The present day image of Senator Robert Byrd as the born again Christian, kindly old grandfather shedding tears for his friend Ted Kennedy is not the image that comes to my mind when remembering him at his passing today. For much of my life, Senator Robert Byrd was a segregationist who stood along side the likes Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay and George Wallace, to name a few.
He is said to have repented his racist feelings, apologizing over and over. Well, apology accepted. However while all may be forgiven, It will never be forgotten.
Robert Byrd in his own words:
“I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side ... Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” -Klansman and not yet Congressman Byrd-quote taken from letter written to another segregationist Congressman about Truman attempting to desegregate the armed forces..
“The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia and in every state in the nation.” -1947 letter to the Grand Wizard KKK
Byrd claims to have renounced the Klan in 1952 when he became a Congressman, however his racist views continued well in the 1960's when he helped filibuster the 1964 Civil Rights Act arguing that the Declaration of Independence..
“did not intend that these words should be taken literally to be true” when they wrote that “all men are created equal.” “Men and races of men differ in appearance, ways, physical power, mental capacity, creativity, and vision,” Byrd said. “One man is born blind. Another is born lame. Geniuses are not made; they are born. Between two individuals, as between two races, there are broad differences.”
Byrd went after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, attempting to cajole the FBI into a more aggressive investigation of the civil rights leader. The FBI declined..
As late as 2001 Byrd was caught up in trying to express his feelings, when he was interviewed by the late Tony Snow and asked about race relations in America....Byrd said:
"They're much, much better than they've ever been in my lifetime ... I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us ... I just think we talk so much about it that we help to create somewhat of an illusion. I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, 'Robert, you can't go to heaven if you hate anybody.' We practice that. There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much."
Rest in Peace, Senator