Sen. Byrd Hospitalized, In Serious Condition

Sen. Robert Byrd was hospitalized last week, and his office says he is in now "serious condition."

Sen. Byrd is 92 and the longest-serving member of Congress.

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    Died at 3 AM. (none / 0) (#1)
    by JamesTX on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 05:07:42 AM EST
    They don't make them like that anymore.

    Story (none / 0) (#2)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 06:40:03 AM EST

    Robert C. Byrd, 92, a conservative West Virginia Democrat who became the longest-serving member  of Congress in history and used his masterful knowledge of the institution to shape the federal budget, protect the procedural rules of the Senate and, above all else, tend to the interests of his state, died at 3 a.m. Monday at Inova Fairfax Hospital, his office said.

    Mr. Byrd had been hospitalized last week with what was thought to be heat exhaustion, but more serious issues were discovered, aides said Sunday. No formal cause of death was given.

    Some interesting facts:

    A lifelong autodidact and a firm believer in continuing education -- vocational schools, community colleges, adult education -- Mr. Byrd practiced what he preached. While in the U.S. House from 1953 to 1959, he took night classes at law schools. He received a law degree from American University in 1963 and is the only member of Congress to put himself through law school while in office.


    Mr. Byrd chaired the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District from 1961 to 1969 and took it upon himself to rid the majority-black city of ineligible welfare recipients.

    Protesters picketed his McLean home and held anti-Byrd rallies in city parks. The Washington Afro-American newspaper proposed a "Negro boycott" of products manufactured in West Virginia. The Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, who in 1971 became the District's first congressional representative, described Mr. Byrd as "a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde personality -- his tongue was smoother than butter, but war was in his heart."

    "Some senators, in the course of their careers, make their reputations as authorities on the armed service, on taxation, on foreign relations, on housing, on science and technology, on medical care," journalist and author Milton Viorst wrote in 1967 in Washingtonian magazine. "Sen. Robert C. Byrd has made his reputation as an authority on the mating habits of Washington's underprivileged."

    Mr. Byrd drastically cut the welfare rolls, even as he supported a higher federal contribution to the city and championed public schools, playgrounds, swimming pools and libraries. He doubled the number of social workers and increased payments to foster parents.


    In April 1968, when riots erupted on the streets of downtown Washington after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- a man who should be barred from the city, Mr. Byrd once insisted -- the senator recommended calling up federal troops.

    "If it requires the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, we should put the troublemakers in their places," he said. Looters should be shot, "swiftly and mercilessly."


    In 1971, he ran for the position of Democratic whip and defeated the incumbent, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, at a time when the Massachusetts senator was distracted by a personal scandal. In 1969, Kennedy had driven a car off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Mass., and a young female passenger drowned. Mr. Byrd relied on votes from Southern and border-state senators, including a deathbed proxy from his old mentor Russell.

    When he became majority whip, Mr. Byrd was the third most conservative senator outside the South, but within weeks of assuming whip duties, his voting record began to moderate. Although he never relinquished his conservative, moralistic demeanor, he began to support most civil rights legislation, including the Equal Rights Amendment. He also continued to vote with Senate liberals on housing, unemployment benefits, Social Security and public works projects.

    "A leadership role is different," he said, "and one does represent a broader constituency."


    In 1989, Mr. Byrd became chairman of the Appropriations Committee and soon proclaimed, "I want to be West Virginia's billion-dollar industry." He succeeded.

    The economically distressed state became home to an FBI fingerprint center in Clarksburg, Treasury and IRS offices in Parkersburg, a Fish and Wildlife Service training center in Harpers Ferry, a federal prison in Beckley, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office in Martinsburg and a NASA research center in Wheeling. He made an unsuccessful effort to move the CIA to West Virginia.

    West Virginia is dotted with more than 30 federal projects named after Mr. Byrd, including two Robert C. Byrd U.S. courthouses, four Robert C. Byrd stretches of roadway, a Robert C. Byrd Bridge, two Robert C. Byrd interchanges, a Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam project and the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope.