Beverly B. Byron

 
Beverly Barton Butcher was born in Baltimore. She grew up in Washington D.C. where her father was Vice President of CBS. She graduated from the National Cathedral School and later attended Hood College.

She married Goodloe Byron in 1952 and became active in politics in the Maryland Young Democrats in 1960. She participated in her husbandís successful campaigns until his death in October, 1978. Mrs. Byron was selected by Acting Maryland Governor Blair Lee III to replace her husband on the ballot and won the election to the 96th Congress (1979 Ė 1981), becoming one of only 16 women elected to the House of Representatives that year. Four of those were from Maryland. Congresswoman Byron went on to win the next seven consecutive elections serving as western Marylandís representative from 1978 to 1992.

At the time of her first election, Congresswoman Byron quickly learned to balance her job, public exposure, and the commute between Frederick and Washington D.C. with parenting. When she was elected, women comprised only 3% of the House of Representatives, and those pioneers helped break down barriers for women and set the tone of professionalism in Congress that has impacted all women legislators since.

Congresswoman Byron was the first woman to chair a subcommittee of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee with oversight of 46% of the Defense Departments budget. She helped to usher in a new era of equality for military women by sponsoring legislation that established the foundation for dismantling genderbased restrictions, opening roles in combat, equalizing advancement opportunities for all women in the military, and restructuring the military child care system. In 1991, the Byron Amendment to the Defense Authorization Act allowed women to fly combat missions in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. The legislation eventually enacted, (P.L. 102-190) Defense Authorization Act, removed the statutory limitations on the assignment of women in the armed forces to combat aircraft.

Congresswoman Byron chaired the Arms Control panel which was instrumental in the development of peaceful measures during the Cold War and the transition at the end of the Cold War. Mrs. Byron was the Sponsor of the Rails to Trails Act of 1983, which included the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, and in 1992, the American Discovery Trail legislation designating 6800 miles coast to coast as part of the National Trails System.

Since leaving Congress, Mrs. Byron has chaired the Boards of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, TEDCO and the Board of Visitors of the United States Naval Academy. She served on the Boards of Directors of McDonald Douglas, UNC, LMI, Constellation Energy, Mercantile Bank, Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the Advisory Committee of the Chief of Naval Operations. She was awarded the Presidentís Medal by Johns Hopkins University in 1993 and received honorary degrees from Boston University, Mount Saint Maryís College and Frostburg State University. In 1986, she married B. Kirk Walsh, a Washington businessman. She continues to reside in Frederick Maryland. She is the mother of three and the grandmother of seven.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2015.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2015