James Forsyth

Robert Byrd, 1917-2010

Robert Byrd, 1917-2010
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Robert Byrd, the longest serving Senator in American history, has died aged 92. Byrd will be remembered not only for the length of his service but also for the fierceness with which he guarded the prerogatives of the Senate.

Byrd used his position and seniority in the Senate to funnel huge amounts of money back to the state he represented, West Virginia one of the poorest states in the Union. Travel through West Virginia and you rarely go more than a few miles without passing the Robert C. Byrd something or other. As the Washington joke had it, Byrd didn’t bring home the bacon, he brought back the whole damn hog.

There was, of course, always a stain on Byrd’s record and character dating back to his, albeit brief, membership of the Ku Klux Klan and his attempted filibuster of the 1964 civil rights act and his opposition to the 1965 voting rights act. When Byrd became one of the focal points of opposition to the Iraq war, the anti-war side were far too keen to forget this aspect of Byrd’s record.