Monday, June 28, 2010

Death of a Legendary Statesman: Robert C. Byrd

Early this morning, Robert C. Byrd breathed his last on this earth. At 92 years of age, he had seen a lot of our state's history, challenges, and successes. When he was born, West Virginia was just 55 years old. While not every person in the state has been a huge fan of the late Senator, he is as much a part of our state's history and and fabric as coal, the black bear, and the blooming rhododendron.

He was alive during the battle of Blair Mountain in southern WV coal fields. He survived the Great Depression, and had witnessed multiple wars and skirmishes in our nation's history. He witnessed the end of segregation, and although he was adamantly opposed to the Civil Rights bill at the time, he cause his efforts to undermine the bill, "the greatest mistake he has ever made."

Robert C. Byrd has done a lot for the state, and held a record for the longest held US Senate position. He has held his position longer than our current president, Barack Obama, has been alive. There are very few in our state who can remember a time when he wasn't one of our senators, and interestingly, he never lost a single election for any office during his career. He has worked hard over his time in office to secure funding for many projects in WV including moving the state from 4 miles of divided highway to 37,000.

He holds records for longevity in the history of congress, and has served his state passionately for quite a long time. There's a great wikipedia article with more information about his life that is worth reading as well.

Toward the end of his career, he became more vocal about safety and care for coal miners, for the land, and for the people of WV and said something that I've agreed with for quite some time. His quote, "The old chestnut that “coal is West Virginia’s greatest natural resource” deserves revision. I believe that our people are West Virginia’s most valuable resource. We must demand to be treated as such."

I agree with Byrd's sentiments that West Virginia's people are it's most valuable resource, and I am grateful that he spoke these words of wisdom to remind us of the great value West Virginians have.

While I did not personally agree with all of Byrd's politics, I believe that he did have a deep and abiding love for the people and the land of West Virginia, and that is a love and common thread that we shared while he represented this state every day that I've been alive.

In an article on metronews, Byrd hoped he would be remembered thus, "I always said that, when you die, people remember you for about ten days and then the thoughts go elsewhere," he said. "I hope that the people of West Virginia will remember me as one of them, just an ordinary boy raised in the coalfields who grew up in the Depression with a lovely wife and a sweet wife, who loves that wife today as she looks down upon me."

May you rest in peace, Senator Byrd, and may you be remembered as you asked. And as we continue to live our lives here, may we not seek to be remembered for our accolades, but rather for our love for others.


Alise said...

"And as we continue to live our lives here, may we not seek to be remembered for our accolades, but rather for our love for others."

That is certainly a legacy worth leaving behind. Very nice tribute Billy. Thanks!

young wife&mom said...

great write-up billy..i think that could be in a newspaper somewhere! i too share the same respect for the man..and as i tell Caleb don't have to agree with someone to respect them:)

oh and by the way...congrats on your pending marriage! i have heard it thru the facebook grapevine to which i am not attached and hope to never be:)

chanchanchepon said...

@Alise--thanks for the compliment.

@young wife&mom thanks for the congrats and the compliments as well. Hope you join the facebook grapevine soon! ;)