June 28th, 2010
09:06 AM ET

Colleagues mourn Robert Byrd, longest-serving senator

[Updated at 10:13 a.m.] Colleagues of Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia mourned his death as family and friends planned his funeral. Byrd, the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress, died Monday at the age of 92.

Under West Virginia law, the state's popular two-term Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, has the power to appoint Byrd's successor. Manchin is expected to name a fellow member of his party to succeed Byrd, who was also a Democrat, thereby keeping a total of 59 Democrats in the Senate. There are questions, however, regarding exactly how long Byrd's appointed successor can serve before another election is held. West Virginia law says that if a Senate vacancy is created within two and a half years of the end of a term, the appointed successor will automatically serve out the remainder of the term. If not, a special election is required.Byrd's current term is scheduled to end on January 3, 2013. The two and a half year mark will be reached on Saturday, July 3.

West Virginia law fails, however, to state exactly when a vacancy occurs. Whether the vacancy is considered to have been created at the moment of Byrd's death, when the Senate informs state officials of the vacancy, or when Manchin declares the seat vacant will be crucial. West Virginia - a traditional Democratic stronghold - has been increasingly competitive for the Republicans. John McCain easily defeated Barack Obama in West Virginia in the 2008 presidential election. Neither Manchin nor the Democratic-led Senate have made any official declarations yet.

As question swirl around the timing of the next election for Byrd's seat, numerous political leaders have been issuing statements in remembrance of the nine-term senator:

- Gov. Joe Manchin

"Sen. Byrd was a fearless fighter for the constitution, his beloved state and its great people. He made a significant mark as a member of Congress in both our state's and nation's history. His accomplishments and contributions will define history for eternity."

- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia

"It has been my greatest privilege to serve with Robert C. Byrd in the United States Senate. I looked up to him, I fought next to him, and I am deeply saddened that he is gone. He leaves a void that simply can never be filled. But I am lifted by the knowledge of his deep and abiding faith in God, I have joy in the thought of him reunited with his dear (late wife) Erma, and I am proud knowing that his moving life story and legacy of service and love for West Virginia will live on.

Senator Byrd came from humble beginnings in the southern coalfields, was raised by hard-working West Virginians, and triumphantly rose to the heights of power in America. But he never forgot where he came from nor who he represented, and he never abused that power for his own gain."

- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada

"By virtue of his endurance, Robert Byrd knew and worked with many of the greats of the United States Senate. Because of his enduring virtue, he will be remembered as one of them. Senator Byrd dedicated every single day of his Senate service to strengthening the institution, state and republic that he loved so dearly. There will never be another like him."

–Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky

"Sen. Byrd combined a devotion to the U.S. Constitution with a deep learning of history to defend the interests of his state and the traditions of the Senate. We will remember him for his fighter's spirit, his abiding faith, and for the many times he recalled the Senate to its purposes.... We are glad to know that Senator Byrd and his beloved Erma are reunited. We extend our deepest sympathies to the entire Byrd family."

–Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont

"No senator came to care more about the Constitution or to be a more effective defender of our constitutional government than the senior senator from West Virginia. He was a senator's senator.... I know him as a mentor and a friend. I was honored to stand with him and fight against assaults on the Constitution and against an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq.

He was a self-educated man who learned much throughout his life and had much to teach us all. He was a symbol of West Virginia, he was an outstanding senator, and he was extraordinary American."

–Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama

"It is a sad day for all of us. There was no one who loved the institution of the Senate more, and no one who was a better student of it."

- CNN's Ted Barrett, Alan Silverleib, and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Politics • Robert Byrd • West Virginia
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. ezequiel


    June 28, 2010 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. Avi Shlomo

    Rest in Peace Senator. I will never forget yout courageous stand against the forces of Fascism when you stood taller and mightier than all the fascists in our country in oppsoing a war that was based on lies and racism.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. DINK

    Go with Grace knowing that the path you took was righteous in the eyes of every Mountaineer, every American and our Lord. God bless you.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  4. pat in Omaha

    You were a true conservative while keeping the needs of the people as a priority! Thank you for all you did for "we, the people"!! You will be sorely missed in this sad time! A time when conservatism forgets about the needs of the poor and the needs of the poor are exploited to mean spending out of control! Thank you, Senator Byrd!!

    June 28, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ramesh Manghirmalani

    Generations to come people will remember him as great leader and great orator and I will miss the giant of the senate, Good Bye my friend and may God be with you, He will remain a legend among us. God Bless you my friend

    Prof Ramesh C Manghirmalani

    June 28, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rick

    I am proud to say he was my senator and I beleive everything he ever did was for his nation and his state. His is the kind of dedication that we need now more than ever. I wish others in Washington would dedicate more of themselves to helping their fellow countrymen as he did. We will miss him.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. Christine Lamb Parker

    West Virginia has been my home for 25 years and I was proud to meet both Senator and Mrs Byrd. His love for his state and the people he represented was profound. Most of all he loved Erma. What he did for his state and country was profound. Those who don't know much about him would be better people if they immediately educate themselves on this remarkable human being. If only all senators had such pure motivations and such great minds, such consciouses, not only for what can be accomplished, but as an example of good ethics, but what it means to be a good human being. And, as he proved, it is never to late to change, to grow.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. Collette

    Another one bites the dust.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Gabbers

      That was rather crude !!

      June 28, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. William Peterson


    Aren't you late for your appointment at the hospital?

    June 28, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. CWD

    His colleagues are missing him because he won't help them pass the next item on the Socialist agenda – and nothing else.
    Yep, a "LEECH" upon our society for over 57 years..... probably the longest WELFARE RECIPIENT on record in the United States. You don't SERVE for that long in the Senate – you are SERVED! KKK will miss you as well, I'm sure.

    June 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CWD

    A quote from the famous KLANSMAN, your beloved Senator Byrd – I'll let his words define his own legacy!!! "Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds." - Former Klansman and US Senator Robert Byrd

    June 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Huck

    CWD-Robert Byrd was a member of the KKK when he was very young. Everyone in the south was. It was a social organization, not yet known for its racist views. Shortly after, the organization owned Indiana politics and dominated society in virtually every state. Senator Byrd left the organization and denounced it before he even ran for office. For those of you who so casually condemn everyone and everything while hidden behind your cloak of anonymity, may your parents, family, children, and yourself have nasty people attack you when your time comes. God bless Robert Byrd, the State of West Virginia, and the glorious country that gives you the freedom to hide in the dark and spew your venom.

    June 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ron

    Well i just dont know how anybody can give praise to a man who was til the day he died a member of the kkk well ok he was just the grande wizzard in west virgina and that was self admitted. He voted against the civil rights act of 1964. When will you ppl wake up and see these ppl for who they are in the liberal party.

    June 28, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ron

    He never left you fool and he voted against the civil rights bill of 1964 and your a fool if you believed he left. The kkk is like a lot of gangs blood in blood out and he lived to be 92 so he never left he just wised up and used the liberal system to make ppl think he was some good guy and by the way you need to leard history they were killing ppl and burning homes churches and schools long long before he was as you put it old enough to get out .

    June 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bobmc2

    Gabbers & William Peterson, you are 2 of the many backward MORON's in W.VA that kept this turd in office! He was a criminal! He should have gone to trial and to jail! Now I hope he is getting broiled in hell,where he is! He got too much money for W.VA. and grafted "off the top", of whatever he got.
    This guy was a puke. He was no hero. It makes me sick to my stomach, to think that this guy was held in any regard.
    I hope someone deficates on his gravesite!!! This was a KKK sc**bag! No Humanitarian, that's for sure!

    June 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
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