Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Harry F. Byrd Jr. Dec. 20, 1914 - July 30, 2013 Va. Senator Pushed Old South Mindset

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Harry F. Byrd Jr. Dec. 20, 1914 - July 30, 2013 Va. Senator Pushed Old South Mindset

Article excerpt

Harry F. Byrd Jr., a scion of Virginia's most potent political dynasty who succeeded his father both as a U.S. senator and as a defender of old-time fiscal conservatism and the last vestiges of state-enforced racial segregation in Virginia, died Tuesday at his home in Winchester, Va. He was 98.

Wynnona Kirk, an assistant to Mr. Byrd, confirmed his death but did not cite a specific cause.

Courtly and dignified, Harry Byrd had the appearance and manners of a Southern gentleman and a pedigree to match. His family had lived in Virginia since the 17th century and had achieved remarkable successes in business and politics.

The Byrds came to dominate state affairs with a Democratic machine that largely controlled political appointments and held a seemingly unshakable hold on the Virginia electorate.

The organization's political philosophy was embodied in part by the anti-debt, "pay-as-you-go" fiscal policy that brought Harry Byrd Sr. to prominence in Virginia in the 1920s and remained a dominant force in state politics until the 1980s.

But the Byrds also embraced the tenacious injustice of state- enforced segregation. During Harry Jr.'s time as a state senator, the Byrd machine, under the banner of states' rights, orchestrated Virginia's "massive resistance" to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling that outlawed segregated public education.

Harry Byrd Jr. spent 17 years in the Virginia Senate before Democratic Gov. Albertis S. Harrison Jr. appointed him to the U.S. Senate in 1965, when his father resigned for health reasons; the elder Byrd died the next year. Mr. Byrd won a special election in 1966 to fill the four years remaining in the term.

In 1970, Mr. Byrd joined the long train of conservative Southern Democrats who broke with the party in the second half of the 20th century. He abandoned his father's party but not his father's principles and successfully ran for re-election as an independent. …

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