Senator Birch Bayh
Senior Fellow, C.V. Starr Center
Raised on his family’s farm in western Indiana, Birch Bayh initially set his sights on a career in agriculture. But thanks to some fortuitous encouragement from a mentor, he decided – reluctantly at first – to attend college, and then, after service in the U.S. Army, law school, and then to enter political life. While still in his late twenties, he was simultaneously finishing law school, running the family farm, and serving as Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives – and just a few years later, in 1962, he was elected to the United States Senate, leading a dynamic grassroots campaign that narrowly unseated an incumbent who was nearly twice his age.
Senator Bayh arrived in Washington at a moment when America was on the brink of crisis and change – but luckily it was also a moment when, thanks to John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, a spirit of youthfulness, energy, and innovation was at the forefront of our political life. Despite coming from an often conservative state, one where the Ku Klux Klan was still a force in local politics, he stepped into the vanguard of efforts to secure civil rights for African-Americans, helping to draft the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. Later, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he led the successful efforts to defeat President Nixon’s nominations of two segregationist judges – Clement Haynesworth and Harrold Carswell – to the Supreme Court. As a result, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights would eventually honor Senator Bayh with their highest award for “his unyielding dedication to human equality and civil freedom.” (He also won a coveted spot on Richard Milhous Nixon’s famous “enemies list.”)
Meanwhile, Senator Bayh also won renown as an expert on the U.S. Constitution. After the assassination of President Kennedy, he drafted the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which established the rules for presidential and vice-presidential succession. In the midst of the Vietnam War, he authored the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 – and which, at the stroke of a pen, enfranchised 11 million young Americans, who previously had been considered old enough to die for their country but not old enough to vote for their president. With its passage, Senator Bayh became the only American since the Founding Fathers to draft more than one Amendment to the Constitution.
Senator Bayh’s next effort, the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have enshrined constitutional equality for women, narrowly failed ratification by the states. However, he was still determined to advance women’s rights. At a time when institutionalized gender discrimination was still rampant at American colleges and universities, he wrote and passed the renowned Title IX of the Higher Education Act, which for the first time prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in the classroom and on the athletic field, protecting both students and faculty. (Just a
few months ago, the NCAA recognized this achievement, as well his lifelong support of college athletics, by presenting Senator Bayh with its prestigious Gerald R. Ford Award, which he shared with the legendary Indiana basketball coach Johnny Wooden.)
Among his many other achievements in the Senate: as chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, he authored the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, FISA, which is currently in the news because it protects American citizens from eavesdropping by the federal government.
Since leaving the Senate in 1981, Senator Bayh has continued to fight for the principles he championed there – for example, by serving as founding chairman of the Institute Against Prejudice and Violence, which laid the original groundwork for federal and state hate-crimes bills that eventually became law nationwide. He is a partner at one of Washington’s most distinguished law firms, Venable LLP, where among other efforts he is currently helping to broker an agreement for the sharing of peaceful nuclear technology between the United States and India.
(Abridged from Sen. Bayh’s introduction at Washington College,
January 30, 2006)
Senior Fellow, C.V. Starr Center
Richard Beeman is one of the nation’s leading historians of America’s revolutionary and early national experience. A member of the faculty at University of Pennsylvania for 43 years, Beeman has served as Chair of the Department of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a member of the scholarly advisory board of the American Revolution Center and the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center, where he chairs the Committee on Programs, Exhibits, and Education and serves as Vice-Chair of the Center’s Distinguished Scholars Panel.
Beeman is the author of six books and several dozen articles on revolutionary America, including The Penguin Guide to the American Constitution (Penguin, 2010) and Patrick Henry: A Biography(McGraw-Hill, 1974), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. His 2009 book, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Random House) won the George Washington Book Prize in 2010, garnering acclaim from the jurors who praised it as “the fullest and most authentic account of the Constitutional Convention ever written.” The book also won the Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award, which recognizes literary achievement among Philadelphia-based authors.
Beeman received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago in 1968, and is a former editor of American Quarterly, the journal of record for scholars in American Studies. His teaching interests center on colonial America and the American Revolution, American constitutional history and the history of the American presidency and American presidential elections.
Over the course of his career, Beeman has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Huntington Library. He has served as a Fulbright Professor in the United Kingdom and as Harmsworth Distinguished Professor of American History at Oxford University.
Richard Beeman appearances on The Daily Show:
Patrick Henry Writing Fellow, 2012-13
Neal Gabler, one of America’s most accomplished biographers and public intellectuals, will be in residence at Washington College for the Spring 2013 semester and will teach a course on “The Art of Biography.” Gabler is an author, cultural historian, screenwriter, producer, film and media critic, and commentator who has been called “one of America’s most important public intellectuals.” He has written prizewinning biographies of Walt Disney, Walter Winchell, and early Hollywood movie moguls and is now at work on a book about the late Senator Edward Kennedy and modern American politics. He is the winner of an Emmy, two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.