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Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler

Desert Dancer 28 Jun 10 - 11:17 AM
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Subject: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 11:17 AM

Time Magazine: "National Affairs: Byrd of West Virginia: Fiddler in the Senate"

excerpted:

As Byrd's views changed, so, it seemed, did his personality. For years, his hardtack demeanor and his relentless driving of aides belied a genuine, though rare, warmth. In 1972, for example, Byrd was the only Senator to show up at the funeral of Senator Joseph Biden's wife and infant daughter, who died in an auto accident; Byrd stood inconspicuously in the back of the church. Now his increasing self-confidence has begun to take some of the chill out of Robert C. Byrd (never Bobby or even Bob). Says one Senate aide: "The big news in the Senate this year is that Robert C. Byrd is a human being."

Even his attitude toward fiddling has loosened up. Though Byrd used to perform only at rural gatherings, he has begun to play at more Washington parties; at one he serenaded the President with Amazing Grace, Carter's favorite hymn. Byrd is even planning to cut a record with a West Virginia country music group, the Blue Grass Neighbors. As if to apologize for going commercial, he has also undertaken another, more dutiful, fiddling job: recording mountain tunes for the Library of Congress.

--

Earlier in the article it says it was a KKK Grand Duke who sent Byrd into politics and told him to use his fiddling to draw his first crowds.

Byrd said later that joining the KKK was his biggest mistake.

--

Senator Byrd on the Grand Ole Opry - Cripple Creek

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 11:26 AM

NY Times: Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92

This is a 4-screen obit on the NYT website -- unusually long. Byrd served in the Senate since 1959, also unusually long. ~BN

Robert C. Byrd, who used his record tenure as a United States senator to fight for the primacy of the legislative branch of government and to build a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money, died at about 3 a.m. Monday, his office said. He was 92.

He had been in failing health for several years.

Mr. Byrd's death comes as Senate Democrats are working to pass the final version of the financial overhaul bill and win other procedural battles in the week before the Independence Day recess. In the polarized atmosphere of Washington, President Obama's agenda seemed to hinge on Mr. Byrd's health. Earlier this year, in the final days of the health care debate, the ailing senator was pushed onto the Senate floor in his plaid wheelchair so he could cast his votes.

Governor Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, will appoint an interim successor to Mr. Byrd.

Mr. Byrd served 51 years in the Senate, longer than anyone in American history, and with his six years in the House, he was the longest-serving member of Congress. He held a number of Senate offices, including majority and minority leader and president pro tem.

But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called "one of the rock bottomest of states."

He lived that poverty growing up in mining towns, and it fueled his ambition. As he wrote in his autobiography, "Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields" (West Virginia University Press, 2005), "it has been my constant desire to improve the lives of the people who have sent me to Washington time and time again."

"I lost no opportunity," he added, "to promote funding for programs and projects of benefit to the people back home."

That attention brought the state billions of dollars for highways, federal offices, research institutes and dams.

Mr. Byrd was the valedictorian of his high school class but was unable to afford college. It was not until he was in his 30s and 40s that he took college courses. But he was profoundly self-educated and well read. His Senate speeches sparkled with citations from Shakespeare, the King James version of the Bible and the histories of England, Greece and Rome.

As a champion of the legislative branch, he found cautionary tales in those histories. In 1993, as Congress weighed a line-item veto, which would have given President Bill Clinton the power to strike individual spending measures from bills passed by Congress, Mr. Byrd delivered 14 speeches on the history of Rome and the role of its Senate.

"Gaius Julius Caesar did not seize power in Rome," he said. Rather, he said, "the Roman Senate thrust power on Caesar deliberately, with forethought, with surrender, with intent to escape from responsibility."

A decade later, Mr. Byrd saw a similar lack of Congressional spine. In deferring to President George W. Bush on the Iraq war, Congress had shown a willingness to "hand over, for the foreseeable future, its constitutional power to declare war," he wrote in "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency" (Norton, 2004).

In 2007, at the unveiling of a portrait of Mr. Byrd in the Old Senate Chamber, former Senator Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland, a colleague of 30 years, recalled that Mr. Byrd had taught him how to answer when a constituent asked, "How many presidents have you served under?"

"None," was Mr. Byrd's reply, Mr. Sarbanes said. "I have served with presidents, not under them."

Mr. Byrd's perspective on the world changed over the years. He filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and supported the Vietnam War only to come to back civil rights measures and criticize the Iraq war. Rating his voting record in 1964, Americans for Democratic Action, the liberal lobbying group, found that his views and the organization's were aligned only 16 percent of the time. In 2005, he got an A.D.A. rating of 95.

Mr. Byrd's political life could be traced to his early involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, an association that almost thwarted his career and clouded it intermittently for years afterward.

In the early 1940s, he organized a 150-member klavern, or chapter, of the Klan in Sophia, W.Va., and was chosen its leader at a meeting. After the meeting, Joel L. Baskin, the Klan's grand dragon for the region, suggested that Mr. Byrd use his "talents for leadership" by going into politics.

"Suddenly, lights flashed in my mind!" Mr. Byrd later wrote. "Someone important had recognized my abilities."

Mr. Byrd insisted that his klavern had never conducted white-supremacist marches or engaged in racial violence. He said in his autobiography that he had joined the Klan because he shared its anti-Communist creed and wanted to be associated with the leading people in his part of West Virginia. He conceded, however, that he also "reflected the fears and prejudices" of the time.

His opponents used his Klan membership against him during his first run for the House of Representatives in 1952; Democratic leaders urged him to drop out of the race. But he stayed in and won, then spent decades apologizing for what he called a "sad mistake."

He went on to vote for civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960, but when the more sweeping Civil Rights Act was before Congress in 1964, he filibustered for an entire night against it, saying the measure was an infringement on states' rights. He backed civil rights legislation consistently only after becoming a party leader in the Senate.

In the Senate, he was the Democratic leader from 1977 to 1989, though at the same time something of a loner. He was not particularly well liked, and some senators feared him as a threat to their own spending projects. But he was deeply respected as a voice of the institution.

"His life is the Senate," said Bob Dole, the former senator from Kansas and Republican leader. "He knows more about it than anyone living or dead. He doesn't watch television. He doesn't follow sports. He's dedicated his life to the institution and his family."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who lost the position of majority whip to Mr. Byrd in 1971 but who later became a friend and ally, especially in their opposition to the Iraq war, said in 2005 that Mr. Byrd's legacy would be "his passion for preserving the institution and its prerogatives."

"That is the legacy he would want," Mr. Kennedy said, "and I think it is the legacy that has been earned over a very long period of time. And I think there is uniform respect for him for that in the Senate, even from the people who have differed with him."

Mr. Byrd's respect and affection for Mr. Kennedy ran deep. In 2008, Mr. Byrd was distraught on the Senate floor after learning that a malignant tumor had been discovered in Mr. Kennedy's brain. "Ted, Ted, my dear friend, I love you and miss you," Mr. Byrd said, his voice breaking.

In January 2009, when Mr. Kennedy suffered a seizure and collapsed during an inaugural luncheon for President Obama at the Capitol, Mr. Byrd, who was in a wheelchair next to him, grew emotional and had to leave the room after Mr. Kennedy was wheeled out.

And after Mr. Kennedy died that August, Mr. Byrd was present when the hearse bearing the body, on its way to Arlington National Cemetery, stopped at the steps of the Capitol so members of Congress and the Congressional staff could pay their respects. Mr. Byrd, in a wheelchair, carried a small American flag and, again, wept.

A few days before, noting the rancor that surrounded proposals to revamp American health care, Mr. Kennedy's great cause, Mr. Byrd said his death was an occasion to put the discord aside. "Let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform, which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name," he said.

In an interview in 2005, when asked what he considered his proudest Senate achievement, Mr. Byrd said it was his efforts to bring federal money to West Virginia. "I'm proud I gave hope to my people," he said.

That success also attracted criticism. Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonpartisan watchdog group, regularly crowned him the "king of pork," citing projects like the Robert C. Byrd Highway, two Robert C. Byrd federal buildings, the Robert C. Byrd Freeway, the Robert C. Byrd Center for Hospitality and Tourism, the Robert C. Byrd Drive and the Robert C. Byrd Hardwood Technologies Center.

West Virginians were grateful for the help. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and the state's junior senator since 1985, said Mr. Byrd had meant "everything, everything" to the state. Mr. Byrd knew, he said, that "before you can make life better, you have to have a road to get in there, and you have to have a sewerage system and all those things, and he has done that for most of the state."

Bob Wise, a Democrat who was West Virginia's governor from 2001 to 2005, once said that what Mr. Byrd had done for education — "the emphasis on reading and literacy" — mattered even more than roads.

"It's not only what Senator Byrd brought directly," Mr. Wise said, "but the example he has lived throughout his life, about education being the way up."

Mr. Byrd was born Cornelius Calvin Sale Jr. on Nov. 20, 1917, in North Wilkesboro, N.C. His mother died the next year in the influenza epidemic, but before she did, she asked his father to give him to a sister and brother-in-law. They adopted him and renamed him Robert Carlyle Byrd, then moved to rural West Virginia.

As a boy, living on a small farm, he helped slaughter hogs, learned to play the fiddle and became a prize-winning Sunday school student after the manager of the local coal company store gave him two pairs of socks so he could attend without embarrassment.

In 1937, Mr. Byrd married Erma Ora James, his high school sweetheart. She died in 2006, after 68 years of marriage. Mr. Byrd is survived by their two daughters, Mona Fatemi of McLean, Va., and Marjorie Moore of Leesburg, Va.; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

During World War II, Mr. Byrd worked as a welder, building cargo ships in Baltimore and Tampa, Fla. When the war ended, in 1945, he returned to Crab Orchard, W.Va., to work in a supermarket. He taught Sunday school and an adult Bible class.

Encouraged to enter politics by the Klan's grand dragon, he ran successfully for the state's House of Delegates in 1946 and again in 1948. In 1950, he was elected to the State Senate, and two years later, to Congress. During his campaign, he played the fiddle at one rural stop after another.

Soon after arriving in Washington, he enrolled in night law school classes, despite his lack of a bachelor's degree. It took him 10 years, but he earned a law degree, cum laude, from American University in 1963. President John F. Kennedy presented his diploma.

In the House, he spoke up for the coal industry, pushed for highway and military money and, in 1955, traveled around the world as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

He waged his first race for the United States Senate in 1958, and he won easily: the nation was in a recession, and West Virginia was a largely Democratic state. So began the first of his nine Senate terms.

With the Democrats gaining 13 seats in that election, spots opened up on several major committees, and Lyndon B. Johnson, the majority leader, gave quite a few to freshmen. On Jan. 14, 1959, Mr. Byrd was put on the Appropriations Committee, and he promptly got to work winning money for West Virginia projects.

In 1960, he backed Johnson for president and campaigned against John F. Kennedy in the West Virginia primary. Kennedy's forces retaliated by bringing up Mr. Byrd's Klan connection. Kennedy won the primary. That summer, Mr. Byrd voted for the 1960 Civil Rights Act, a Johnson measure that allowed federal judges to appoint referees to register voters after discrimination had been proved in court.

But in 1964, with Johnson now president and no longer a force in the Senate, Mr. Byrd sided with Senator Richard B. Russell Jr. of Georgia, the leader of Southern Democrats, and filibustered against the much stronger civil rights bill of that year, a measure that would open restaurants and hotels to blacks, ban discrimination in employment and enable the Justice Department to register black voters in Deep South states. Mr. Byrd also opposed the 1965 Voting Rights Act and its renewal in 1970, which he considered infringements on states' rights.

Over the next few years, he supported the war in Vietnam and attacked the Supreme Court over decisions prohibiting organized school prayer and ensuring rights for people suspected of committing crimes. As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on the District of Columbia, he sought to curb welfare cheating and find more money for Washington schools. He also became devoted to learning the customs, rules and precedents of the Senate.

In 1967 he was elected secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference, the No. 3 leadership position. He made the job important by spending almost all day on the Senate floor, scheduling votes to accommodate fellow senators and keeping track of favors asked and delivered. In essence, he was doing the job of the Democratic whip, which Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana, the elected whip, was neglecting.

But in 1969, Mr. Byrd was taken by surprise. With the encouragement of Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, who was the majority leader, Senator Kennedy ran against Mr. Long for the job that Mr. Byrd had patiently been awaiting.

"To my astonishment," Mr. Byrd said in a 1993 interview, "Ted Kennedy came in, leaped over me and ran for the office of whip and defeated Russell Long."

For the next two years, Mr. Kennedy did not pay much more attention to details than Mr. Long had, and Mr. Byrd continued to do much of the whip's work. He described their relationship as "enmity." In 1971 he set out to line up the votes to surprise Mr. Kennedy and oust him. With a deathbed proxy from Mr. Russell, he won 31 to 24.

Six years later, in January 1977, Mr. Byrd was elected majority leader, replacing Mr. Mansfield, who had retired.

Among the toughest legislation Congress handled soon afterward was the pair of treaties that would shift control of the Panama Canal and the Canal Zone to Panama from the United States.

Mr. Byrd had originally opposed a turnover. But he came to support it after military leaders convinced him that rejection of the treaties would foster unrest in Panama, and that their passage would best ensure uninterrupted use of the canal.

Mr. Byrd organized seminars to educate senators about the issue and worked closely with Howard H. Baker Jr., the Republican leader. Despite pressure from conservative organizations and overwhelmingly negative constituent mail, he ultimately won ratification of both treaties in 1978 by separate votes of 68 to 32 — the required two-thirds majority of 67, plus a vote to spare.

In his autobiography, Mr. Byrd reflected that "the victory meant that I had surmounted my 'technician' image as a leader who merely 'made the Senate trains run on time,' a Washington cliché that rankled me most."

The canal issue cost the Democrats enough seats in the next two elections to give the Republicans a majority and relegate Mr. Byrd to minority leader from 1981 to 1987.

He was never a particularly partisan Democrat. President Richard M. Nixon briefly considered him for a Supreme Court appointment. Mr. Dole recalled an occasion when Mr. Byrd gave him advice on a difficult parliamentary question; the help enabled Mr. Dole to overcome Mr. Byrd on a particular bill.

Mr. Byrd returned to the post of majority leader in 1987, but after the 1988 elections, Senate Democrats wanted to replace him with someone they thought would make a better spokesman on television. They chose Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine.

Mr. Byrd was given his dream job, as the Appropriations Committee chairman. In June 1990, he traveled to Clarksburg, WestVirginia, to announce a $4 million grant to study whether to move the F.B.I.'s identification division there. But he had bigger plans as well.

"I hope to become West Virginia's billion-dollar industry," Mr. Byrd told reporters.

"By the time this six-year term of mine is up" in 1995, he went on, "I will have added at least a billion dollars. That's my goal for West Virginia."

In 1991, he had already reached that goal, four years early, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Mr. Byrd wrote four books. He compiled speeches about the Senate into a four-volume history of the institution, published from 1989 to 1994. His speeches about the Roman Senate, intended to steel his colleagues against demands for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution and a line-item veto for the president, were published in 1995.

Mr. Byrd always carried a copy of the Constitution. He said his second-proudest accomplishment was legislation requiring every educational institution receiving federal aid to observe the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17 by teaching students about it.

He had an abiding concern for the traditions and dignity of the Senate. When the Senate was struggling to agree on rules for the impeachment trial of Mr. Clinton in 1999, Mr. Byrd warned that the Senate itself was also on trial.

"The White House has sullied itself," he said, "and the House has fallen into a black pit of partisanship and self-indulgence. The Senate is teetering on the brink of that same black pit."

When, in 2005, Republicans considered banning the filibuster on judicial nominations, he warned that such an action would change the "nature of the Senate by destroying the right of free speech it has enjoyed since its creation."

In "Losing America," he wrote that the Senate without the filibuster "will no longer be a body of equals."

"It will, instead, have become a body of toads," he wrote, "hopping up and down and over one another to please the imperious countenance of an all-powerful president."

He denounced the 2002 Congressional resolution authorizing Mr. Bush to make war on Iraq. It "amounted to a complete evisceration of the Congressional prerogative to declare war," he wrote in "Losing America," "and an outrageous abdication of responsibility to hand such unfettered discretion to this callow and reckless president."

Mr. Byrd feared for the legislative branch. In a 1994 interview celebrating the defeat of a proposed balanced-budget amendment, he said, "The basic power which is probably more fundamental than any other power in the Constitution is the power of the purse."

"That power of the purse belongs to the people," Mr. Byrd said. "And that is where it is vested. It is vested in the branch that represents the people, elected by the people."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Bobert
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 11:30 AM

Having lived in Wes Ginny from '85 to '05 I was proud to have Robert Byrd as my Senator... I mean, yeah, he had to overcome his upbringing but he did it... Lotta folks just got it in their minds that he was some KKKer redneck and that's their problem 'cause that isn't the Robert Byrd that I came to love and respect...

Let's not forget his very impassioned plea on the Senate floor for the US not to invade Iraq... That was priceless!!! Lets also not forget that Senator Byrd took it upon himself to study and become an authority on the history of the Senate and parlimenatry issues... He didn't have to do that... But he did do that and won respect of Senators on both sides of the isle for his knowledge of the Senate, past and present...

Great man...

Sniff...

B~


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 11:39 AM

Bobert, I just took a glance at the comments on the NPR obituary, and it's clear that a lot of people (or at least the kind of people who feel obliged to comment immediately on an NPR article) did not give him credit for overcoming the racism he grew up with, and the work that he did.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Bobert
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 12:14 PM

Yeah, Becky, and I'd be willing to bet that each and every one of them is a partisan Republican who hated the fact that Senator Bryd was able to wrangle a good share of federal money for projects for his state, most of which were long overdue... The Robert Byrd Highway is great... The old Rt 55 which was the only way to get into the Elkins area from the east was just a two lane windy road that went up and down every danged mountain between Virgia and Elkins... It was not only a pain to drive but dangerous, as well... Looked like something outta the 30s... Now it's a modern divided highway with real sholders and guard rails??? Imagine that???

B~


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 12:44 PM

Although he hasn't been my senator since '74, I am truly sorry to see him go. He was good for WV and the country.

Russ (Permanent GUEST and WV expat)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Martha Burns
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 12:53 PM

Becky in Tucson, Great video. Thanks for that.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 12:58 PM

My mistake - that performance was not the Grand Ole Opry (sure doesn't look like it!), but some show called "Pop Goes the Country".

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 01:17 PM

According to the Politics Daily obit, Byrd "also recorded his own Blue Grass album, "Mountain Fiddler" and received the Grand Ole Opry's Distinguished Fiddler Award in 2008."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,DWR
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 02:04 PM

I have his lp. I'd have to look it up to be sure anymore, but I think he was backed by members of the Country Gentlemen on the album.

He had a congenial, quite listenable voice and his fiddling, had he chosen that field in life,could have been exceptional.

As many have stated, he will be missed by members from both sides of the aisle. He was a statesman in the truest sense of the word.

We'll all miss him for the music he left us.


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Subject: Sen. Robert Byrd "Will Circle Be Unbroken"
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 02:41 PM

Robert Byrd - "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" 1978 recording


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 03:30 PM

Byrd From West Virginia from the album "Shoulda Been Gold" by I See Hawks in L.A., an L.A. area country band (link to a page of theirs with the lyrics, as well as an audio link).

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 04:38 PM

- There's More Pretty Girls Than One

Cripple Creek


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,Gest
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 04:47 PM

KKK Grand Wizard and Leader or Fillibuster over Civil Rights Bill ...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 04:59 PM

True. Decades ago. People change. At lease the good ones, the ones capable of learning and growing do. Robert Byrd did - tremendously.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Acme
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 05:33 PM

NPR's All Things Considered just played a remembrance of Byrd for his music, and played an excerpt from American Routes, the NPR (or PRI or whatever branch of the public radio groups) radio program. I love that program - long, complex, rewarding interviews. Time to go looking for links!

Music clearly opened a lot of doors for this talented politician. He will be missed.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Jeri
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 05:43 PM

The small bit on NPR I heard this morning played a recording of him being asked about the KKK and civil rights opposition, and all I remember him saying was "I was wrong," and something about the fact he'd apologized many, many times, but one more time wouldn't hurt, so he did. People do wrong things and things they regret, and if you aren't making mistakes, you aren't taking chances. (That's my philosophy.) Most of us screw up. If we're smart enough or trying hard enough, we learn, and I suppose I have a soft spot in my heart for those who make progress as opposed to those who just start of righteous--especially if the latter type goes around condemning others.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,Gest
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 06:01 PM

of course, that's true, Jeri. There were no such open minds for Stromm Thurmond, though ...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 06:11 PM

Many years ago, Byrd was rated 14% on civil rights voting.... recently, it was 95%

I am rather tired of those who glibly refer to the past...as if nothing had changed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 06:12 PM

...and Strom Thurmond never really changed much at all...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Genie
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 06:17 PM

It's also a bit ironic that many of the "conservatives" who are now so quick to condemn Robert Byrd and other populist progressives for segregationist stances they took many decades ago will, in the next breath, spout the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who was hell-bent on persecuting Christians and instrumental in the murder of many of them before he "saw the light" on the road to Damascus.
I guess for some, repentance salvation and redemption are just for those who are in their particular (political) "fold."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 06:28 PM

Amen....um...right on, Genie...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Janie
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 09:25 PM

He grew to be a great man. He will be missed.

Janie


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: katlaughing
Date: 28 Jun 10 - 11:10 PM

Well-said, Janie.

I was sorry to hear of his passing.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Janie
Date: 29 Jun 10 - 12:11 AM

I'm prejudiced, of course, but I think the Charleston (WV) Gazette has the most thorough and illuminating obituary.

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd dies at 92
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Robert Carlyle Byrd, the longest-serving member of Congress in United States history, who spent much of his career as a conservative Democrat and ended it by fiercely opposing the war in Iraq and questioning the state's powerful coal industry, died Monday. He was 92.

"I am saddened that the family of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., tearfully announces the passing" of the senator, Jesse Jacobs, Byrd's press spokesman, said in a statement.

Byrd died at 3 a.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., according to the statement.

Byrd was hospitalized late last week with what was thought to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration, according to his staff, which did not announce his hospitalization until Sunday afternoon. At that time, doctors described him as "seriously ill."

More details about Byrd's death would be released throughout the day, the statement said.

Byrd was perhaps best known for the way he funneled dozens of projects and millions of federal dollars to his home state, West Virginia. He earned the sobriquet "the Prince of Pork" from some taxpayer groups -- they meant it as an insult, but Byrd wore it as a badge of honor.

Byrd ran for state and national office 15 times and never lost. Once elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958, he steadily advanced through the ranks. He was named majority whip in 1971 and majority leader in 1975. Democrats became the minority party in the Senate in 1981, but Byrd remained their leader until they regained control of the Senate in 1987.

In 1989, he was elected president pro tempore of the Senate -- a largely ceremonial post -- and named chairman of the Appropriations Committee. It was there that he began funneling federal projects and money to West Virginia in earnest. The first big salvo came in 1991, when FBI officials announced they would build their new fingerprint identification center just outside Clarksburg.

Now, dozens of projects bear the senator's name: the Green Bank radio telescope, the federal courthouses in Charleston and Beckley, the locks on the Ohio River at Gallipolis Ferry, a Clarksburg high school and numerous streets, libraries, health clinics, college departments -- a seemingly unending list. There's the Robert C. Byrd Freeway (Corridor G) and the Robert C. Byrd Highway (Corridor H), both part of the Robert C. Byrd Appalachian Highway System.

As he said in 2000, "West Virginia has always had four friends: God Almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter's Liver Pills and Robert C. Byrd."



The group Citizens Against Government Waste said Byrd was the first legislator to bring $1 billion of "pork" spending to his home state, and named Byrd its initial "Porker of the Year" in 2002.

"Such criticism rolled off me like water from a duck's back," he wrote in his autobiography, "Child of the Appalachian Coalfields." He also referred to his critics as "a bunch of peckerwoods" in an interview on National Public Radio.

His relish for the role of West Virginia's benefactor was apparent during his last campaign in 2006, when his opponent mocked Byrd for calling himself "Big Daddy" for getting money to fund a biotechnology center at Marshall University.

At the party after Byrd's resounding election victory, celebrants wore stickers that said, "Who's Your Daddy Now?"

Byrd's political career was also dogged by his early membership in the Ku Klux Klan, which he said he joined mostly because of its anti-communist position and the political connections he could make there. But in a 1945 letter to a segregationist U.S. senator, Byrd wrote that he would never fight in the armed forces alongside blacks, and said he never wanted to "see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels."

In 1964, Byrd filibustered against the landmark Civil Rights Act for more than 14 hours and voted against it. Forty years later, he said that was the one vote of his congressional career that he regretted most.

In his autobiography, Byrd wrote of his membership in the KKK: "It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one's life, career, and reputation."

Indeed, Byrd could not fully escape his racist past. In his 1982 campaign, his opponent's supporters presented Byrd with a Klan robe at a rally.

As late as 2001, Byrd used the phrase "white niggers" in a nationally televised interview. He later apologized and said, "The phrase dates back to my boyhood and has no place in today's society."

Byrd endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008, but waited until after West Virginia's Democratic primary, which Obama lost badly.

As for the war in Iraq, Byrd's opposition began mostly over what he saw as the Bush administration's attempts to declare war without the approval of Congress.

He described the situation as another Gulf of Tonkin, referring to the 1964 resolution that gave President Lyndon Johnson the power to use military force in Southeast Asia without a formal congressional declaration of war. Byrd voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution -- and again, came to regret his vote.
In June 2002, several months before the invasion of Iraq, Byrd said on the Senate floor, "I have not seen such executive arrogance and secrecy since the Nixon administration, and we all know what happened to that group."

A few months later, Byrd acknowledged that the Senate -- in which he said he was "deeply disappointed" -- would give Bush the authority for war with Iraq.

In that speech, he repeatedly referred to values in the Constitution: "Those values do not include striking first at other countries, at other nations. Those values do not include using our position as the most formidable nation in the world to bully and intimidate other nations."

Byrd warned that after the invasion, "a second war, a war to win the peace in Iraq," could cost hundreds of billions of dollars -- a view not taken seriously by many in the buildup to the war. He also railed against what he viewed as the United States' loss of the moral high ground as a result of the Iraq invasion, and kept up the drumbeat as a majority of Americans' opinion turned against the war.

In his final years, Byrd was also more likely to challenge the coal industry in his home state. Last December, he said that the industry must change.

"Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry. West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it," Byrd said. "The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose."

After the explosion that killed 29 men at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County in April, he said the mine's owner, Massey Energy, and federal mine regulators both "have much to explain." Earlier this month, he voted against a bill that would have overturned a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse gas emissions pose a public health threat.

As he entered this tenth decade, Byrd's hands frequently shook, he had difficulty walking and he delegated more of his responsibilities to other senators and staff members. His public appearances, less frequent, were in a wheelchair.

His wife of nearly 70 years, Erma, died in 2006. Washington rumors ran rampant shortly afterward that Senate leaders were making plans to move him out of his leadership posts.

But Byrd's response was spirited to those who said he was too old to perform his duties.

"In a culture of Botox, wrinkle cream and hair dye, we cannot imagine that becoming older is a good thing, an experience to look forward to and a state worthy of respect," he said after a national story about his advanced age in 2007.

He was hospitalized three times in 2008 and twice more in 2009, including a 47-day stay in late spring.

In November 2008, Byrd finally agreed to give up the chairman's post on the Senate Appropriations Committee. On the day he gave up the chairmanship, his office announced that a $32 million Veterans Affairs data center would be built in Martinsburg.

He said he stepped down only after he was "confident that stepping aside as chairman will not adversely impact my home state of West Virginia."

Byrd was born Cornelius Calvin Sale Jr. on Nov. 20, 1917, in North Wilkesboro, N.C., the youngest of five children. His mother, Ada Kirby Sale, died in an influenza epidemic on Nov. 10, 1918, the day before World War I ended. At her request, the boy's father, a factory worker, sent him to be raised by an aunt and her husband, Titus and Vlurma Byrd.

The couple, who had no children of their own, renamed the boy Robert and moved to Bluefield, and later to Raleigh County. Byrd's uncle worked at several jobs during the Great Depression, including coal miner, brewery worker and farmer.

Byrd graduated as valedictorian from Mark Twain High School in Stotesbury, Raleigh County, in 1934. As a teenager, he also learned to play the fiddle. (The instrument became a constant companion on Byrd's West Virginia travels, and Byrd released an album, "Mountain Fiddler," in 1978.)

He married his high school sweetheart, Erma Ora James, a coal miner's daughter, in 1937. In his autobiography, Byrd wrote that they were married by a "hard-shell Baptist preacher" with their parents in attendance. That night, he wrote, "we went to a square dance, about the only thing happening on Saturday nights. I played the fiddle and Erma danced."

Byrd's first job was at a gas station in Helen, followed by a turn as a "produce boy" at a store in Stotesbury. During World War II, he worked as a shipyard welder in Baltimore and Tampa.

He, Erma and their two daughters returned to Raleigh County after the war, and he won a race among 14 Democrats for the state House of Delegates in 1946. A couple of years later, the Byrds opened their own store in Sophia, a town where Byrd claimed residence for more than 60 years.

Byrd was elected to the state Senate in 1950, the U.S. House of Representatives in 1952 and, in 1958, to the first of a record nine terms in the U.S. Senate.

He was selected as the Sunday Gazette-Mail's West Virginian of the Year four times: in 1974, 1977, 1990 and 2002.

In addition to his autobiography, Byrd was the author of a four-volume history of the U.S. Senate and a history of the Roman Senate. He also penned the 2004 book "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency" and the 2008 work "Letter to a New President."

According to his biography on the Senate's website, Byrd is survived by two daughters and their husbands, Mona and Mohammad Fatemi and Marjorie and Jon Moore; five grandchildren, Erik Fatemi, Darius Fatemi, Fredrik Fatemi, Mona Pearson and Mary Anne Clarkson; five great-granddaughters and two great-grandsons. Another grandson, Michael Moore, was killed in a 1982 traffic accident.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Janie
Date: 29 Jun 10 - 12:36 AM

As a teenager and college student in the 1960s and early 1970's, I considered Byrd to be an embarrassment. Thought him contemptuous. Over time, that contempt changed to a deep respect, even when I disagreed with his positions, as I came to understand his absolute focus on the goals of serving West Virginia and the nation. His dedication to those goals was evident in his willingness to learn, observe, listen, and to change his mind based on new information and observations.

He was powerful and pragmatic about the exercise of power, and a masterful operator within the Senate. And as best I can tell, he exercised that power by thoroughly mastering and respecting the rules of the Senate. His knowledge of and respect for the Constitution guided him.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Janie
Date: 29 Jun 10 - 12:55 AM

I saw Senator Byrd play fiddle live a few times over the years. He was pretty decent!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 29 Jun 10 - 06:12 AM

Janie,
Thanks for the post.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Goose Gander
Date: 29 Jun 10 - 09:14 PM

He was right about Iraq. He was wrong on civil rights, until he was right. So, mostly, he was right.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Greg F.
Date: 29 Jun 10 - 09:26 PM

Don't hold your breath until one of the BuShite Republicans, or the Reagan Republicans for that matter, that helped bring on the financial crisis & put the U.S. into the economic crapper its currently in or who lied the US into Iraq will have the balls and common decency to admit THEY were wrong.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,DWR
Date: 29 Jun 10 - 09:33 PM

Greg, I rarely fuss at anyone about anything, but this thread is about this man and his music. Why don't YOU have the common decency to take your comments down below where they belong?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Genie
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 03:39 AM

I see no reason for Byrd's character, beliefs, values, etc. to be off limits as topics in this thread, and that will open the door to some discussion of politics. But can we at least keep the thread about Sen. Byrd and not about Republicans v. Democrats, liberalism v. conservatism, and other broad open-ended topics?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Bobert
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 07:54 AM

BTW, Eugene Robinson (who incidently is black) wrote an excellent column in the Washington Post yesterday about Robert Byrd... I don't do them clicky things but maybe someone who does will find the piece and link it...

But if not, the one thing the Eugene pointed out is just how Senator Byrd had to fundementally change his entire value system in a state that really wasn't collectively ready to change with him... That is paraphrased...

B~


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Mary Katherine
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 08:25 AM

Virginia Label To Reissue Sen. Byrd's 1978 Album

3:42 pm EDT June 29, 2010
http://www.wpxi.com/entertainment/24084130/detail.html

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- A Virginia record label plans to reissue a
bluegrass album recorded by the late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd.

The West Virginia Democrat was the longest-serving member of the Senate. He died Monday at 92.

The 1978 "Mountain Fiddler" album features Byrd performing old-time and bluegrass songs on fiddle, along with Country Gentlemen band members Doyle Lawson on guitar, James Bailey on banjo, and Spider Gilliam on bass.

County Records owner Dave Freeman says the reissue project had been in the works for about 18 months. The CD will be available nationally July 27.

Online: County Records: http://www.countysales.com/


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,Neil D
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 08:34 AM

Eugene Robinson on Sen. Byrd


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Greg F.
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 09:41 AM

Hmmm..... I was merely elaborating on points already raised by Jeri, Genie et. al. regarding Byrd's admission of and apologies for being wrong and his most vocal critics' - who are in fact Republicans - hypocricy.

So Guest DWR, why don't you have the common decency to bite me?


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: pdq
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 12:49 PM

The combination of Doyle Lawson, James Bailey and Spider Gilliam were on only one Country Gentleman record, also recorded in 1978, called "Bringing My Children Home", a gospel outing. A fine record that showed the course that Doyle Lawson was going to take in the near future with his gospel group Quicksilver.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 04:07 PM

I give Senator Byrd credit for overcoming a racist past. I have not been a fan of his bloated oratory nor of his ability to fatten his constituency by being "king of the pork barrel." Problem is, every other state wishes they had as effective an advocate for Federal funds. He has been, along with a number of other long-serving Senators on both sides of the aisle, an example of people too long in public office. I have often supposed that he must have been a relative, somehow, of the late Charlie Byrd, one of my favorite all-time guitarists and a Virginian.

I, being an unreconstructed dinosaur, still believe that elective office should be seen as a temporary position of public service after which you should return to live among those whose lives have been affected by your votes. It should never be seen as a career.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Genie
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 09:52 PM

TJ, I do think that most of your post really does lead to some very tangential discussions that maybe we should take up (again?) below in the Breeze Shooting section.

What I will say that I think is pertinent to Byrd's obit thread is that when an elected official can honestly change his/her views and be true to the values s/he espouses and be open with the voters about it and still keep getting re-elected -- even when the new commitment flies in the face of some of the strongly prevailing attitudes in that state -- that suggests something way beyond the garden-variety politician. It is no surprise to me that someone strongly into the kind of music that Byrd played and sang really did connect with the working people of W VA.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Janie
Date: 30 Jun 10 - 11:56 PM

In 1969 the grandmother of my brother-in-law was chairperson of the Republican party in the next county over. She had to really whip her committee in line when some of them wanted to endorse Byrd for the Senate that year. I remember her complaining loudly at a Sunday dinner down at her farm, "I like Bob Byrd too, and will probably vote for him, but if we are going to endorse him, why, we might as well be Democrats."


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Janie
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 04:50 PM

I just finished watching the C Span video of the Memorial service. The fiddler and band were Bobby Taylor and Kanawha Tradition. Bobby is an old, old friend and a fine, fine fiddler. He has done a huge amount to foster traditional old time music in West Virginia, runs the Vandalia Gathering, and this year received the Vandalia Gathering life time achievement award, a well deserved honor.

It would have been tres neat if they had included some old time arrangements along with the bluegrass - I don't think the Senator would have minded one bit!


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: Bobert
Date: 03 Jul 10 - 06:21 PM

As for pork barrel spending, if there was ever a state in need of some help, it's West Virgina... I don't begrudge them anything... Good job, Senator Byrd... Love new highway 55... At least those parts that have been completed... Of course, now that's he's gone, ther road may never be completed???

B~


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Subject: RE: Obit: Senator Robert Byrd, 92, WV fiddler
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 11:40 AM

Pork barrel spending is what the Senators of OTHER states are guilty of.

My state's senators fund only worthy, necessary,and cost effective micro economic stimulus funding.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)


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