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Robert Byrd

Robert Carlyle Byrd (born November 20, 1917) is a West Virginia Democrat serving in the United States Senate.

Senator Robert C. Byrd is considered a walking encyclopedia on the history of both the American and Roman senates. He has risen to national prominence as the oldest member of the Senate and recently as being an eloquent and strong critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war.

Byrd was born in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1917. Byrd attended West Virginia public schools and was later a student at Beckley College, Concord College, Morris Harvey College, and Marshall College, all in West Virginia. He graduated from American University Law School in 1963.

Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan for a period of time in the early 1940s. In a letter he wrote in 1946, he said, "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia." However, by the time he ran for Congress in 1952, he announced, "After about a year, I became disinterested, quit paying my dues, and dropped my membership in the organization. During the nine years that have followed, I have never been interested in the Klan."

He was first elected to the Senate in 1958 and has held the position ever since. Byrd is currently the "Father of the Senate" - the Senator with the longest continuous service. As the longest-serving Democratic Senator, he has held the office of President Pro Tem of the Senate three times, most recently from 2001-2003. He has served as a member of the Appropriations Committee since the fifties and is chairman of the committee when the Democratic party is in the Senate majority.

In 1965, the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program was created by Congress as a federally funded, state-administered program. It awards $1500 per year to graduating high school seniors who continue on to higher education on the basis of academic merit.

Byrd has a cameo role as a Confederate general in the Warner Bros film Gods and Generals (2003).

Table of contents
1 Political timeline
2 2001 racial remark controversy
3 External links

Political timeline

2001 racial remark controversy

On March 4, 2001, an interview with Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow was aired. In the interview Byrd was asked about race relations: "They are much, much better than they've ever been in my lifetime," Byrd said. "I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us... I just think we talk so much about it that we help to create somewhat of an illusion. I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, 'Robert, you can't go to heaven if you hate anybody.' We practice that." Then Byrd warned: "There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I'm going to use that word.

"We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much."

Byrd's office later issued an apology.

"I apologize for the characterization I used on this program. The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today's society. As for my language, I had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone of another race."

American conservatives have pointed to Byrd's comments as evidence of a double standard in the treatment of Democratic and Republican political figures in regards to controversial statements about race (see Trent Lott, Rush Limbaugh).

External links