Sen. Byrd served W. Virginia well

July 17, 2010


It was to be a day of celebration for the people of West Virginia.

More than 60,000 from across the state jammed the new Mountaineer Field on Sept. 6, 1980, for the inaugural football game, in the imposing structure that many thought would help assure long-term national standing and respect. Their dreams were soon realized as West Virginia University turned into a perennial national power in collegiate football and, through television, earned the Mountain state greater understanding and respect.

Even John Denver was there for the event to sing “Country Roads,” thanks to then Gov. Jay Rockefeller who personally paid for him to attend the memorable occasion. But the real star of the day was Sen. Robert Byrd who could not remember ever attending a college football game.

The distinguished senator arrived at the home of the university president 30 minutes early to deliver a succinct and impassioned message:

• All the people of West Virginia want is to be “respected on their merit.”

• Always remember the citizens you serve, and you will be “blessed with the support you need to be successful.”

• “Nothing” is more important than higher education to them.

• They want their children to have opportunities to grow, “a chance to excel” in all walks of life.

• Too many people do not appreciate the appetite for the hard work of West Virginians, whether it is “in the coal mines or on the battlefield for their country.” And,

• “I will be there for you when the interests of the people are at issue.”

And indeed he was. No one did more for the growth and development of WVU than Sen. Byrd, a man whose name is proudly remembered and displayed throughout the campus at Morgantown.

The senator asked me and my wife, Gretchen, to join him for “the ride of our lives” to the new stadium in a state patrol car.

Every few feet the car was stopped by hordes of adoring people who treated him like a family member. They even rocked the car on a number of occasions. He delighted in the attention and remembered countless names and stories about them and their communities.

Gretchen and I feared that we would not be in time for the dedication ceremony, but we arrived with four minutes to spare. The ovation for Sen. Byrd was thunderous while others received polite applause. He stayed until halftime before leaving for Washington and a weekend of study for a controversial Senate debate and vote.

He loved the U.S. Senate but loved the state of West Virginia more. An orphan, he came from the impoverished hollows of his native state and served in the Senate for more than half a century. Robert Byrd was 92 when he died, and he had served in Congress longer than anyone in our nation’s history.

I saw him a year before his passing in Washington, and he asked me if I remembered his words on that fall day in 1980. Not only did I remember, I told him that I had taken notes. He smiled approvingly.

Budig was president of West Virginia University (1977-81) before serving as chancellor of Kansas University. He now a distinguished professor at the College Board in New York City.


Hoots 7 years, 10 months ago

Is this guy serious? Bird was only one of the biggest Bigots to ever land in Congress. He wore that white hood for over half his life and was practically the Grand Poobah of the KKK. The only reason he changed his stripes is he realized being a back woods moron/racist wouldn't get him re-elected. Bird was the lowest of the low and a typical politician. What a nasty, dirty, corrupt little man. DISCUSTING!!!

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

Byrd also did a bang-up job for the KKK.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

Once the KKK went Republican, what choice did Byrd have but to quit?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

What protections are those? And wasn't it the Bush Justice Dept who declined to prosecute?

Re: ObamaCo. The Bushes earned the BushCo moniker because of their decades-long history of using government to massively enrich themselves and their cronies.

Obama has certainly shown no reticence in accepting corporate bribery, but so far his government service/connections haven't personally enriched him. I'm sure eventually he will cash in (after he leaves office, as is typical for most presidents since Nixon,) but he's a very long way from founding anything like an "ObamaCo."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

Yea, they're a nightmare alright, but not as much a nightmare as the one you want to recur under the Repugs.

Richard Payton 7 years, 10 months ago

Great example of why term limits are needed. Will probably never see term limits but I can hope!

ivalueamerica 7 years, 10 months ago

I find it hysterical that it is only the racists on this board that keep harping on his KKK background. They are upset to have lost a member.

He made a mistake, and like a true man, admitted it, apologized and made amends.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

I think you're a racist, Tom, although your self-awareness is so limited that I'm sure it's one of those things you don't know about yourself.

ivalueamerica 7 years, 10 months ago

I think you fit the bill to a T, based on your own words and history on this thread.

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