Seven years have passed since Beverly Byron stepped out of public life, after 14 years representing Maryland's 6th District in Congress.
She has been anything but inactive. She has served on the boards of major companies and service academies. She has remained involved in defense issues, which had dominated her congressional career. And she consults on technology policy issues.
Mrs. Byron, a Democrat, has not thought much about politics.
"I really didn't spend a lot of time on looking at the political arena. Somebody else is doing it. There's no sense in looking back," she said.
In an interview at her Grove Boulevard home, Mrs. Byron, 67, didn't talk much about looking forward either, particularly about the next generation of the Byron congressional dynasty.
"My children, I have no idea what they're doing. They're all very busy doing a variety of different things," she said.
In fact, she bristled at the notion of a "Byron dynasty." Her father-in-law, William Devereux Byron, was elected to Congress in 1938. After his re-election, he died in an airplane crash and his wife, Katharine Edgar Byron, filled out his term. Four others served the 6th District until the next Byron, Mrs. Byron's husband Goodloe, was elected in 1971. Like his father, he died in office, in 1978. Mrs. Byron filled out her husband's term, and then served until 1993.
"It's OK if you have a doctor whose son goes in practice with him. Or an attorney that has its third generation of a family that has gone into law," she said.
The same should be true for government, she said. "Certain families have devoted a lot of time to public service. And they're good at it."
She said she loved representing the people of Western Maryland.
"And there's a frustration at not being able to cut through red tape. I still get calls on a regular basis, 'Mrs. Byron can't you do this for me?' 'Can't you help me with this?'" she said. "And when I can, I do. I try to steer them in the right direction."
Which might describe her current activities, serving on the boards of Farmer and Mechanics Bank, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield and Baltimore Gas & Electric.
Other activities reflect a 14-year congressional career in which she spent much of her time considering weighty defense issues.
She serves as the chairwoman of the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors, and she also served on a 1995 task force that studied the academy in the wake of cheating scandals. She previously had spent 10 years on the Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors.
She was appointed, first by President Bush and then by President Clinton, to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which oversaw the effort to cut the number of military and naval installations.
She also has served on the boards of directors of McDonnell Douglas and United Nuclear.
She is a member of the board of directors of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, a nonprofit organization that analyzes defense acquisition reform, space commercialization and biological terrorism.
She also is involved in a number of high-tech policy ventures. She's the chair of Maryland Science, Engineering, Technology Development Corp., as well as a NASA advisory committee that studies ways to commercialize the nation's space operations. She consults for Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory.
In these activities, she adds her own perspective, "a different dimension," she said.
"I found not having a technical background one of the very best ways to understand many of the problems."
She talked about the commercial opportunities with NASA's space station and the possibility of a missile defense. The Defense Department could stand another round of base closings, she said, and NASA could consolidate. She said she thinks Maryland's higher education is strong, but children aren't getting the courses they'll need to excel in college.
"I'm a lot of fun to talk to at a dinner party in Frederick," she joked. "They all kind of look at me and say, 'What the hell is she talking about?'"
During her career in Congress, she flew in nearly everything the armed forces had: the F-15, the F-16, the A-10, the A-6, the A-7. She flew an F-14 off an aircraft carrier. She is reportedly the only woman to have flown in an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.
"It gives you a wonderful perspective of what we're asking young kids to do," she said.
But it was such research that helped to fuel the campaign against her in the 1992 Democratic primary.
Her opponent, Tom Hattery, depicted Mrs. Byron as a Washington fat cat, trading her position for lavish trips. Radio spots used a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" motif.
"The ads with me vacationing in Barbados were a little below the belt," she said. "He's got to live with that, and I'm doing fine."
The trip to Barbados, she said, actually was a 2:30 a.m. refueling stop for a five-day trip to South Africa for Mrs. Byron, and Reps. Bill Gray of Pennsylvania, Ron Dellums of California and Stephen Solarz of New York. The delegation met with Nelson Mandela after his release from prison.
"I'm very proud of what I did," she said. "I would do it again."
She said she couldn't defend herself against the Barbados vacation charge.
"I'm not going to stand up and say I've never been in Barbados, because somebody will have a picture of me in the airport there. You can't explain that. And if that's what the people wanted to believe, that's their problem," Mrs. Byron said.
She was also accused of a vacation to Egypt, which she said was really a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak, shortly after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.
"There's a lot of work that people don't see," she said.
Other events didn't help her bid for re-election, either. In 1992, the U.S. economy was in trouble and the House of Representatives was rocked by scandals involving its post office and bank.
Plus, Mrs. Byron pointed out, talk radio was just beginning to grow, feeding voters with invective that members of Congress were crooks, thieves and criminals.
By unseating Mrs. Byron, Mr. Hattery found he had upset loyalists, who fled in droves to his opponent, Roscoe Bartlett.
She did not, she said, help Dr. Bartlett in his campaign against Mr. Hattery. "I didn't help anybody," she said.
Mrs. Byron remains a Democrat, though people begged her to change.
"If I changed, I'd still be in Congress," she said.
The coming presidential election will be interesting because the Democrats have a chance to regain Congress, she said.
And one of the presidential contenders, Sen. John McCain, serves with her on the Naval Academy board. She's never seen his famous temper, she said.
"Of all the candidates that are out there, none are having a better time than John is," she said.
And she wouldn't rate Dr. Bartlett's performance in the job she used to hold.
"When I got out of Congress, I made the decision that I loved what I was doing when I was in, but I wasn't in anymore. And there is no sense in trying to think I would have done something this way, I would have voted this way," she said.