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Robert C. Byrd, Longest-Serving Member of Congress, Dies at Age 92

PH2009122203473Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history, passed away this morning at Inova Fairfax Hospital, his family announced.

The 92-year-old conservative from West Virginia became the longest-serving senator in the history, having served more than 20,775 days. During his tenure, his colleagues elected him to more leadership positions than any other senator in history.

Byrd was president pro tempore of the Senate from 2007 to 2010, a position placing him third in the line of presidential succession, behind Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also held this post previously from 1989 to 1995, briefly in January 2001, and from June 2001 to January 2003.

He served as the senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, as well as on the Senate Budget, Armed Services, and Rules and Administration Committees.

Fellow West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller expressed his bereavement on Byrd’s passing.

“It has been my greatest privilege to serve with Robert C. Byrd in the United States Senate,” he said. “I looked up to him, I fought next to him, and I am deeply saddened that he is gone. He leaves a void that simply can never be filled. But I am lifted by the knowledge of his deep and abiding faith in God, I have joy in the thought of him reunited with his dear [late wife] Erma.”

Byrd had been hospitalized last week with what was thought to be heat exhaustion and dehydration, but more serious conditions arose. His health had been an issue for the past two years as he had been in and out of the hospital due to various medical issues.

Along with his extensive legislative resume, the Raleigh County native was an avid traveler, musician and published author. He recorded a fiddle album, titled “Mountain Fiddler,” and wrote five books. He earned his diploma from Marshall University and a law degree from American University.

He was married to the late Erma Ora James, whom he had met in high school, for nearly 69 years.

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