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Sen. Byrd Dies at 92

Sen. Byrd Dies at 92

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Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest-serving congressperson in U.S. history, has died at the age of 92.

According to The Washington Post, Byrd passed away at 3 a.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. He was hospitalized last week with heat exhaustion, but more serious issues developed.

"Starting in 1958, Mr. Byrd was elected to the Senate an unprecedented nine times," reports the Post. "He wrote a four-volume history of the body, was majority leader twice and chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee, controlling the nation's purse strings, and yet the positions of influence he held did not convey the astonishing arc of his life."

Born into deep poverty in the West Virginia coal fields, Byrd became the only member of Congress to put himself through law school while in office.

The Post continues, "As a young man, Mr. Byrd was an 'exalted cyclops' of the Ku Klux Klan. Although he apologized numerous times for what he considered a youthful indiscretion, his early votes in Congress -- notably a filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- reflected racially separatist views. As those views moderated, Mr. Byrd rose in the party hierarchy."

Politico
reports that West Virginia law gives Gov. Joe Manchin the power to appoint a successor to Byrd, although the timing of the late senator's death makes it unclear how long that person will be allowed to serve.

"Under West Virginia election law, Manchin surely would have been able to appoint someone to fill the entire remainder of Byrd's term had Byrd died after July 3 -- or with less than 30 months left to go on a term that expires Jan. 3, 2013," according to Politico. "But with more than 30 months left of an 'unexpired term,' the law stipulates that he tap an interim successor until an election can be held."

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