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Gary Byker Collection



Biographical Note

Detailed Description

[General Materials]


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Gary Byker Collection, 1941-2004 | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

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Collection Overview

Title: Gary Byker Collection, 1941-2004

ID: COLL/461

Primary Creator: Byker, Gary (1920-1997)

Extent: 1.4 Cubic Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: Folder level description


Michigan State Senator and World War II veteran. The collection includes memorabilia, documents, photographs, records, resolutions, and other materials.

Biographical Note

Gary Byker was born on November 27, 1920 in Alvord, Iowa.  Growing up during the Great Depression, Byker had to quit grade school to work. He joined the U.S. army in World War II, and was stationed in North Africa and Italy. He was wounded in combat 3 times, and became a decorated war veteran.  After serving in the army for 5 years, he decided that he wanted to become a Christian school teacher. Despite only having a seventh grade education, Calvin College accepted Byker due to the government noting that war veteran use general equivalency diplomas to enter college. He entered Calvin College at the age of 30. After he graduated from Calvin College, Byker taught for a short time, and then went into the real estate and land development business in western Michigan. He founded Byker Realty Company in 1956.

Byker became involved in local politics. He campaigned to the villagers of Hudsonville in his car to encourage them to vote "yes" in becoming a city. With the help of Byker's efforts, Hudsonville officially became a city in 1957. Byker served as a member of the Ottawa County Board of Supervisors, Hudsonville Chamber of Commerce, City Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals. When Senator Harold Volkema died, Byker ran to become the new Senator. Byker won the candidacy. He served as a Republican State Senator from 1968 to 1978. Although conservative on economic issues, he was very passionate about education and women issues which made him popular with all constituent groups.

On a personal level, Gary Byker married Henrietta Blankespoor in 1944. Together they had six children. His son, Gaylen Byker was Calvin College's president from 1995 to 2012. They were members of the Hillcrest Christian Reformed Church. On November 14, 1997, Gary Byker passed away due to congestive heart failure. Because of his impact on both a state and local level, Hudsonville named their city's library after him, The Gary Byker Memorial Library.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: [General Materials]],
[Series 2: Photographs],

Series 1: [General Materials]
Box 1: War Department Identification Card
Folder 1: Military records --- 1941-1944
Folder 2: Bible, inscribed --- 1941
Folder 3: Soldiers Handbook: Basic Field Material --- 1941
Folder 4: France language pamphlet, decal patch
Folder 5: A Guide to Occupation of Enemy Territory: Italy --- 1943
Folder 6: Memorabilia from military service
Folder 7: Documents and photographs taken from German prisoners of war in Italy
Folder 8: Family photo album: personal keepsake during service (photographs identified by Henrietta Blankespoor Byker, January 26, 2004) --- 1941-1944
Folder 9: Photographs
Item 1: award of Silver Star --- 1944
Item 2: portrait --- 1942
Item 3: snapshots --- [1941-1944?]
Folder 10: Personal correspondence excerpts; personal notebook --- 1941-1944
Box 2
Folder 1: Examples of Michigan State Legislation --- 1974, 1977
Folder 2: Photographs re: political career
Folder 3: Signed photographs of US Presidents (copies, originals in archives vault)
Folder 4: Materials re: Michigan State Senate career
Folder 5: Awards, certificates --- 1968-1997
Folder 6: Business cards
Box 3
Folder 1: Award plaques
Folder 2: Political campaign material
Folder 3: Michigan State Senate Resolutions
Folder 4: Election certificates
Folder 5: Michigan Senate, poster of senators --- 1975-1978

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: [General Materials]],
[Series 2: Photographs],

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