Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate, died Monday, June 28. He was 92. Early in his political career, Byrd was known as a staunch conservative. In fact, one of the most controversial chapters of his life was his brief membership in the Ku Klux Klan. During the 1950s and 1960s, he voted against key civil rights legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall as the first black Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. However, in subsequent decades, Byrd became increasingly liberal, focusing on government spending for social programs that improved education and health care and voting for civil rights.
Our coverage of Byrd’s career includes three key speeches from the latter part of his career: his 1993 line-item veto speech as well as two speeches from 2003 at the outset of the Iraq War: “We Stand Passively Mute” and “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” Complete analysis of all three speeches as well as an in-depth overview of his life and legacy are in our DocNotes article, Robert C. Byrd: Original Analysis.