Birch Evans Bayh II (born January 22, 1928) is a former United States Senator from Indiana (1963 to 1981). He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in the 1976 election but lost to Jimmy Carter. He is the father of former Indiana governor and current U.S. Senator Evan Bayh and Christopher John Bayh.
He served in the Indiana House of Representatives from 1954 to 1962. In the House, he rose to the position of Speaker and, in 1961, was admitted to the Indiana bar. He won the 1962 US Senate race in Indiana.
On June 19, 1964, Bayh, his wife, Senator Ted Kennedy and legislative aide Edward Moss were on board a small plane that crashed in heavy fog near Springfield, Massachusetts. Senator Bayh pulled a badly injured Senator Kennedy from the wreckage. Senator and Mrs. Bayh were relatively unhurt, while the pilot and Moss were both killed in the crash.
Bayh was influential in the passing of Title IX to the Higher Education Act, which gave women equal opportunities in sports and academics in public education.
As Chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, Bayh was the principal architect of two constitutional amendments:
Bayh was also the principal Senate sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, which passed both Houses of Congress, but was not ratified by the states. The proposed constitutional change with which he was most closely associated in his final years in the Senate was his attempt to eliminate the Electoral College (the method of electing the President of the United States) and replace it with a popular vote in the 1960s and 70s. One of Bayh's proposals passed the House easily but was filibustered in the Senate. In 1977 he introduced reform legislation into the Senate , but it never achieved the required two-thirds vote in either house of Congress. In 2006, he joined the National Popular Vote Inc. coalition, which aims to effect Electoral College reform through an interstate compact, and wrote a foreword to the book Every Vote Equal.
He was a co-sponsor of the Bayh-Dole Act which allowed US universities, small businesses, and non-profit organizations to retain intellectual property rights of inventions developed from federal government-funded research.
Additionally, he served for many years on the Senate judiciary committee and was involved in two nominations in which the nominee was declined.
Bayh intended to run for the 1972 Democratic nomination for president, but his wife was diagnosed with cancer and he put his plans on hold. Before her death in 1979, Marvella Bayh became a leading cancer activist. In October 1975 Bayh announced his candidacy for the 1976 Democratic nomination. Bayh was considered a leading choice out of 12 candidates, and he was popular with organized labor and other liberal groups. However, his late start put him at a fundraising and organizational disadvantage. In January/February, Bayh finished third in Iowa behind Uncommitted delegates and Jimmy Carter and third in New Hampshire behind Carter and Morris K. Udall. A week later, Bayh finished a weak seventh place in the Massachusetts primary and ended his candidacy.
He ran for reelection for a fourth term in the 1980 election. Bayh and his opponent, Congressman and future vice president Dan Quayle, engaged in seven debates. In those debates, Quayle attacked Bayh's liberal voting record, which hurt Bayh, and he was defeated for reelection in the Republican landslide year, 46% to Quayle's 54%. Bayh has since resumed his law practice.