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Former Senator Harry Byrd Jr. dies at 98

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Posted at 12:41 PM, Jul 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-30 12:41:19-04

Former U.S. Senator Harry Byrd Jr. died Tuesday at his home in Winchester.

Byrd, 98, served as Virginia’s U.S. Senator from 1965 to1983. He moved to Washington to replace his father in the U.S. Senate when the elder Byrd resigned due to health reasons.

Prior to becoming a U.S. Senator, Byrd Jr. served in the state senate.

Known as a independent voice in Virginia politics during his nearly 40 years in office, Byrd remained a fixture in his hometown of Winchester.

Governor Bob McDonnel released this statement on Byrd’s passing:

“This morning, Harry F. Byrd, Jr., America’s oldest living former senator, passed away at his home in Winchester. This is a sad day in the Commonwealth. A chapter of our history has concluded; we’ve lost a good and decent person and a dedicated public servant.

Senator Byrd was a son of the Valley. He was born in Winchester. While he would go on to attend school at VMI and UVa, serve our nation in World War II, represent the area in the State Senate, and then serve three terms in Washington as a United States Senator, it was always true that in spirit and in soul, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. never left the Valley that he loved.

Senator Byrd was an iconic figure in Virginia history. He lived through a century of immense change, both here at home and abroad, and he never sat on the sidelines. From his time in public office to his long career in journalism, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. was at the center of the great debates and policy discussions that marked our nation’s path forward. He made his mark as a strong fiscal conservative, always committed to ensuring that taxpayer dollars be wisely and conservatively utilized.

I had the great opportunity to visit with the senator several times over the past few years at his home. His mind was sharp, and he was quick with stories from growing up in Virginia’s Executive Mansion in the 1920’s to his experiences as the first person ever elected and re-elected to the United States Senate as an independent. The senator was rightly known for his civility, candor and wit, and those attributes remained with him until the very end. As governor, there were a number of times I would receive a carefully handwritten letter from the senator, well into his 90’s, letting me know how he felt about legislation and policy discussions in Richmond. He lived to participate in the public discourse and he cherished democracy and civic engagement. That was the common thread that ran from his time in public office to his editorials and columns in The Winchester Star and The Harrisonburg Daily News-Record.

Virginia will mourn the passing of Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr.”