INDIANAPOLIS – Former Indiana first lady Susan Bayh, an attorney and wife of former Gov. Evan Bayh, has died at age 61 “after a long and courageous fight" against brain cancer, her family announced Saturday.
Susan Bayh died Friday night in McLean, Virginia, a family spokesman said. She was Indiana’s first lady for eight years after her husband, a Democrat, became governor in 1989.
“Susan was an incredible person who led a life full of love, courage, and accomplishment. Susan excelled academically and professionally,” the family's statement said. “But above all, Susan was a loving spouse, mother, child, sibling, and friend."
Evan Bayh served two terms as governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate. The Bayhs have twin sons, Beau and Nick, who were born in 1995 while their father was governor.
Susan Bayh first underwent brain surgery in 2015 to remove a benign tumor. She later had multiple surgeries and radiation and immunotherapy treatments after a malignant glioblastoma was discovered in May 2018. That is the same type of aggressive brain cancer that killed Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2018.
Susan Bayh told reporters in 2019 that she was grateful for support she received during her health troubles.
“I think I’ve gotten probably more prayer letters from Indiana than anywhere,” she said. “It really doesn’t matter what religion it is, just as long as people are praying and keeping me up in somebody’s thoughts.”
The Bayh family said in its statement that “throughout her 2-year, eight-month battle against cancer, she never once complained or expressed self-pity. Despite a multitude of hardships, she continued to display her exuberance, happiness, and love for others."
Bayh, who grew up in California and was chosen Miss Southern California in 1978, met Evan Bayh while both were working in Washington in the early 1980s. They married in 1985 as he was following his father, former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, into Indiana politics, leading to his election in 1988 at age 32 to become the nation’s youngest governor. Birch Bayh died in 2019.
Susan Bayh was an attorney who drew some criticism for her membership on several corporate boards while her husband held elected offices.
The Bayhs had lived in Washington since Evan Bayh was elected to the Senate in 1998. He didn’t seek election to a third Senate term in 2010. He launched an unexpected comeback bid in 2016 for the Senate but lost to Republican Todd Young.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement that Susan Bayh was “an extraordinary and radiant public servant, wife, mother and friend, who leaves a remarkable impact on our state and nation."
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who served as Evan Bayh's campaign manager during his 1988 gubernatorial campaign, called Susan Bayh “a talented lawyer" who “battled cancer with characteristic fearlessness."
Associated Press writer Tom Davies contributed to this report.
This story has been updated to correct that Evan Bayh’s first term as Indiana’s governor began in 1989, following the 1988 election.