Robert Byrd: The Senate's memory keeper





A student of history, Robert Byrd became a chapter onto himself: a half-century in the Senate and remarkable life that was its own Pilgrim’s Progress from Wolf Creek Hollow through American politics....

“He was very much a man of the Senate,” recalls former Republican leader Howard Baker of Tennessee. Sam Nunn, the former Democratic senator from Georgia, still finds himself reciting Byrd lines — the Senate as the “anchor of the republic” — or hearing his old teacher say “senator” aloud.

And teaching was part of what Byrd was.

“While the rest of us were out playing golf or doing whatever, he was devoted to a life of learning,” Nunn told POLITICO. “He really was an educator of what the Founding Fathers meant the Senate to be. He didn’t cotton to people abusing those powers. But he put the Senate as an institution far above party.”...

Byrd had a remarkable memory: He could famously recite the English monarchy in order and by year — “I remember when they died,” he once said. Excerpts from Milton and Shelley laced his speeches. Hannibal’s battles inevitably found their way into Appropriations Committee markups. And even as his mind faded, numbers could trigger biblical references: Seven years of the Iraq war set him off on the seven years of Jacob working for his uncle Laban in Genesis....



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