RIP Robert Byrd 1917-2010
America’s longest-serving Senator, Robert Byrd, died early this morning at age 92. Byrd served in the Senate for 51 years.
A family spokesman said Mr. Byrd died peacefully at about 3 a.m. at Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Va. At first Mr. Byrd was believed to be suffering from heat exhaustion and severe dehydration, but other medical conditions developed. He had been in failing health for several years.
Byrd was a master of Senate rules, and knew them better than anyone. He was a master of the filibuster, having set the record for the longest one, 21 hours, 8 minutes, in 1960. A one-time kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan, Byrd began is career holding man positions consistent with Southern Democrats of his era.
A senator starting in 1959, Mr. Byrd at first voted the conservative southern Democratic line. He strongly opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He likened antipoverty measures to rent supplements, and voted in favor of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that set the stage for U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
By the 1970’s Byrd had moderated many of his earlier positions.
When Mr. Byrd voted against measures authorizing both the Gulf War in 1990 and the invasion of Iraq in 2002, it was on the grounds that the Senate was giving up its constitutional power to declare war. In later years, he called his Gulf of Tonkin vote a “mistake” and a “sin.”
Age didn’t stop him from continually being reelected.
“West Virginia has always had four friends,” Mr. Byrd said after winning re-election in November 2000. “God Almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter’s Liver Pills and Robert C. Byrd.”Click here for reuse options!
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