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Former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, author of Title IX, dies at 91

By Clyde Hughes
Former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, author of Title IX, dies at 91
Former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, who served in the upper chamber from 1963 to 1981, died at the age of 91 Thursday. Photo courtesy United States Congress

March 14 (UPI) -- Birch Bayh, a three-term U.S. senator from Indiana who wrote two constitutional amendments and authored Title IX legislation that gave women protections in college, died Thursday. He was 91.

Bayh died of pneumonia early Thursday at his home in Easton, Ind., his family said.

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Bayh served in the Senate between 1963 and 1981 and two years in the House before that. The father of former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, introduced the 25th Amendment after the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy that updated the presidential line of succession in case of death, disability or resignation. It was passed in 1967 and clarifies the procedure in the order, which lists the speaker of the House second in line after the vice president, and president pro tempore of the Senate third.

He also authored the 26th Amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 during a period where 18-year-olds were being drafted for the Vietnam War, which passed in 1971.

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"He had a natural sympathy for the underdog and the downtrodden. So that's why he always tried to champion opportunity and decency for people who are born without a lot of either," Evan Bayh said Thursday. "My father was an extrovert who was devoted to his fellow citizens and trying to make their lives better - and he succeeded. And I can't imagine a better legacy."

The former Democratic senator helped mold and pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. His Title IX amendment to the Education Act of 1972, ensuring equal access to women in educational opportunities, though, forever changed the landscape of higher education and sports.

"[Title IX] had a profound impact on America and opened opportunities for women and other minorities as well," former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton said. "It was an extraordinary legislative achievement and very lasting."

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Bayh earned an agricultural degree from Purdue University. Thursday, Purdue President and former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels told UPI Bayh left his political mark on the United States.

"Birch Bayh qualifies for the mantle of greatness as a Boilermaker, Hoosier and American in equal measure," Daniels said. "Even for a U.S. senator, he made an unusual imprint on our nation's history, personifying Indiana's best qualities as he did so. I am grateful to have become his friend in his post-government life, and to have enjoyed his warmth, humor and wisdom firsthand."

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"Birch Bayh was a trailblazer who dedicated himself to improving the lives of all Hoosiers," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said on Twitter. "His remarkable legislative and personal legacy transformed the country and will live on for years to come."

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who's announced his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said Bayh challenged the country to become a better place.

"Birch Bayh was not afraid of the idea that upholding our Constitution includes amending it from time to time to strengthen our democracy," he tweeted. "He was one of the greatest Hoosiers ever to serve, a champion for equality, and an example for us all."

Bayh was born in Terre Haute, Ind., in 1928 and grew up part-time on his grandparents' Shirkieville farm before attending Purdue and later earning a law degree from Indiana University. He was stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany after World War II, was a Golden Gloves boxer and tried out for several Major League Baseball teams before joining politics.

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"He was always there for me as a child," Evan Bayh added. "He was just a wonderful role model, someone devoted to his family and his country, with good values and character."

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