Senator Robert Byrd died this morning after a lengthy illness. He was 92.
Byrd was first elected to Congress in 1952. Six years later he was elected to the Senate. The people of West Virginia re-elected Byrd eight times and would serve until his death today. From 1971 to 1977, Byrd was the House Majority Whip. After Jimmy Carter's election, Byrd became Senate Majority Leader. When the GOP took control of the Senate in 1980, Byrd became Senate Minority Leader only to became Senate Majority Leader when Democrats regained control of the Senate after the 1986 mid-term elections.
At one time a dues paying member of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Byrd would also filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Byrd would later disavow those views. It is worth noting that Byrd died almost seven years to the day that Strom Thurmond passed away. Thurmond, of course, filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. He, too, would disavow those views. Yet compare the headlines of their respective obituaries in The New York Times:
Strom Thurmond, Foe of Integration, Dies at 100
Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92
It is also worth noting the obituaries were penned by the same writer, Adam Clymer. So even though both Thurmond and Byrd filibustered against civil rights legislation in the Senate it is Thurmond who was "foe of integration" while Byrd was "the respected voice of the Senate." Now I realize Clymer might not have been directly responsible for the headlines but one must wonder if Thurmond would have described differently upon his death had he remained a Democrat.