Published by

A Final Farewell to Senator Robert Byrd

Email a Friend

The body of Senator Robert Byrd will lie in repose in the U.S. Senate chamber today.

The Associated Press reports that Byrd will be the first to lie in repose in the Senate chamber in more than 50 years. Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, became a U.S. Senator in 1959. During his tenure -- the longest in U.S. Senate history -- he served as Senate Majority Leader, and, most recently, as president pro tempore of the Senate. Byrd died Monday at the age of 92.

As the New York Times reports, he became a fixture and authority in the Senate, despite a past that included early affiliations with the Ku Klux Klan and initial opposition to the civil rights movement. He later apologized for and renounced those views, ultimately becoming an ardent supporter of the nation's first African-American president, according to the Times.

During Byrd's time in the Senate, he served on the appropriations, armed services, and rules and administration committees. He became a staunch advocate of preserving the Senate's rules, and was known for carrying a copy of the U.S. Constitution with him, according to the AP.

"Senator Byrd's story was uniquely American," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "He was born into wrenching poverty, but educated himself to become an authoritative scholar, respected leader, and unparalleled champion of our Constitution....He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time." The president went on to praise Byrd's ability to win the admiration of members of both parties.

Byrd's body will lie in repose in the Senate chamber Thursday afternoon. His memorial service is scheduled for Friday, and his funeral service will be held Tuesday, July 6, at Memorial Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia.