Robert C. Byrd
Child of the Appalachian Coalfields
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: West Virginia University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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1. CHILD OF THE APPALACHIAN COALFIELDS
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According to genealogical records, a William Sale came to America from England in the year 1657. Sale had been born in England in 1638, and was brought to Rappahannock County, Virginia, by one John Stevens, who had been granted land in that county. Two hundred and sixty years after the immigrant William Sale reached America in 1657, a direct descendant was...
2. THE DEPRESSION YEARS
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In 1931, as a Boy Scout, I went to Washington, D.C., with several other Scouts. A Mr. James Basil Deck was the local scoutmaster at Stotesbury, and each boy was required to pay ten dollars for the trip. We traveled in a large flatbed truck covered by a tarpaulin. Washington was a slow-going kind of lazy town in those times, compared with the hustle and bustle that...
3. A POLITICAL CAREER BEGINS
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In the postwar United States, consumer buying was at an unparalleled high. The country had a ready supply of money, and, after the stark years of the war, people had a new desire to spend it. The first electronic digital computer, the forerunner of today’s computers, was dedicated at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It contained...
4. MR. BYRD GOES TO WASHINGTON
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Soon after my election to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1952, Erma and I bought a five–room house, priced just under $20,000— for which we went into debt. The address was 1323 North Wakefield Street, Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the District of Columbia. Our older daughter, Mona, wanted to continue her studies at the...
5 AROUND THE WORLD IN SIXTY-SIX DAYS
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In my first House term in 1953, I had been appointed to the House Administration Committee—a mere housekeeping committee. In 1955, at the start of my second term, I was assigned to the Foreign Affairs Committee and given membership on the Subcommittee on the Far East and the Pacific. The first time I ever traveled overseas was in 1955 when, as a...
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In January 1956, Senator J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, introduced a resolution in the Senate opposing the sale to the Goodrich-Gulf Corporation of the government’s synthetic rubber plant at Institute, in Kanawha County. Appearing before the Fulbright committee in the Senate, I said that congressional approval of the Institute...
7. THE SAPLING GROWS TALL
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Some members of the Class of 1958 aspired eventually to leadership roles within their parties. In 1969, Senator Hugh Scott became Republican whip, and, following the death of Everett M. Dirksen, he became Republican minority leader, a post he held until his retirement in 1977. On the Democratic side, I served as secretary to the Democratic conference from 1967...
8. STORMY WATERS
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Bill Hart, editor of the Morgantown Dominion News, commented in his column of September 6, 1963, on my work in the Senate and my way of going about doing the business of the people. Hart had been an early supporter of mine, and he was an astute political observer and hard-rock Democrat. His column was the aftermath of an interview with me in m...
9. CLIMBING THE LEADERSHIP LADDER
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The secretary and the majority leader and the Democratic whip were frequently called to the White House to confer with President Johnson. Thus, becoming secretary of the Democratic Conference would provide me with national publicity that could also help me in West Virginia, where I would be up for reelection in 1970. Much interest was sparked in the state by the...
10. A VISIT TO RUSSIA
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According to the newspaper article, Pike County School Board member Russell Johnson “points out that already 200 of them have been affixed to car bumpers in several Kentucky Counties as well as Kanawha, Mingo, and Logan Counties in West Virginia.” Johnson explained, “The campaign started during a recent luncheon discussion when a group of us decided that Byrd comes...
11. MUDDY WATERS
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When the new Congress met on January 3, 1969, Senator Edward Kennedy defeated Senator Russell Long in a race for Democratic Party whip. Senator Long had held the office of whip, but in the last few days before the Democratic Leadership Caucus met, Ted Kennedy announced his candidacy. Kennedy’s late entry as a candidate for whip came...
12 A SUPREME COURT NOMINATION?
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“I am glad that Robert C. Byrd has at last gotten what he deserved: the whipping post.” This came from a letter received in my office from a high school student shortly after I had won the Senate majority whip’s race, but it may be indicative, as are many letters from students, of an interest in the history and duties of the office of whip. This office is not, indeed, a “whipping...
13 BUILDING WEST VIRGINIA PIECE BY PIECE
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When the second session of the Ninety-second Congress got underway on January 18, 1972, I began pressing to secure funding for new projects that I had added to my list for West Virginia. These new projects included a new VA Hospital Center in Martinsburg to replace the Newton D. Baker VA Center, originally constructed during World War II as a temporary hospital...
14. THE OLD ORDER CHANGETH
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President Nixon announced his resignation from office on August 8, 1974. The resignation would become effective on August 9 at 12 noon. In a public statement, I declared: “It is a sad ending of a career of a president who, had it not been for Watergate, might have ranked with some of the greatest presidents. The orderly transition of power again proves the resiliency of...
15. THE TOP RUNG—MAJORITY LEADER (1977)
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I won the race for majority leader in the Ninety-fifth Congress, my potential opponent, Hubert Humphrey, having bowed out of the race at the last minute on the day the Democratic Caucus met to select the leadership. Following my election as majority leader in January 1977, I thanked my Democratic colleagues and assured them that my dedication to the tasks ahead...
16. SECOND FIDDLE
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With the expiration of my fourth term approaching in 1982, political storm clouds began gathering in 1981 when a group of West Virginians, most of them Republicans, met on April 30 in Charleston and pledged funds to conduct a voters’ opinion poll by the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC). Elmer Fike, of Kanawha County, explained that...
17. BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
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Speaker Jim Wright would deliver the Democratic response to President Reagan’s State of the Union address in January 1987—a network extravaganza regarded by both Democrats and Republicans as pivotal to their parties’ images and to the President’s attempt to restore his political vitality. Inasmuch as I had been elected Senate majority leader for the One Hundredth...
18. ELECTED PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE
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In 1989, upon being elected to the office of president pro tempore, I promised: “As president pro tem, I will continue to serve in the Senate leadership, and I will continue to try to bring West Virginia values—hard work, patriotism, dedication to duty—to the leadership.” I pointed out that “with this election, I shall be the only senator ever to have held all of the party...
19. A HAND ON THE PURSE STRINGS
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In making the choice to claim the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, I had sought the advice of newspaper editors, political and business leaders, and others around the state. About 80 percent of the people I had contacted were of the opinion that I should take the chairmanship of this committee rather than stand for reelection to the office of majority leader...
20. BUILDING A NEW WEST VIRGINIA
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On Thursday, March 29, I stood in a courtroom in Clarksburg where I had once played the fiddle to entertain voters. On this occasion, I beamed as the first three workers for what would become the new FBI Fingerprint Identification Center were sworn in at temporary FBI offices. I addressed the FBI officials who were gathered there. “You are coming to a...
21 WEST VIRGINIA ON THE GO
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Early in January 1992, an article by James Risen in the Los Angeles Times commented on my ability to get things done in Washington for West Virginia. “Byrd’s pork barrel deals have prompted the kind of shock and outrage from his colleagues that has rarely been seen here since Jimmy Stewart filibustered Claude Raines’s crooked dam project in Mr. Smith Goes...
22. BITS AND PIECES
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On January 18, 1993, Governor Gaston Caperton took the oath of office for a second four-year term, speaking at the State Capitol Building in Charleston without a topcoat in near-freezing temperatures. Erma and I were in attendance. Caperton remembered his late father, who had been his hero and who had taught him his values: “His spirit inspires my vision...
23. BUILDING A 21st CENTURY WEST VIRGINIA
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In October 1993, a Florida newspaper—the Orlando Sentinel—published an article by J. Craig Crawford, that identified the “heavy hitters” and the “weak hitters” in Congress. The Sentinel had studied more than sixteen thousand bills, resolutions, and amendments filed since 1990, and then it had measured each legislator’s skill, as was done in baseball, by looking at successful “hits”...
24. THE WINDS OF CHANGE
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At about this time, the new Republican majority in Congress was attempting to throttle the funding for public television and public radio. I came to the rescue. “From the beginning of the perversion of television,” I said, “thoughtful people have sought alternatives to the trash and vulgarity that have increasingly contaminated the airwaves. The ideal...
25. THE TIDE EBBS
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At the beginning of the First Session of the 104th Congress in January 1995, the line-item veto had been one of the top items in the “Contract with America,” the platform on which Republicans had won control. Congressional efforts to grant presidents line-item veto authority dated back to the last quarter of the previous century, but never before had Congress...
26. FULL CIRCLE
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In mid-June, 1997, I offered a Senate resolution—cosponsored by Senator “Chuck” Hagel of Nebraska, chairman of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations— calling on the administration not to commit the United States to reductions of greenhouse gases at a forthcoming December meeting in Kyoto, Japan, unless...
27. THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE
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Job, a man from the land of Uz, has told us in the Bible: “When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” Living now in the autumn of my life, I longed to return once more to Wolf Creek Hollow. My eightieth birthday was only a few weeks away—November 20, 1997—and...
28. DRIBS AND DRABS
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On September 27, 1997, I journeyed to Petersburg, in Grant County, where I spoke at the dedication of the new Grant County Airport Terminal Building, for which I had added $250,000 to an appropriations bill in 1993. I had been invited to the ceremony by Gerald Sites, who represented the Grant County Airport Authority. Also attending were various...
29. LINE-ITEM VETO STRUCK DOWN
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On April 15, 1998, Erma and I were in Morgantown, where I delivered a lecture to a student-faculty audience in the West Virginia University Law School’s Lugar Courtroom. WVU President David C. Hardesty, Jr., had invited me to address the University audience, and had requested that my subject be the Constitution, with special reference to the line-item veto. Consequently,...
30. IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE
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The conference between the House and Senate on the FY 1999 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill began on Tuesday, May 11, and various items were disposed of. On Wednesday, May 12, we met again in conference and worked long into the evening. The steel loan guarantee and the oil and gas loan guarantee provisions turned out to be the most controversial...
31. SEMPER FIDELIS
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On the last day of 1999, Erma and I sat up until the hour of midnight. For years, we had watched the old year out and the new year in. At the stroke of 12 midnight, when the ball had completed its descent into New York City’s Times Square, we called our older daughter, Mona, on the phone. This was a custom that had been ours for years. We were not sure...
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I have not commented herein concerning the events of September 11, 2001, or the war in Afghanistan which followed. That war against Al Qaeda began when the U.S. was attacked by hijacked planes, the Twin World Trade Center fell, the Pentagon was hit, and a fourth plane went down in a Pennsylvania field. All evidence suggests that either the U.S. Capitol building...
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Includes Image Plates (after Page 817)
Page Count: 832
Illustrations: 54 black and white photographs
Publication Year: 2005