Robert Carlyle Byrd was born on November 20, 1917. Byrd served as a US Senator from the state of West Virginia since 1959. Byrd holds the record for the longest-serving senator and the longest-serving in Congress. Sen. Byrd passed away on Monday, June 28, 2010. He had been in the hospital over the weekend and was reportedly in serious condition. The West Virginia senator recently served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate beginning in 2007. The position put him third in the line of succession for President behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House.
Sen. Byrd started his career as a staunch conservative and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940’s. Byrd would later renounce his participation in the Klan as youthful indiscretion. However, his intentions would come under fire during his first term as he led a filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Byrd’s early career is in stark contrast from the man who became a close friend of Sen. Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts. Sen. Kennedy has long been known as one of the fiercest liberals to have roamed the halls of the Congress. Byrd served in the US House of Representatives beginning in 1953 through 1959 when Byrd was elected into the US Senate. Sen. Byrd had been elected to an unheard of nine consecutive terms with his reelection in 2006. Sen. Byrd has served in Congress longer than a handful of his colleagues have been alive.
The voting history of Sen. Byrd has taken many interesting turns. He has the record for the most votes cast with more than 18,000 votes. The West Virginia man is best known for his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and his strong opposition to the Iraq War. Byrd’s political views can best be described as ever evolving. What began as a strong conservative, seemed to move towards the left and become a much more moderate. Sen. Byrd had long been known for his fiscal conservatism and his push for campaign finance reform. Byrd would constantly use his time on the Senate floor to implore his colleagues to adopt tougher campaign finance regulations and create an even playing field for all political candidates. Byrd is also known as the “King of Pork.” It is a title given to him by the group, Citizens against Government Waste. Byrd kept large amounts of money flowing into his home state for public works projects. Sen. Byrd held the chair position on the Senate Appropriations Committee beginning in 1989. It had been suggested the Sen. Byrd sent over $1 for public works into this state.
In 1969 Sen. Byrd launched a Scholastic Recognition Award and began awarding savings bonds to valedictorian from public and private high schools in West Virginia. In 1985, Congress approved the creation of a merit-based scholarship program that would be funded by the US Department of Education. The program would later be named in Byrd’s honor and began awarding one-year scholarships to students with outstanding academic achievements. The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program would later award four-year scholarships beginning in 1993. Sen. Byrd also started the TAH Grants which would strengthen K-12 public schools by awarding grants ranging from $500,000 to $1 million.
Sen. Robert Byrd may not have been the perfect politicians, nor could he be considered the perfect American. However, Sen. Byrd can not be questioned in terms of doing what he felt was the right thing to do. Sen. Byrd served this nation for more than half of his life and has left a mark on American politics and society. Robert Byrd’s passing is just another blow for the old school mentality of politics where our leaders were accountable for their actions and focused on policies instead of politics. Sen. Byrd’s passion and drive to help America will be missed. Desperate America offers condolences to the Byrd family and hopes others will honor the senior senator from West Virginia.
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