Sen. Robert Byrd honored as scholarly speaker, lawmaker
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.”
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.