6 Choice Moments from Sen. Robert Byrd's 56 Years

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On Wednesday, 91-year old Sen. Robert Byrd set a record to become the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history. The West Virginia Democrat has served 56 years and 10 months in Congress; attended 18,582 Senate roll call votes; and served under 11 presidents.

As many have noted, Byrd's political beliefs have evolved since his early days. Once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Byrd was an outspoken segregationist in the Senate and attempted to filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He has since moderated his racial views and risen in the ranks of the Democratic leadership. His early opposition to the Iraq War and endorsement of Barack Obama during the Democratic primaries won him effusive praise from doves and liberals. In light of Byrd's record-breaking day, the Wire has compiled a highlights reel of noteworthy speeches, dramatic moments, and strange gaffes:

  • "Barbaric! Let That Word Resound From Hill to Hill" In wake of NFL quarterback Michael Vick's dogfighting scandal, Byrd, a professed dog lover, gave a fiery Senate floor speech in rhetoric The Washington Post described as "usually reserved for war speeches or Supreme Court confirmation battles."
  • I Opposed the War "Before You Were Even Born" During a clash between Byrd and members of Code Pink, an anti-war group, the senator flexed his peacenik bonafides:
  • "I've Seen a Lot of White N*ggers in My Time" Speaking candidly about race with the late news anchor Tony Snow, Byrd makes an offbeat pitch for racial solidarity.
  • Lulled to Sleep By Harry Reid  As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivers a somber oration, Byrd catches a few winks:
  • Why I Was Wrong About Civil Rights  Byrd gives a personal account of his volte-face on civil rights.
  • "How Can We Abandon Diplomatic Efforts?" In an eloquent speech during the run-up to the Iraq War, Byrd urges Congress not to authorize the invasion.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.