“I was saddened to hear this morning that the people of West Virginia have lost a true champion,” President Obama said. “The United States Senate has lost a venerable institution, and America has lost a voice of principle and reason with the passing of Robert C. Byrd.”
The president went on to say Byrd was an example of the American Dream.
“Senator Byrd’s story was uniquely American,” Obama said. “He was born into wrenching poverty, but educated himself to become an authoritative scholar, respected leader, and unparalleled champion of our Constitution. He scaled the summit of power, but his mind never strayed from the people of his beloved West Virginia. He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time.”
“We take solace in the fact that he is reunited with his wife of nearly 69 years, Erma; and our thoughts and prayers are with their
daughters, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and all the
people of West Virginia who loved Robert C. Byrd.”
Many, such as Gov. Joe Manchin, noted Byrd’s reputation for Constitutional law.
“Like all West Virginians, the news broke our hearts. Sen. Byrd was a fearless fighter for the constitution, his beloved state and its great
people,” Manchin said.
“He made a significant mark as a member of Congress in both our state’s and nation’s history. His accomplishments and contributions will define history for eternity. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his daughters, friends and loved ones, his committed staff and to the people of West Virginia; we have suffered a terrible loss.”
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall said none of the tributes will be worthy of the body of work Byrd left behind.
“Over the next several days, the pundits will try to sum up in limited words the life of Senator Byrd. They will fall far short. We will hear about structures that bear his name, about records he set, about votes he cast. And none of those measures will come close to capturing the enormity that was Robert C. Byrd. I do not know how to begin trying to calculate his immense influence on the People of this Nation and the People of West Virginia; perhaps because so much of what he gave to us is beyond measure -- wisdom, reason, hope. We will not see the likes of a Robert C. Byrd pass our way again.”
Statement from West Virginia Democratic State Executive Committeeman and Mingo County Young
Former governor Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, issued this statement from Washington.
“During his life, Senator Robert C. Byrd was one of those rare figures who was the resolute bedrock of the United State Senate. For the ages, he will be the mountain to provide constant guidance and reference to what a legislative body should aspire.”
“No one better demonstrated the positive impact of education more than Senator Byrd. He showed us all the constant power of learning, as he moved from the hills of his beloved West Virginia to becoming the mountain of the Senate. From starting in rural schools to attending formal law school at night while a Senator or relentless reading for self-instruction, Senator Byrd lived a life as constant student; in so doing he became a national teacher. What he achieved for himself, he fought to bring to millions of others in educational opportunities. We all have gained — and learned — from the life of Senator Byrd.”
Senator Jay Rockefeller spoke of his experience of serving side-by-side with Byrd.
“It has been my greatest privilege to serve with Robert C. Byrd in the United States Senate. I looked up to him, I fought next to him, and I am deeply saddened that he is gone,” Senator Rockefeller said. “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 Erma, and I am proud knowing that his moving life story and legacy of service and love for West Virginia will live on.
“Senator Byrd came from humble beginnings in the southern coalfields, was raised by hard-working West Virginians, and triumphantly rose to the heights of power in America. But he never forgot where he came from nor who he represented, and he never abused that power for his own gain.”
Locally, reaction to Byrd’s death took on a personal note.
Mingo County Young Democrats President Justin Marcum said, “Senator Byrd was truly an honorable and passionate West Virginian. His service to West Virginia and America will be forever missed and I have great admiration for all he has done for this great state. I am proud to have known Senator Byrd and will be continually humbled by his invaluable dedication to West Virginia. May God Bless Senator Robert C. Byrd.”
Mike Whitt, chairman of he Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, noted the senator’s contributions to the county.
“The Authority is deeply saddened by the passing of Senator Robert C. Byrd. He was truly a great West Virginian that will be sadly missed by all the folks in Mingo County and throughout the state of West Virginia. Senator Byrd has single handedly changed the face of Mingo County with new highway transportation, floodwalls, flood protection, water and sewer construction, economic development projects and military funding, just to name a few projects,” Whitt said.
“I don’t know if there will ever be another person who has made so much impact on the state than the tremendous job that Senator Robert C. Byrd has done over the past 58 years. The MCRA has been very blessed in working with Senator Byrd over the last years when Mingo County has received millions of dollars and public works projects from his tireless efforts to help Mingo County diversify its economy and move us into the 21st Century.
Even leaders from other states expressed their respect for the senator.
“He was a great U.S. Senator,” said Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford. “He worked tirelessly for his people and was very successful in doing that. Sometimes I wished he was a Kentucky Senator because of his interest in the local level. He was a great person and a great fiddle player; I had the opportunity to hear him play. But, when it came to government he didn’t fiddle around. He did whatever he could to get money back to the people of West Virginia who so desperately needed it.”