Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010

       It's not true that he was already sitting there and they had to build the Capitol around him, but with Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia it often seemed that way.      He has died at 92.  He was, of course, the longest serving senator ever - 51 years.  He was chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee for about ever and earned the title "King of Pork" for sending thousands of federal projects to his home state. He liked it. "Pork," he said once, "to the critic, is service to the people who enjoy some of the good things in life, and I've been happy to bring to West Virginia the projects to which they refer.  I have no apology for it."  Didn't need one either;  he ran the committee, was on it for fifty years.      Byrd grew up in Raleigh County, was valedictorian of his high school class and married his sweetheart Erma James, "the love of my life," shortly after graduation in 1937.  The marriage lasted until her death in 2006.  On the day he became Congress's longest serving member, he said, "My only regret is that my beloved wife, companion and not here to witness this wonderful day.  I know she is looking down from heaven and saying, 'Congratulations,...but don't let it go to your head.' "      He got a college degree after he was already in Congress, going to American University here at night.  But he studied Senate lore and Roman history as well, and would sometimes lecture visitors about them from the Senate floor      Politically he evolved--joined the Ku Klux Klan, later left it;  filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for civil rights legislation later on.  He was also an accomplished fiddler, recorded an album, "Mountain Fiddler," and won the Grand Ole Opry's Distinguished Fiddler Award in 2008.      I wonder what they'll do with his desk.  Maybe bronze it?              
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