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Tribute to West Virginia’s man in Washington

July 1, 2010
The Inter-Mountain

State, local and national political leaders, as well as residents, remember and reflect on the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

"I was saddened to hear that the people of West Virginia have lost a true champion, the United States Senate has lost a venerable institution, and America has lost a voice of principle and reason with the passing of Robert C. Byrd.

"Sen. Byrd's story was uniquely American. He was born into wrenching poverty, but educated himself to become an authoritative scholar, respected leader and unparalleled champion of our Constitution. He scaled the summit of power, but his mind never strayed from the people of his beloved West Virginia. He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time.

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"He was as much a part of the Senate as the marble busts that line its chamber and its corridors. His profound passion for that body and its role and responsibilities was as evident behind closed doors as it was in the stemwinders he peppered with history. He held the deepest respect of members of both parties, and he was generous with his time and advice, something I appreciated greatly as a young senator.

"We take solace in the fact that he is reunited with his wife of nearly 69 years, Erma; and our thoughts and prayers are with their daughters, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and all the people of West Virginia who loved Robert C. Byrd." - President Barack Obama

"He was a great senator. I don't think anyone will dispute that." - Dr. David Turner, professor of history at Davis & Elkins College

"He was a gentleman. He certainly loved the people of West Virginia." - Jane Barb, Parsons

"(Byrd) was a huge proponent of Corridor H and he was a driving force. He commanded an audience and your attention." - Debbie Stevens, Parsons

"He was a good friend personally and of D&E. To me more than anything, he was a symbol of hope for West Virginia." -Davis & Elkins College President G.T. "Buck" Smith

"I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the family of Senator Robert C. Byrd's family.

"It is difficult to put into words Senator Byrd's contributions to the state of West Virginia and to the United States. It saddens me to think of a West Virginia without Robert Byrd. But that is what we face today.

"We as West Virginians owe him a great deal. He represented us with dignity and class. The fact that he is the longest-serving Senator in the history of our great nation shows that the people of this state loved him and respected him, and always appreciated what he was able to accomplish in Washington. He always kept the concerns of West Virginians close to his heart. Without his leadership and the way he fought for us, it is hard to imagine where we would be as a state.

"But it is not just West Virginians who have lost a great leader. The people of the United States of America have lost a man who served as both Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leader, and also as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. He served as Senator longer than President Obama has been alive. He sat on powerful committees. He made extremely difficult decisions every day.

"We will never replace Senator Byrd. He truly was a great West Virginian, and the people of our state have lost a trusted and powerful friend in Washington." - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant

"My wife, Barbara, and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Robert C. Byrd, our friend, my mentor, and West Virginia's great, great senator. Today marks the end of an era. There are few who remember a West Virginia without Robert C. Byrd, and there are none who expect to see his like again. It was my tremendous good fortune to know Senator Byrd all of my life and to work closely with him during my 28 years in Congress. But all of us were witness to his greatness, and all of us will feel his loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family - today and always." -U.S. Rep. Allan Mollohan, D-W.Va.

"Good bye, dear Senator Byrd. How we will miss him!" -Delegate Peggy Donaldson Smith, D-38th District

"In the days and weeks to come, many words will be written and spoken in tribute to United States Senator Robert C. Byrd. None, however, will rise to the greatness and great achievement this servant rendered to the people of our nation and especially for the citizens of West Virginia whom he loved so much. In Lincoln's Gettysburg Address he stated that those who gave their lives for what they believed had already dedicated and consecrated the battlefield cemetery far above the words he spoke that day. In that same sense of duty, honor and country, Senator Byrd's lifetime of public service speaks for itself. His record of accomplishment will continue to positively affect the lives of all Americans and stand as an example for future generations who will seek to serve.

"As a man who experienced humble beginnings, and personal tragedies, he never gave up; never quit in his efforts to improve his beloved West Virginia. He was always ready to take advantage of opportunities not for himself, but for our state. His success has been unmatched.

"We are all saddened by the loss of this great man. We will miss not only his presence and great ability, but we will miss his friendship and his outstretched hand, always willing to help those who could not help themselves. No man is indispensable, but he certainly is irreplaceable. May God bless the memory and ongoing accomplishments of this greatest of West Virginians." -West Virginia Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin

"Senator Byrd's passing is an unspeakable loss, first and foremost to West Virginia, but also to Congress and the country as a whole. He is a giant in the United States Senate, for his unmatched dedication to public service, incredible Constitutional scholarship and above all, his reverence and respect for the democratic process. He is the most important public servant in West Virginia's history - our state's biggest advocate and protector. This is a very sad day for all West Virginians. My heart goes out to his family, and I hope there is some peace in knowing that he is now with his beloved Erma.

"His love for West Virginia, his knowledge of the Constitution and his commitment to the Senate will never be matched." -West Virginia Speaker of the House Richard Thompson

"The United States Senate has lost an icon, and the people of West Virginia a beloved son who was woven into the very fabric of our state.

"Senator Byrd's mastery of the Senate will be remembered for the ages, but those who knew him best realize his legacy will be one of love for the West Virginians he served for nearly 57 years. Whether he is remembered as the young man who played the fiddle or the elder statesman that carried a copy of the Constitution in the pocket next to his heart, Robert Byrd touched the lives of countless West Virginians. His service to West Virginia and dedication to our nation's democracy set an example to which generations can aspire.

"We pray for his family and take comfort in knowing he has gone home for the last time to join his beloved Erma in the presence of God." -Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

"It is a sad day for all of us in West Virginia. This is not only a devastating loss for West Virginia but a devastating loss for our nation. Senator Byrd was a great man that did great things.

"There is not enough time in our day to start to talk about all of the tremendous achievements that this icon was able to accomplish for our people, but knowing Senator Byrd he would expect us to continue his work to make West Virginia, and all of America, a better place to live. Senator Byrd is one of the main reasons West Virginia is known as Almost Heaven." - Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio

"Today, the American people lost an exceptional public servant. Senator Byrd will be missed not only in West Virginia, but also in homes and hearts across America. For more than five decades, Senator Byrd worked in Congress to help working families achieve the American Dream. He was first and foremost the advocate of those most in need - fighting for educational programs and legislation that would help renew opportunity in areas of the country where opportunities were often scarce. Throughout his career, he fought for his beliefs and his constituents while keeping a national and international perspective. He prided himself on his knowledge of our Constitution and its principles.

"In addition to being a national leader, Senator Byrd was also a Democratic leader and a strong voice for the party. In numerous leadership positions over the years, he fought to advance Democratic principles. As his career progressed, he wielded the powers of Congress to defend the rights and advance the interests of Americans seeking opportunity and justice. And as the longest serving U.S. Senator in history, Senator Byrd's legacy will long reverberate through the Senate.

"Leaders like Senator Byrd don't come along often. On behalf of the Democratic Party, my heart goes out to Senator Byrd's family and friends and to all those who cherished him. He will be missed greatly in Washington, in West Virginia, and across America." - DNC Chairman Tim Kaine



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