Senator Frank C. Byers View All Years

Compiled Historical Information
Date of Death: 4/27/1962
Birth Place: Alden, IA
Birth County: Hardin
Party Affiliation: Republican
Assemblies Served:
Senate: 45 (1933) - 58 (1959)
House: 43 (1929) - 44 (1931)
Home County: Linn
Frank C. Byers
Linn County

FRANK C. BYERS

MR. PRESIDENT: Your committee, appointed to prepare a suitable resolution commemorating the life, character and public service of the late Honorable Frank C. Byers, begs leave to submit the following memorial:

Frank C. Byers, whose record of continuous service in the Iowa legislature is longer than that of any other individual, was born June 20, 1883 at Alden, Iowa, and died April 27, 1962, in Cedar Rapids.

He attended public schools and Grinnell College before taking up the study of law at the University of Iowa. He was admitted to the bar in 1904 and the following year entered practice in Cedar Rapids. For the remainder of his life he resided either in Cedar Rapids or in nearby Marion.

He was married in 1909 to Myra Lyon who survives. Other survivors include a daughter, Mrs. Alden D. Avery of Spencer, Iowa, and two sons, Ganson L., of Tucson, Arizona, and Frank, Jr., of Cedar Rapids. Mrs. Avery’s father-in-law was the late State Representative A. H. Avery of Spencer, with whom Mr. Byers served in the legislature for several sessions.

Mr. Byers first ran for the legislature in 1928 winning election to the House of Representatives. He took the oath of office on January 8, 1929, and from that time until his retirement on January 9, 1961, he was a member of the legislature—a total of thirty-two years plus one day.

Only the late Arch W. McFarlane of Waterloo, served longer in the Iowa Legislature, but his service was not continuous.

Mr. Byers was re-elected to the House of Representatives in 1930 and in 1932 was elected to the first of seven four-year terms in the Iowa Senate where he was elected president pro tempore in 1937, 1941, and again in 1943.

Virtually all of the laws enacted during nearly one-third of the state’s history bear the imprint of Mr. Byers’ work. He was named chairman of the judiciary 2 committee for so many years that he was considered the “permanent” chairman. He also served on every important committee of the Senate, as well as the budget and financial control which serves between legislative sessions.

He was the prime mover for legislative reapportionment, piloting the 1953 senatorial districting bill through the Senate. This was the last redistricting bill passed until 1961 and only the second passed since 1904.

He played a prominent role in the enactment of laws that created the Iowa Tax Commission, the Iowa Employment Security Commission and the Iowa Liquor Control Commission. His counsel and guidance was often sought by new Senators as well as long-time colleagues and he always gave it generously.

Mr. Byers had an uncanny ability to act as a mediator in bitter legislative disputes and enjoyed unusual success in bringing together people with widely differing views on controversial bills. When the legislature became bogged down in 1953 on a bill to permit the sale of colored oleomargarine, he was assigned the chairmanship of the second conference committee which, under his guidance, brought about a compromise that was accepted by both House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor, after the legislature had fought the issue for nearly three months.

He was considered one the the best dressed and most distinguished-appearing members of the Senate. Seldom did he appear in the chamber without a white carnation in his lapel and one of the few times he appeared in shirt­sleeves was when he removed his coat in the room where the colored oleo bill conference committee was working to make it quite clear he intended to keep the group in session until an agreement was reached. On the day he did appear without a carnation in his lapel, his Senate colleagues protested so vigorously that he never again showed up without one.

Mr. Byers occupied seat number thirty-four and his booming voice could be heard throughout the chamber without the use of a microphone until his later years. When he voted “no” it rolled across the room and echoed back, leaving no question about it.

In 1953, when he was “dean” of the Senate and Mr. McFarlane was “dean” of the House, they were honored together at a joint session of the legislature. Four years later, when both were senators, they were jointly honored a second time when the state house news corps named them “Outstanding Legislators”.

On May 5, 1959, during his last session, Mr. Byers was singularly honored when Lt. Governor Edward J. McManus called him to the rostrum and presented him with a “Call of the Senate” signed by each of his forty-nine colleagues, who gave him a standing ovation. So far as it is known, this was the first and only time in Iowa legislative history a member of the General Assembly had been so honored.

Mr. Byers served on the board of education in Cedar Rapids from 1926 to 1932. He was a member of the Episcopal Church, Mt. Hermon Lodge, 263, A. F. and A. M., the Iowa Consistory, the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Cedar Rapids Country Club, the Linn County and Iowa State Bar Associations, Sigma Nu social fraternity and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by the Senate of the Sixtieth General Assembly of Iowa: That in the passing of the Honorable Frank C. Byers, the State of Iowa has lost a valued and honored citizen, and by this resolution attests its respect for and admiration of him and tenders its sincere sympathy to his family.

Be It Further Resolved: That a copy of this resolution be spread upon the Journal of the Senate and the secretary be directed to send an enrolled copy to the members of his family.

MARTIN WILEY,

IRVING D. LONG,

R. O. BURROWS,

Committee.

The resolution was unanimously adopted.