Completely missed or ignored by the mainstream media, word has nevertheless reached civilization of two deaths a thousand miles apart just over two weeks ago, on September 15.
Neither man was ever elected to public office, but both left their marks on Michigan and national politics and government beginning half a century ago.
One was an architect of Gov. George Romney’s greatest political triumph — his smashing re-election in 1966 to a third term as Michigan’s governor, projecting him onto the national stage as a presidential contender. The other was a two-time Michigan Insurance Commissioner, appointed more than two decades apart by two different governors; he became a major national and international player on insurance relation, business and contract law.
The former was S. John Byington, who died of natural causes just short of his 80th birthday in Alexandria, Virginia.
The latter was David J. Dykhouse, who died at age 80 in Petoskey. The two men knew each other, but they traveled in different orbits and so never were what you would call “friends.”
Byington was that rarity — a lawyer druggist, literally. The eldest of eight children, he graduated in 1959 from Ferris State University with a BS degree in Pharmacy. He then enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School, working part-time in a drug store. He accepted a position with the American Pharmaceutical Association in Washington, D.C., continuing his law studies at Georgetown University, completing his J.D. in 1963. He was a campaign manager for Romney’s 1966 re-election campaign as well as Romney’s short-lived presidential campaign in 1968. He was later appointed to be chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission by President Gerald R. Ford. Byington went on to practice law for more than 20 years in Washington, focusing on corporate and regulatory matters at both the federal and state levels, ultimately retiring from the prestigious D.C. firm of Patton Boggs in 2015. He was a founding member of several organizations, including a microbrewery (Wild Goose) and LegalLeaders, Inc., a senior lawyer recruiting firm.
Byington is survived by his wife of 19 years, Linda Lindsay Byington; two daughters; three step-children; two grandchildren; three brothers; four sisters and their spouses; and over 50 nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews. A memorial service will be held for Byington in Alexandria on October 9. The family requests that any post-humous tributes to Byington take the form of donations in his name to any of a number of organizations, including the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and the Irish Repertory Theater in New York City.
Dykhouse, the son of a physician, was born and brought up in Charlotte, Michigan, the seat of Eaton County southwest of Lansing. He attended Charlotte public schools and was graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1958 with highest honors as well as Phi Beta Kappa. He then was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in History & Religion at the University of Michigan in 1958-59 and obtained a law degree from U-M Law School in 1962. He served as a deputy director of the Michigan Dept. of Commerce in 1965 before Romney named him Insurance Commissioner for a three-year stint from 1966-69. After that, he was a managing partner in Dykhouse & Wise, a Detroit law firm specializing in insurance practice worldwide. During this time he was also, for a decade, a member of the Michigan Administrative Law Commission, serving as its chairman or vice chairman from 1977-80. He was also an adjunct professor of law at Wayne State University. He later became a partner in the New York firm of Shearman & Sterling, serving as head of its Insurance Practice Group. In 1991, newly-elected Michigan Gov. John Engler appointed Dyhouse as state Insurance Commissioner once again, a position in which he served until 1995. After that, he ran his own consulting firm, the Dykhouse Company, while also serving for a decade as the principal special deputy for Liquidation/Rehabilitation for Confederation Life Insurance Company (U.S. Branch).
As an advisor to Governors Romney, William G. Milliken, and Engler, Dykhouse was the principle architect or draftsman of a number of insurance regulatory and administrative statutes, including the Insurance Holding Company Act; the Property Liability Insurance Guaranty Association Model Act; and major portions of the Michigan Insurance Code. He was also the co-author of the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act.
Dykhouse is survived by his wife, Lucie, and a son from his first marriage; three grandchildren; a nephew and two sisters. A memorial service was held in Bayview on Sept. 21.