WV Sen. Robert Byrd Dead at 92

Jim Burroway

June 28th, 2010

The senior statesman of the U.S. Senate, West Virginia’s Sen. Robert Byrd (D) has died at 3 a.m. this morning. The conservative Democrat was the longest serving member of Congress. He was elected to the Senate in 1958 for the first of nine terms. He had served six years in Congress before that.

Sen. Byrd was hospitalized last week for what was thought to be heat exhaustion, but his health continued to decline over the weekend.

According to the New York Times obituary:

But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called “one of the rock bottomest of states.”

He lived that poverty growing up in mining towns, and it fueled his ambition. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields” (West Virginia University Press, 2005), “it has been my constant desire to improve the lives of the people who have sent me to Washington time and time again.”

Byrd’s commitment to improve the lives of LGBT West Virginians, however, was considerably lower in priority. President Clinton wrote in his autobiography, “My Life, that Byrd’s 1993 opposition to gays in the military was stronger than that of Sen. Sam Nunn, the man who is credited for being the driving force behind institutionalizing the ban in federal law. In the 109th Congress, Byrd scored a 22% on the Human Rights Campaign scorecard. In the current 110th Congress, Byrd’s score increased to 60% with his votes for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the his support for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

According to West Virginia law, Byrd’s successor will be appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin III (D). Ambiguities in the law make it unclear as to whether a special election will be required before Byrd’s term ends in 2012.

Swampfox

June 28th, 2010

I think that the governor of WV should call for a special election.

TampaZeke

June 28th, 2010

He just ran out of time. Had he been given another 10 or 20 years he probably would have been a gay rights advocate. Of course I don’t know how effective a 112 year old advocate would be.

Swampfox

June 28th, 2010

I must say that I never liked Byrd. I only hope that WV gets someone better to represent them in the Senate.

Michelle

June 28th, 2010

It’ll be really interested to see who Byrd’s replacement is going to be, and in turn the impact they’ll have on the whole DADT repeal issue. It came to many as a surprise when Byrd gave his support and potentially acted to change some peoples minds. If his replacement has a very anti-DADT repeal view where would that leave us?

pax58

June 28th, 2010

I grew up in WV and actually met/talked to him several times. There is no question that he served a very poor state and got the dollars in. However, he would have never had the power he held without the support he was given by the underlying racism of the population not to mention his support of the general WV culture’s view that all gays are going to hell.
If I cut him any stalk, it is a view proably held by most 92 year old men.

Burr

June 29th, 2010

Good riddance to an evil old hatemonger.

He voted Yes on a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2010

Actually, no. Byrd opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment.

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