Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) died this morning.
Byrd, a Democrat who served in the U.S. Senate since 1959, had been plagued by health problems in recent years and was confined to a wheelchair. He had skipped several votes in Congress in the past months.
Jesse Jacobs, a family spokesman, said Byrd died peacefully at about 3 a.m. at Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Va.
He was the oldest member of the 111th Congress.
Byrd held a number of leadership roles during his tenure in the Senate, including conference secretary, majority whip and majority leader — twice.
Prior to his death, Byrd worked as the president pro tempore — the second highest ranking official in the Senate and the highest ranking senator in the majority party, putting Byrd third in line to the presidency.
He also served as the senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Other committees on which Byrd served were the Senate Budget, Armed Services and Rules and Administration Committees.
Byrd, who never lost an election, cast more than 18,540 roll call votes — more than any other senator in U.S. history. He had a 98 percent attendance record in his more than five decades of service in the Senate, according to his Web site.
Byrd was born Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr. in North Wilkesboro, N.C., in 1917. When his mother died in the 1918 flu pandemic, he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle, who renamed him Robert Carlyle Byrd and raised him in the coal-mining region of southern West Virginia.
He received his law degree from American University in 1963, and his undergraduate degree from Marshall University in 1994 — at age 76.
Byrd was widely regarded as a pre-eminent expert on constitutional law and legislative procedures. Because of his intimate knowledge of Senate rules, he was both feared and respected by his political opponents.
He helped win ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty and was well known for steering federal dollars to his home state. He was also a strong opponent to the Iraq war and vehemently defended minority party rights in the Senate.
He was elected to Congress in 1952, representing West Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. Six years later, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. (Source: Fox News)
Condolences to the Byrd family.
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