Former State Rep. Bob Hayes, 83, of Columbus dies

COLUMBUS, Indiana — Family, friends and one-time political adversaries are mourning the death of the last Democrat to represent Columbus in the Indiana General Assembly.

Bob Hayes, 83, a retired attorney, died after a battle with cancer Tuesday in his Columbus home.

First elected in 1974 by narrowly defeating incumbent Frank Runge to represent District 59 in the Indiana House of Representatives, Hayes did not give up that seat permanently until Republican David Yount defeated him in the 1996 election.

However, results from two elections did force the Democrat to temporarily give up his Indiana House seat to Columbus Realtor and Republican Ted Craig in the early 1980s.

Hayes served 18 years as a representative of Columbus in the Statehouse.

 

The same year that Bob Hayes was first elected in 1974, voters also sent Republican Robert Garton of Columbus to the Indiana Senate for the first time.

Garton, who eventually became the chamber’s most powerful member as Senate President Pro Tem, remembers Hayes as someone who worked extremely well with his constituents.

“He was very committed to his principles, and always followed through,” Garton said.

But when the two lawmakers appeared together during the Third House legislative sessions, “the debates always got interesting,” former Columbus Mayor and fellow Democrat Nancy Ann Brown Poynter said.

Yount, who served 10 years in the General Assembly after defeating Hayes, also recalls those exchanges between Garton and Hayes at the former Gene’s Cafeteria on the second floor of the old Commons.

“Some of them got a little testy because of their different political philosophies, but there was never any doubt they respected one another,” said Yount, now retired and living in Carmel.

Garton described Hayes as his friend.

Hayes strongly supported proposals such as reversing gerrymandering, finding alternative funding to replace property taxes, supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and living wills, said his son, Columbus attorney Eric Hayes.

Only 13 when his father became a lawmaker, Eric Hayes recalls multiple times that his father, still in work clothes, fell asleep sitting upright in the living room while studying legislative matters.

“Dad told me his concern is working people,” Eric Hayes said. “He said that since they didn’t have any lobbyists, he was it.”

An assistant majority floor leader, Bob Hayes was a member of House committees including judiciary, education, courts, criminal code and human affairs.

Read more in Friday’s edition of The Republic.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.