10 Things You Didn't Know About Sen. Robert Byrd

Robert Byrd is the Senate's longest-serving member.

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1. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), the Senate's longest-serving member, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1952 and the Senate in 1958. He has held more leadership positions than any other senator and has seen 11 presidents take office during his time in Congress.

2. His years in public service changed him from a parochial conservative who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and called the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a ''rabble rouser'' to a strong advocate of the proposed equal rights amendment to the Constitution.

3. In 1979, he was named the most influential man of the Senate in a poll conducted by U.S. News.

4. An honorary member of the Country Music Association, he once recorded a fiddle album and guest-starred on the variety program Hee Haw.

5. Byrd carries a well-worn, passport-size copy of the Constitution in his left breast pocket at all times.

6. "West Virginia believes in God almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter's Little Liver Pills, and Robert C. Byrd," is his oft-repeated phrase.

7. His life story — from impoverished beginnings to his lengthy career in the House and Senate — was the focus of a 2002 documentary, The Soul of the Senate, coproduced by the West Virginia Humanities Council.

8. In June 2005, at the launch of his autobiography Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields, Byrd said the story of his life is also the state's story. "In truth, it is West Virginia history — the coalfields of southern West Virginia, the authoritarian rule of the mining communities by the coal companies, the grinding poverty of the Great Depression," he said.

9. Byrd lost his wife of 68 years, Erma Ora James, in 2006. The couple had two daughters, Mona Carole and Marjorie Ellen.

10. Byrd won a record ninth term in November of 2006, less than two weeks before his 89th birthday.

Sources:

  • The Complete Marquis Who's Who Biographical Directory
  • Associated Press
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • The Times West Virginian

Corrected on : Updated on 9/22/09