Robert C. Byrd

U.S. Senator / Political Figure

Born: 20 November 1917
Died: 28 June 2010
Birthplace: North Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Best known as: The West Virginia Democrat who was the longest serving Member of Congress

Name at birth: Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr.

Robert Carlyle Byrd was a United States senator from the state of West Virginia from 1959 until his death in 2010. A Democrat, he was the longest serving Member of Congress in U.S. history. He got into politics by way of the Ku Klux Klan, and was first elected to the West Virginia legislature in 1946. He won his first congressional seat in 1952 and was re-elected twice before being elected as a senator for the first of nine times. Early in his political career he was an unrepentant segregationist and an opponent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. By the 1970s he had changed his ways; he spent the remainder of his career apologizing for his earlier racist attitudes. Byrd's prowess at directing federal funds to his home state earned him the epithet "the King of Pork" from political foes, but his knowledge of senate rules was said to be unsurpassed. He served as the President pro tempore of the Senate on four occasions after 1989, putting him third in the line of succession to the presidency (behind the vice president and the Speaker of the House of Representatives).

Extra credit: Byrd was a fiddle player and released an album, Mountain Fiddler, in 1978... His mother died when he was a baby and he was raised by an aunt and uncle (they changed his name to Robert Carlyle Byrd).

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