The Crown Series – Larry Allyn Conrad
Larry Allyn Conrad
(February 8, 1935-July 7, 1990)
Larry Conrad was born in his grandfather’s house in the tiny town of Laconia in southern Indiana, south of Corydon. While a teen, the family moved to Muncie, and Conrad graduated from Muncie Central High School and Ball State University. While studying for the bar exam in March 1961, he met Birch Bayh, a meeting that changed his life. Though already a leader in the Indiana House of Representatives, Bayh was also studying for the bar and planning to run for United States Senate against three-term incumbent Homer Capehart. At age 26, in 1962, Conrad became Bayh’s campaign manager and when Bayh narrowly won the election, Conrad, his wife, Mary Lou, and their three children moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as Bayh’s legislative assistant.
Bayh became Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments. Ordinarily, this was not a very active position, but the recent assassination of President Kennedy had shown the need to better spell out the line of succession in the event of a president’s death or incapacity. Bayh asked Conrad to draft an amendment to clarify this, which Conrad said, as its chief architect, made him feel like “Thomas Jefferson from Laconia.” When Bayh himself was hospitalized following a plane crash in which two were killed and Senator Ted Kennedy suffered a broken back, Conrad took charge of steering the amendment through committees, re-drafts, Congressional approval, and on February 10, 1967, it was passed in enough states to become the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
With Bayh re-elected in 1968, Conrad decided to focus on his own political future and moved back to Indiana. In 1970, he was elected Indiana’s Secretary of State as a Democrat, which he viewed as a stepping stone to his goal of becoming governor. Unfortunately, former Governor Matthew Welsh decided to run again and was made the Democratic Candidate for Governor. In 1972, Welsh was defeated by Otis Bowen, M.D., and Conrad remained Secretary of State and won re-election in 1974, setting him up for another run for governor.
In 1976, Bowen proved to be very popular and defeated Conrad 57% to 43%. Conrad finished out his term as Secretary of State and then started his own law practice. His political connections soon attracted the attention of Simon and Associates, one of the largest shopping mall developers in the country, and they not only became a client, but Conrad and Herb Simon became partners in many efforts made to revitalize Indianapolis. Together they took charge of planning the opening ceremonies of the National Sports Festival in 1981. Conrad then dissolved his law firm and began working directly for Simon as Vice President of Corporate Affairs. He and Herb Simon took charge of planning the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1987 Pan American Games, and Conrad was influential in the publication of an article about Indianapolis in the August 1987 issue of National Geographic.
In early June 1990, Conrad and his wife embarked on a tour of Europe that was sponsored by a group named “Partners for Livable Places.” As the trip progressed, it became obvious that Conrad did not feel well. He told his wife that he had a sharp pain “from the center between my lungs” that he described as “toothache, never ceasing or decreasing,” and he was taken to a hospital in Lyon, France, only to be transferred to a cardiac hospital hours later. Conrad was diagnosed with a very dangerous type-one aortic dissection and underwent a 10-hour surgery during which he suffered serious complications affecting his kidneys and brain. He appeared to make some progress in recovering from the surgery, but ultimately, he succumbed to a severe histoplasmosis fungal infection on July 7, 1990, at age 55.
A private funeral was held for the family on July 16, followed by a burial at the spot on the slope of Crown Hill picked out personally by his four children. A public service honoring his life was held at Eagles Crest in Eagle Creek Park on July 22. There, each guest received a card that included Conrad’s favorite quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in the direction we’re moving … we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against — but we must sail, and not drift, or lie at anchor.” Also included were these words: “Larry A. Conrad lived his life by these words and spoke them often. They are his legacy to all whose lives were touched by him.”
The most important aspects of Conrad’s life are depicted on the back of his granite bench located on the southern slope of The Crown, facing the downtown skyline: his Laconia, IN birth, his terms as Indiana Secretary of State, his family, the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and his service to the City of Indianapolis.
Larry Conrad is buried on The Crown next to his wife, Mary Lou, who died at age 64 in 1999, in Section 88, Lot 14; GPS (39.8189742,-86.1769788)