US Senator Robert C. Byrd died this morning at age 92. The West Virginia Democrat was the longest serving member of Congress in US History.
His Senate website reports Senator Byrd died peacefully at approximately 3 a.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
This is video from Senator Byrd’s final hearing as chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. The video from April 13 shows he is frail, but still fiery and has a sense of humor. You can also see he was a strong supporter of the US Coast Guard.
Below is Senator Byrd’s biography from his US Senate website.
United States Senator Robert C. Byrd
In every corner of West Virginia, the people of the Mountain State know that there is one man on whom they can always depend: U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. He has always remained true to his faith and his family, while working to build a better future for his state and his country.
In the Senate, Robert Byrd works for the people — better jobs; health care that is affordable and close to home; a good future for our children and grandchildren. Each day in the Senate, Robert Byrd is focused on building a brighter future for the Mountain State.
Over the years, thousands of new jobs have been created because of Senator Byrd=s initiatives. New industries have taken root — biometrics; aerospace research; advanced manufacturing; computer research; defense innovations. And traditional industries — coal and energy, chemicals, steel — continue to serve as the economic backbone of our communities.
Byrd=s efforts don=t stop with new industry and economic opportunity. He has worked hard to expand access to health care for tens of thousands of West Virginians. The Health Sciences Center and the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, both at West Virginia University, the Center for Rural Health at Marshall University, and the West Virginia School for Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg are utilizing innovation to bring doctors and nurses closer to people in rural West Virginia. And specialized treatments, created in the Mountain State through Byrd=s Senate work, ensure that West Virginians do not have to drive out of state for cutting-edge health care.
In the halls of Congress, Robert C. Byrd is best known for his fierce defense of the Constitution and the institution of the Senate. The Almanac of American Politics has stated that Byrd “may come closer to the kind of senator the Founding Fathers had in mind than any other.” Senators from both parties have paid tribute to Byrd=s devotion to the Constitution. He endeavors to make sure that the wisdom of the Constitution=s Framers is not forgotten and that the people=s liberties are protected.
On June 12, 2006, Byrd became the longest serving U.S. Senator in the history of our Nation and, in November 2006, he was elected to an unprecedented ninth full term in the Senate. But it was on November 18, 2009 that Senator Byrd became the longest serving Member of Congress in the history of our great Republic, now having served more than 20,775 days.
During his tenure, his colleagues have elected him to more leadership positions than any other Senator in history. Currently Byrd is the President pro tempore, or the second highest ranking official in the United States Senate and the highest ranking Senator in the majority party. He serves as the senior member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, and is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Byrd also serves on the Senate Budget, Armed Services, and Rules and Administration Committees.
Throughout his career, Byrd has cast more than 18,680 roll call votes — more votes than any other Senator in American history — compiling an amazing 97 percent attendance record in his more than five decades of service in the Senate.
Growing up in Raleigh County, Byrd not only learned the values that have guided him in his life, but that is where he also met his life=s love, Erma Ora James. They both attended Mark Twain High School and married shortly after graduation in 1937. For nearly 69 years, the Byrds were inseparable, traveling the hills and hollows of West Virginia and crossing the globe together. Mrs. Byrd passed away on March 25, 2006 after battling a long illness.
Robert Byrd could not afford college. In fact, his diploma from Marshall University would have to wait until 60 years after high school, when Senator Byrd was 77 years old. In between high school and his undergraduate degree, though, Byrd enrolled in law school and, after ten years of classes taken while also serving as a Member of Congress, Senator Byrd earned his law degree from American University in 1963.
Knowing the importance of education, Senator Byrd has helped thousands of young people earn their own college diploma. Through the Scholastic Recognition Award, which the Senator started in 1969, the valedictorian at each West Virginia public and private high school receives a savings bond and a special congratulations from the Senator. Then, in 1985, Byrd launched the first and only federal merit-based scholarship. Since its inception, tens of thousands of students across the country have helped to pay their tuition bills through this unique initiative.
At an early age, Byrd learned to play the fiddle, and he carried it with him everywhere. He played in churches, homes, and hamlets throughout Southern West Virginia. While campaigning for political office he made his fiddle case his briefcase. His skill with the instrument helped to get people’s attention on the stump, and eventually led to performances at the Kennedy Center and on national television. Byrd even recorded his own album, Mountain Fiddler. And in October 2008, Byrd was on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry as he was presented with the Dr. Perry F. Harris Distinguished Fiddler Award for his fiddle-playing passion.
If his West Virginia values define Senator Byrd, then the Constitution of the United States gives him a foundation to fight for liberty and freedom. Always close to his heart, the Constitution guides Byrd. Its words and wisdom serve as the foundation for his fierce defense of principle and of the people=s liberties. It does not matter from where the danger comes. If the people=s freedoms are jeopardized, if the Constitution=s delicate balance is threatened, one will find Senator Robert Byrd leading the defense.
From his humble beginnings to the halls of power, Robert Byrd has never forgotten where he came from or where he is going. He is a statesman, a patriot, a defender of the Constitution, a proud son of West Virginia, and one of the most important leaders in America.
Senator Byrd has been blessed with a loving family, including two daughters, Mrs. Mohammad (Mona Byrd) Fatemi and Mrs. Jon (Marjorie Byrd) Moore; six grandchildren: Erik, Darius, and Fredrik Fatemi; Michael Moore (deceased), Mona Byrd Moore Pearson, and Mary Anne Moore Clarkson; five great granddaughters: Caroline Byrd Fatemi; Kathryn James Fatemi, and Anna Cristina Honora Fatemi; Emma James Clarkson and Hannah Byrd Clarkson; and two great grandsons, Michael Yoo Fatemi and James Matthew Fatemi.
Senator Byrd is the author of five books: The Senate, 1789-1989. 4 volumes, Vols. 1 and 2, Addresses on the History of the United States Senate; Vol. 3, Classic Speeches, 1830 – 1993; Vol. 4, Historical Statistics, 1789 – 1992. Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1994; The Senate of the Roman Republic: Addresses on the History of Roman Constitutionalism. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1994; Losing America: Confronting A Reckless and Arrogant Presidency. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004; Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2005; and co-author with Steve Kettmann, Letter to a New President. New York: St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books, 2008.