Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a fiery orator versed in the classics and a hard-charging power broker who steered billions of federal dollars to the state of his Depression-era upbringing, died Monday. He was 92.
A spokesman for the family, Jesse Jacobs, said Byrd died peacefully at about 3 a.m. at Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. His health had been failing for several years.
Byrd, a Democrat, was the longest-serving US senator in history, holding his seat for more than 50 years. He was the Senate's majority leader for six of those years and was third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In comportment and style, Byrd often seemed a Senate throwback to a courtlier 19th century. He could recite poetry, quote the Bible, discuss the Constitutional Convention and detail the Peloponnesian Wars — and frequently did in Senate debates.
Yet there was nothing particularly courtly about Byrd's pursuit or exercise of power.
Byrd was a master of the Senate's bewildering rules and longtime chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls a third of the $3 trillion federal budget. He was willing to use both to reward friends and punish those he viewed as having slighted him.