Consider whole of Byrd’s work
To the Editor,
As it has been announced recently that Bethany College, an excellent institution of higher learning, has decided to remove the name of former West Virginia U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (1917-2010) from its student health care building, which had been named in his honor, as result of his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan for a short period in the 1940s, I feel it is appropriate to consider Byrd’s life and career before he is, inappropriately, I feel, demonized.
Although it was certainly very regrettable that Byrd was indeed a member of the KKK, he later, and often, vociferously expressed his sincere regrets for being a member of the racist organization and became a longtime strong supporter of, and advocate for, civil rights, being an outspoken proponent of the Voting Rights Act, hate crime prevention legislation and many other pro-civil rights initiatives during his long career in the Senate, being praised by civil rights icons over the years including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, and was eulogized by then-President Barack Obama, who praised the late senator for his civil rights advocacy. In addition, Byrd consistently got high marks annually for his support of civil right issues on the NAACP’s report card.
Byrd, who was a staunch member of the Democratic Party, served in the Senate representing the state of West Virginia from 1959 until his death in 2010, having served as a senator longer than anyone in history.
During his tenure in the Senate, Byrd was highly respected and and admired by members of both political parties, a rarity, serving in numerous positions of leadership throughout his career, including president pro tempore of the Senate, chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, and as a member of the armed services, budget, rules and administration committees, among others.
In addition, Byrd, as a dedicated public servant, undeniably brought a great deal of money to his beloved state, making it all the better for to his efforts.
Although during a relatively short time (approximately one year), as a result of a very unwise, and very personally regrettable, decision, the totality of Byrd’s historic and laudatory career is not being taken fully into account, as should always be the case, when such punitive actions are considered.