U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd dead at 92
June 28, 2010, 3 a.m., U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history, passed away at the age of 92 at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia.
As the nation mourns the loss of the political giant, West Virginia mourns the loss of its beloved son.
ﾓGayle and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and great Senior Senator, Robert C. Byrd,ﾔ Governor Joe Manchin, III said in a press statement. ﾓLike all West Virginians, the news broke our hearts. Senator Byrd was a fearless fighter for the constitution, his beloved state and its great people.ﾔ
Fellow Senator Jay Rockefeller shared his thoughts at the loss of Byrd.
ﾓIt has been my greatest privilege to serve with Robert C. Bryd in the United State Senate,ﾔ he stated. ﾓI looked up to him, I fought next to him and I am deeply saddened that he is gone. He leaves a void that simply can never be filled. But I am lifted by the knowledge of his deep and abiding faith in God, I have joy in the thought of him reunited with his dear Erma and I am proud knowing that his moving life story and legacy of service and love for West Virginia will live on.ﾔ
ﾓSenator Byrd was larger than life,ﾔ Sharon Rockefeller added. ﾓI will always remember him fondly as a warm, gentle man, whose passion for West Virginia touched and inspired us all. I have always admired Senator Byrdﾒs great character and unfailing faith.ﾔ
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, a fellow Raleigh countian, said no amount of words could ever be enough to sum up what Byrd has done for the state of West Virginia.
ﾓOver the next several days, the pundits will try to sum up in limited words the life of Senator Byrd,ﾔ he said. ﾓThey will fall far short. We will hear about structures that bear his name, about records he set, about votes he cast. And none of those measures will come close to capturing the enormity that was Robert C. Byrd.
ﾓI do not know how to begin trying to calculate his immense influence on the people of this nation and the people of West Virginia; perhaps because so much of what he gave to us is beyond measure ﾖ wisdom, reason, hope. We will not see the likes of a Robert C. Byrd our way again,ﾔ Rahall continued.
ﾓHe was a defender of the Constitution, a champion of the Senate. He was West Virginiaﾒs greatest ally, her faithful son, a source of tremendous pride and our ﾓBig Daddy,ﾔ he added. ﾓHe was a mentor, a teacher, a leader, a constant source of inspiration. And he was my friend. I will miss him always.ﾔ
Byrd ran for state and national offices 15 times, winning each time. He was elected to the state senate in 1950 and the U.S. House of Representatives in 1952. Beginning his reign as a U.S. Senator in 1958, he raised through the ranks and in 1989, was elected president pro tempore of the Senate and named chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Throughout his career, Byrd stayed focused on fighting for funding for projects in his home state. Because of his dedication, numerous landmarks and buildings have been named after him: the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Green Bank Telescope which is the largest fully steerable telescope in the world, federal courthouses in Charleston and Beckley, a high school in Clarksburg, streets, libraries, health clinics and highways.
In April 2009, Byrd made his last trip to Pocahontas County for the dedication of the Erma Ora Byrd Green Bank Science Center named for his late wife. The visit also gave Byrd the opportunity to visit his longtime friend, Emma Beard, for her 100th birthday.
As Byrd addressed the crowd at the science center, he spoke about the accomplishments of the NRAO and the unlimited possibilities for the future.
ﾓTen years ago, Green Bank was still reeling from the catastrophic failure of its 300-foot telescope. Since 2001, however, Green Bank has been the home to the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world,ﾔ he said. ﾓIﾒm happy to aid in Green Bankﾒs recovery by providing funding for this amazing instrument.
ﾓTen years from today, the seeds of wonder planted here will, perhaps bear fruit as some of those first student visitors and researchers embark on their own careers in astronomy and other scientific fields,ﾔ he continued. ﾓWhat wonders will they discover? What discoveries will they make?ﾔ
Byrdﾒs passion for all his endeavors was second only to his passion for his wife, Erma, a coal minerﾒs daughter, who was his voice of reason and, according to Byrd, ﾓmade me what I am.ﾔ
Byrd was born Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr. on November 29, 1917, in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the youngest of five children.
His father, a factory worker, sent him to be raised by Titus and Vlurma Byrd, his aunt and her husband, after his mother, Ada Kirby Sale, died November 10, 1918.
The Byrdﾒs renamed him Robert and moved to Bluefield and later, to Raleigh County.
Byrd graduated as valedictorian from Mark Twain High School in Stotesbury in 1934. As a teenager, he learned to play the fiddle, which led him to release an album, ﾓMountain Fiddler,ﾔ in 1978.
He married his high school sweetheart, Erma Ora James, in 1937. In his autobiography, Byrd wrote that on his wedding night, ﾓwe went to a square dance, about the only thing happening on Saturday nights. I played the fiddle and Erma danced.ﾔ
Byrdﾒs first job was at a gas station in Helen, followed by a job as a produce boy at a store in Stotesbury. During World War II, he worked as a shipyard welder in Baltimore, Maryland and Tampa, Florida.
Byrd, Erma and their two daughters, Mona and Marjorie, returned to Raleigh County after the war and he won the race for the state House of Delegates in 1946. Shortly after, the Byrds opened their own store in Sophia, a town where Byrd claimed residence for more than 60 years.
Along with his autobiography, Byrd wrote a four-volume history of the U.S. Senate and a history of the Roman Senate. He also wrote ﾓLosing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidencyﾔ in 2004 and ﾓLetter to a New Presidentﾔ in 2008.
Byrd is survived by his two daughters and their husbands, Mona and Mohammad Fatemi and Marjorie and John Moore; five grandchildren, Erik Fatemi, Darius Fatemi, Fredrik Fatemi, Mona Pearson and Mary Anne Clarkson; five great-granddaughters and two great-grandsons.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Erma Ora, and grandson, Michael Moore.