Sen. Robert C. Byrd — known for his staunch defense of the Constitution and for steering billions of dollars to his home state — died Monday after more than a half century representing West Virginia in Congress, ending the longest career in Congress ever. He was 92.
Born Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr. in 1917, he was adopted by an aunt and uncle a year later. He grew up in the coalfields of Southern West Virginia. He graduated as the valedictorian of Mark Twain High School and married his childhood sweetheart Erma James in 1937.
Known as a passionate orator and Washington power player, Byrd also had his share of political controversy. At age 24, Byrd joined the Ku Klux Klan — a decision that would both help and haunt his political career. Noticing his skill for recruiting men to join a local chapter, a Klan official urged him to run for the state Legislature.
Monday on the NewsHour, we’ll have remembrances of the senator, featuring interviews with Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette editor Jim Haught, who once worked for Byrd, and West Virginia Wesleyan College professor Robert Rupp.
Here, Haught and Rupp discuss Byrd’s humble upbringing and his political legacy: