Editorial: Remembering Sen. Robert Byrd

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

West Virginia and the nation lost a true friend and dedicated, passionate public servant in Monday's passing of Sen. Robert Byrd.

Much will be written of the late senator in coming days, with commentaries focusing on a deep and abiding legacy befitting his 58 years in Congress, including 52 in the U.S. Senate, where he became an institution unto himself, having served as Democratic majority leader – and minority leader - and chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Accolades are already being lavished upon the senator, including some from President Barack Obama, who noted that “the United States Senate has lost a venerable institution, and America has lost a voice of principle and reason.”

It is in his homestate, though, where Sen. Robert Byrd will be missed most acutely.

Although his politics sometimes differed with the conservative sentiments of a majority of his constituents – most notably during his courageous stand against a rush to war in Iraq - Byrd was revered throughout West Virginia. He won election in 2000 with 78 percent of the vote, to 20 percent for his closest rival. He won a record ninth six-year term in 2008.

The senator demonstrated his commitment to his home state by steering billions of federal dollars to West Virginia over his long career, earning him the label “King of Pork.” Having grown up in the depth of the Depression in impoverished coal country, the senator saw federal investments differently. One man's pork, he noted, is another man's job.

Despite reaching the pinnacle of power in Washington, Byrd never forgot his roots. While so many politicians cashed out for lobbying jobs, or parlayed their influence into personal enrichment, West Virginia's senior senator was content and proud simply to serve the people of his state.

"West Virginia has always had four friends," Byrd said on election night 2000, "God Almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter's Liver Pills and Robert C. Byrd."

We couldn't have said it better.

Mineral Daily News-Tribune of Keyser, W.Va.