Sen. Robert Byrd hon­ored as schol­arly speaker, law­maker

Austin American-Statesman - - SATURDAYBRIEFING - By Anne E. Korn­blut

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Thou­sands of mourn­ers gath­ered Fri­day to com­mem­o­rate Robert Byrd, the iconic West Vir­ginia sen­a­tor who was cel­e­brated as a de­voted law­maker and eru­dite or­a­tor whose record of more than a half-cen­tury in Congress could serve as an ex­am­ple for gen­er­a­tions.

A large del­e­ga­tion of speak­ers re­called Byrd’s sto­ried ca­reer, which spanned the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tury. But Byrd, who died Mon­day at 92, was re­mem­bered just as vividly as a salt-of-the earth son of West Vir­ginia who once fa­mously de­clared that af­ter his death, sur­vivors would open up his body to find the state’s name writ­ten on his heart.

Un­der the gleam­ing gold of the West Vir­ginia Capi­tol dome, hun­dreds of dig­ni­taries hon­ored Byrd.

“The dis­tin­guished gen­tle­man from West Vir­ginia could be found at his desk to the very end and do­ing the peo­ple’s busi­ness,” Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said in his eu­logy.

“Sen. Robert C. Byrd el­e­vated the Se­nate,” said Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, who served with Byrd for decades. “The Se­nate cham­ber was Robert C. Byrd’s cathe­dral. And West Vir­ginia was his heaven.”

For­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton gave a trib­ute that ex­plored Byrd’s one­time as­so­ci­a­tion with the Ku Klux Klan, say­ing it was the part of the life of some­one who “was a coun­try boy.”

“And maybe he did some­thing he shouldn’t have done. And he spent the rest of his life mak­ing it up. And that’s what a good per­son does,” Clin­ton said. “There are no per­fect peo­ple. There cer­tainly are no per­fect politi­cians.”

Gene J. Puskar As­so­ci­Ated Press

An honor guard car­ries the cof­fin of Sen. Robert Byrd, who died Mon­day at 92, down the steps dur­ing a me­mo­rial ser­vice Fri­day at the state Capi­tol in Charleston, W.Va.

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