1998)
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Myles Brand
Honorary Degree (1995)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Myles Brand
Maurer School of Law Academy of Law Alumni Fellows (1995)
Indiana University Bloomington


Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on January 22, 1928, Senator Birch Bayh was initially attracted to farming. He earned a B.S. with distinction in agriculture from Purdue University in 1951. In 1960 he was awarded a J.D., also with distinction, from the Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington. While he was a law student he was elected to the prestigious Order of the Coif; he was chosen to receive an Edwards fellowship; and he was the Phi Delta Phi Graduate of the Year. Moreover, when Bayh received his law degree he was a member of the Indiana General Assembly and the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives. His political career had begun with his election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1954.

In 1962 Bayh was elected to the U.S. Senate, as a Democrat, representing the State of Indiana. His career lasted for three consecutive terms. As ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Bayh played an important role in reforming laws pertaining to patent, antitrust, trucking deregulation, and alternative energy development. He also wrote and sponsored two successful amendments to the Constitution, the 25th and the 26th Amendments. No other lawmaker since the Founding Fathers has written two amendments to the Constitution. The 25th Amendment provides for Presidential succession in cases of death or disability of the President and a method of selecting a Vice President when a vacancy exists in the office. The 26th Amendment provides for the voting age to be lowered to 18 years of age.

Bayh served as Senate sponsor for Title IX, which provided for equal treatment for women in the nation's educational system. He served on the Senate Public Works Subcommittee on the Environment for a decade, participating in critical decisions that resulted in the establishment of federal criteria for clean air and clean water. He also provided leadership within Congress in structuring programs to assist disabled citizens, juveniles, and the mentally ill. "I had the pleasure of serving with Senator Bayh in the United States Senate for 18 years," writes South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. "His efforts led to the passage of many important pieces of legislation. He established a reputation for dedication and integrity equaled or surpassed by few others." As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Bayh helped guarantee the rights of American citizens against abuses. As chairman of the National Alcohol Fuels Commission, he headed the drive to increase research in alcohol fuel development. As chairman of Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Bayh played an important role in government programs affecting all of the nation's transportation systems.

At Indiana University, Senator Bayh has been a Distinguished Citizen Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study since 1990, giving lectures and meeting with faculty and students on six of IU's eight campuses. During John Ryan's tenure as president of Indiana University, Birch Bayh gave his papers to the Lilly Library, greatly increasing the library's holdings of papers of political figures from Indiana and enhancing the Lilly Library as a center for research in political science and constitutional law.