Indiana’s former U.S. Senator Birch Bayh died a few days ago at the age of 91, and it brought back memories for my wife Karen and me.

Bayh was elected in November, 1962, and like every Hoosier of that era we can still sing the Bayh jingle:

Hey, look him over,
He’s your kind of guy.
His first name is Birch.
His last name is Bayh.

This assured that voters would at least know how to pronounce his name. But that’s not the real memory. Karen and I were engaged to be married in December, and she was taking a political science class at Indiana State University. I was working as a newspaper reporter in Vincennes. An option for her final paper was to interview the winning and losing candidates in a race, and we chose Bayh and his opponent, incumbent Homer Capehart. Both agreed to be interviewed post-election.

Capehart lost and invited us to lunch at his Daviess County farm. He was a most gracious host, especially when we discovered after a long interview that Karen’s tape recorder had misfired. As I recall, he said something like, “Let’s redo it. I don’t have anything else to do now!” His kindness was almost enough to make us turn Republican.

We interviewed Bayh at his home in Terre Haute, where he and his wife Marvella were packing for Washington. Six-year-old Evan Bayh, later senator and Indiana governor, was running around unpacking boxes as quickly as his mother packed them, until she diverted him with a hot dog.

Karen got an A on her paper. I no longer remember what the candidates had to say, although the paper and partial tapes are still around somewhere.

Nearly a half century later, Birch Bayh was at Franklin College, where I was a prof, campaigning for Barack Obama. Karen and I talked with him, and he at least pretended to remember us. Karen had brought along her original paper, and Bayh grabbed a pen, signed it, and put an A+ at the top.

He was still our kind of guy.