Democratic Senator from West Virginia
Senator Robert Byrd was adopted by his aunt and uncle after the death of his mother Ada Kirby Sale, in the influenza epidemic of 1918 when he was one years old. After graduating as valedictorian of his high school class in the depths of the Great Depression, Byrd worked various odd jobs as he could not afford college tuition. During World War II he worked as a welder building the "Liberty" and "Victory" ships in Baltimore, Maryland, and Tampa, Florida.
After the war he returned home to West Virginia and ran for public office for the first time, being elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1946. After two terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Byrd was elected to the West Virginia Senate; then to the United States House of Representatives for three terms; and finally, in 1958, to the United States Senate, where he has represented West Virginia continuously since. In 2000, West Virginia voters elected Senator Byrd to an eighth consecutive six-year term in the Senate, making him the only person in the history of the Republic to achieve that milestone.
He married Erma Ora James, his high school sweetheart and a coal miner's daughter, and they are the parents of two daughters, Mrs. Mona Byrd Fatemi and Mrs. Marjorie Byrd Moore. Senator and Mrs. Byrd have six grandchildren -- Erik, Darius, and Fredrik Fatemi; Michael (deceased), Mona, and Mary Anne Moore -- and one great-granddaughter, Caroline Byrd Fatemi.
While serving in congress Byrd become the first sitting member of either House of the Congress to complete a law degree while serving in Congress. He graduated cum laude from American University in Washington, D.C., in 1963. He was awarded his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, summa cum laude, by Marshall University in 1994. He has written numerous books on the history of the U.S. Senate as well as one on the Roman Senate.
He has served Secretary of the Democratic Conference, and Senate Democratic Whip.
He was also Democratic Leader for 12 years-- from January 1977 through December 1988 – six years as Senate Majority Leader (1977-80, 1987-88) and six years as Senate Minority Leader. In 1989, Senator Byrd was unanimously elected President pro tempore of the Senate making him third in line for the Presidency. In June 2001, with the shift of majority back to the democrats he regained his position as President pro tempore and chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He also serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Budget Committee, and the Rules and Administration Committee.
His website and contact info is:
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510