November 18, 2009: Senator Robert C. Byrd Longest Serving Member of Congress
On November 18, 2009, Senator Robert C. Byrd became the nation’s longest-serving member of Congress. He was first elected to public office in 1946. After serving two terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates and one in the state senate, he was elected to three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1958, voters sent him to the U.S. Senate, where he would remain from 1959 until his death in 2010 at age 92.
In his early years, Byrd primarily was a conservative. He notably led a filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Over time, he became more liberal and eventually became one of President George W. Bush’s staunchest critics.
He served as the Senate’s Democratic leader for 12 years. And in 1989, he became chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. In this role, Byrd famously brought billions of federal dollars to West Virginia, including an FBI center in Clarksburg, IRS offices in Parkersburg, and a Fish and Wildlife Training Center in Shepherdstown.
For Byrd’s career of service, Governor Bob Wise and the legislature named him West Virginian of the 20th Century.