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Former Sen. Birch Bayh, Kennedy were in plane crash together in 1964


By Peter Stevenson




The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy last week reverberated around the nation last weekend, with tributes to the longtime lawmaker coming irrespective of party or geographical lines.

“Our country has lost one of its greatest public servants and statesmen,” Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., said. “The legendary Lion of the Senate was a fighter for the poor and disadvantaged across this nation,”

Kennedy, D-Mass., who served as a senator from 1962 until his death Aug. 25, was known for being a great orator and was called “The Lion of the Senate.”

But it all could have been different if not for the efforts of former Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., who served with Kennedy in the Senate for 18 years.

On the night of June 19, 1964, Kennedy and Bayh were celebrating the end of an 83-day Congressional debate that ended in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Embarking on a weekend of speaking engagements, Kennedy and Bayh took a plane from Washington to Massachusetts, where Kennedy was supposed to accept his Senate renomination, according to a June 26, 1964, Time magazine article.

But the plane never made it.

In bad weather, the plane, carrying Kennedy, Bayh, Bayh’s wife Marvella and a Kennedy aide, Edward Moss, crashed into an orchard near the airport, fatally injuring Moss and the pilot.

After helping his wife escape the plane through a window hatch, Bayh helped Kennedy out of the plane.

Kennedy, who had sustained shoulder and back injuries that would plague him for the rest of his life, was given three blood transfusions.

Bayh later recalled thinking the plane had been hit by lightning, until he saw the trees of the orchard outside his window.

The pair went on to serve in the Senate together for another 17 years, until Bayh’s last term ended in 1981.

“We live in an era where everything is tested by focus groups, but Ted was old-school,” said Birch Bayh’s son, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. “He spoke authentically, from the heart. At the end of the day, he cared most about the things that matter to ordinary people.”

Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, V.A., on Saturday after Friday’s ceremony in Boston.

“Our country has lost one of its great orators, but the voice of our friend will continue to be with us in the decades to come,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said. “His legislative accomplishments are too numerous to count, and his legacy will no doubt live on through these invaluable achievements that touch the lives of all Americans.”

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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