Byrd, Robert C. (Robert Carlyle), 1917-2010

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In every corner of West Virginia, the people of the Mountain State knew that there was one man on whom they could always depend: U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. He always remained true to his faith and his family, while he worked to build a better future for his state and his country.

In the Senate, Robert Byrd worked 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 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. Traditional industries — coal and energy, chemicals, steel — continued to serve as the economic backbone of West Virginian communities.

Byrd’s efforts didn’t stop with new industry and economic opportunity. He 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. 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 was 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 endeavored to make sure that the wisdom of the Constitution’s Framers is not forgotten and that the people’s liberties were protected.

On June 11, 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. On November 18, 2009 Senator Byrd became the longest serving Member of Congress in the history of our Republic, having served 20,996 days. (Though just a few years later, on June 7, 2013, Representative John Dingell (D-MI) surpassed this record). During his tenure, his colleagues elected him to more leadership positions than any other Senator in history. Throughout his career, Byrd cast 18,689 roll call votes ‑‑ an amazing 97 percent attendance record in his nearly 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 received 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.

If his West Virginia values defined Senator Byrd, then the Constitution of the United States gave him a foundation to fight for liberty and freedom. Always close to his heart, the Constitution guided Byrd. Its words and wisdom served as the foundation for his fierce defense of principle and of the people’s liberties. It did not matter from where the danger came. If the people’s freedoms were jeopardized, if the Constitution’s delicate balance was threatened, one found Senator Robert Byrd leading the defense.

From his humble beginnings to the halls of power, Robert Byrd never forgot where he came from or where he was going. He was a statesman, a patriot, a defender of the Constitution, a proud son of West Virginia, and one of the most important leaders in America.

Archival Resources
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referencedIn Thomas J. Dodd Papers, undated, 1919-1971. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
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referencedIn LBJ Recording of Telephone Conversation, WH Series, Speaker: ROBERT BYRD, Time: 4:55 p.m Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
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referencedIn Patricia Harris Papers, 1924-1983, (bulk 1977-1980) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records, (inclusive), (bulk), 1959-2002, 1966-1998 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
editorOf 11/12/80, Senate Democrats (T-26397) Jimmy Carter Library
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 5/24/79
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 7/5/78
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creatorOf Robert C. Byrd Congressional Papers Collection Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education
referencedIn SALT II - Sen. Robert Byrd (West Virginia), 6/28/79-10/25/79 Jimmy Carter Library
referencedIn Scott, Hugh, 1900-1994. Papers of Hugh Scott [manuscript], 1944-1981. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Correspondence Files for United States Senators, 1950 - 1967 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Papers of Drew Pearson. 1915 - 1969. Files from the Georgetown Office and Residence Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
Relation Name
alumnusOrAlumnaOf American University (Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Byrd, Harry Flood, 1914- person
associatedWith Cochrane, William McWhorter, 1917- person
associatedWith Communist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
correspondedWith Dodd, Thomas J. (Thomas Joseph), 1907-1971 person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf George Washington University. Law School. corporateBody
correspondedWith Harris, Patricia, 1924-1985. person
correspondedWith Harvard Law School Forum corporateBody
associatedWith Hunter, Jody Jones person
associatedWith Kingsbury, Gilbert W., 1909- person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Marshall University corporateBody
associatedWith McCown, Robert A., 1939-, person
associatedWith Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund corporateBody
associatedWith National Organization for Women. corporateBody
associatedWith Paul A. Freund person
associatedWith Rayburn, Sam, 1882-1961 person
associatedWith Scott, Hugh, 1900-1994. person
associatedWith Shinedling, Abraham I. (Abraham Isaac), 1897- person
associatedWith Thurmond, Strom, 1902-2003. person
associatedWith United States Capitol Historical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Oklahoma. Political Commercial Archive. corporateBody
associatedWith Wallace, Tom, 1874-1961. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Beckley WV US
Merrifield VA US
North Wilkesboro NC US
Raleigh County WV US
Subject
Advertising, political
Television advertising
Occupation
Butchers
Clerks
Senators, U.S. Congress--West Virginia
Representatives, U.S. Congress
State Representative
Activity

Person

Birth 1917-11-20

Death 2010-06-28

Male

Americans

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 85705428