Longtime Banking Aide Mary Layton Dies at 84

Posted July 20, 2005 at 6:26pm

Mary Layton, a Capitol Hill staffer who served on various incarnations of the House Banking Committee over five decades, died June 13 from pancreatitis. She was 84 and is survived by three sisters.

Layton got her start on the Hill in the 1940s as a member of what was then called the Banking and Currency Committee. When she began her tenure, there were only four staffers, said her friend and former co-worker Alice Goodman.

“Two lawyers and two secretaries” constituted the staff, Goodman said. “They did everything for the committee. When she retired, there were over a hundred people easily.”

Throughout her tenure, Layton racked up a number of high-profile admirers, including former Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) and Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.). Both sent laudatory letters to Layton upon hearing of her retirement in 1983.

“Few people have attained the enviable record of 38 years of service to the U.S. House of Representatives,” O’Neill wrote. “Few people, if any, have contributed more of themselves and love this institution more than you.”

Paul Nelson, former majority staff director of the House Banking Committee, began his work with her in 1966. “She was a Southern lady in the best sense of the phrase,” Nelson said in an interview. “She was gentle, she was stern when she had to be, she was always courteous, and she didn’t play partisan games. If there was an issue to be discussed, she tried to facilitate things.”

Bill Hallahan, who served as a counsel to the Banking and Currency Committee from 1948 to 1955, also praised her. “She was extremely competent, pleasant, gracious and a complete lady,” he said.

By the end of her career, Layton was considered an institution on the committee. “I worked with her for several years,” said Jim Sivon, who worked his way from staff assistant up to staff director between 1974 and 1983. “She was a source of institutional wisdom for me and a number of other people on the staff; you could go to her for assistance on any number of things.”