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Byrd Burial Service Tuesday at Arlington Cemetery; Flags to Full Staff

By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSAZ) -- The following is a proclamation signed by the President Wednesday regarding the passing of Senator Robert C. Byrd, President Pro Tempore of the Senate:

As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding service of Senator Robert C. Byrd, President pro tempore of the Senate, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on the day of his interment. I further direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

I also direct, that in honor and tribute to this great patriot, that the flag of the United States shall be displayed at full-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and Naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions on Independence Day, July 4, 2010. I further direct that on that same date, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at full-staff at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
thirtieth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Through entering an Executive Order, Gov. Joe Manchin has proclaimed this Friday, July 2, will be celebrated as a special day of observance in honor of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd and will give state employees the official day off. 

The governor truly hopes that this day off will allow state employees an opportunity to join him in honoring and celebrating the life of the state’s senior senator.

West Virginians are invited to honor and celebrate the distinguished life of Sen. Byrd, with a public procession through Charleston, starting Thursday evening, July 1. Sen. Byrd will lie in repose at the state Capitol’s Lower Rotunda, from 9 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday, where the public is invited to pay their respects. A public, formal memorial service will also take place 11:30 a.m. Friday, July 2 at the state Capitol’s North Plaza

“This will be a beautiful service for a wonderful public servant,” said Manchin. “I invite all West Virginians to join us during this special day of remembrance and to celebrate the many accomplishments of this outstanding West Virginian.” 

This Executive Order only applies to state government employees. County employees also may take time off if the county commission elects to designate the day or part thereof as time off.

More details about the public procession and the public memorial service will be announced Wednesday.

UPDATE 7/6/10 @1:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ)-- Gov. Joe Manchin has ordered all United States and state flags that have flown at half staff to remain lowered through sunset Tuesday, the date of interment for U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Both flags are to be raised to full-staff at sunset.

The governor ordered all U.S. and state flags displayed at state facilities lowered on June 28, to commemorate the distinguished life and service of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Also last week, the governor ordered the exterior lighting to be turned out in memory of our state’s senior senator.

The exterior lighting around the state Capitol dome will be turned back on today.



UPDATE 7/6/10 @10:54 a.m.
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) -- Family, friends and employees are saying farewell to Sen. Robert C. Byrd at his funeral.

His casket was carried into Memorial Baptist Church early Tuesday by a military honor guard, and a line formed for the late morning service in this Washington-area suburb.

Byrd is to be buried later in the day at an Arlington cemetery, next to his late wife Erma.

Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat who served half a century in the U.S. Senate, died June 28 at the age of 92 at a hospital in Fairfax, Va.

His body lay in repose on the Senate floor in Washington last week. Thousands in West Virginia also paid their respects at a public viewing in Charleston, where President Barack Obama attended a memorial service.



UPDATE 7/6/10 @ 7:50 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A private burial is planned for the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd at a suburban Washington cemetery.

Byrd is to be buried Tuesday in Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Va., his grave next to that of his late wife Erma. The burial is the final moment of farewell for the elder West Virginia statesman who served half a century in the U.S. Senate.

Byrd died June 28 at the age of 92 at a hospital in Fairfax, Va.

His body lay in repose on the Senate floor in Washington last week and thousands in West Virginia also paid their respects at a public viewing in Charleston, where President Barack Obama attended a memorial service.



UPDATE 7/2/10 @ 2:10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Thousands gathered at the West Virginia State Capitol on Friday to celebrate the life of U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.

Members of Senator Byrd's family were joined by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, 42nd President Bill Clinton, dozens of state and U.S. Senators, as well as members of Congress on the steps of the state capitol.

Governor Joe Manchin welcomed everyone to the service on Friday by calling it a historic state memorial service.

"Senator Byrd is a pillar in our nation's history," Governor Manchin said. "He will be remembered for his tireless contributions to West Virginia and to the United States of America."

"No one can replace our Senator," Manchin said. "No one can fill his shoes. And we should never forget his tireless efforts as we humbly follow in his foot steps."

Several of Byrd's closest colleagues and friends also spoke about his dedication to West Virginia and public service, including President Obama and 42nd President Bill Clinton.

President Barack Obama told the crowd that America shared their loss. Obama said Byrd was a Senate icon, national leader, and "my friend."

He also talked about the Senator's bond with the people of West Virginia and the many milestones he reached as a political leader.

"His heart belonged to you (West Virginia)," President Obama said. "Giving you hope, he said was his greatest achievement."

President Clinton told the crowd he was grateful to Byrd for so many things, including his work to get him elected as President.

"He put the (Constitution) before anything he wanted. He was a self-made man," President Clinton said. "I admired Senator Byrd. I loved our arguments and our common causes, but most of all I loved how he believed America was more important than any individual."

"The Senate was Robert C. Byrd's Cathedral and West Virginia was his Heaven," Vice President Joe Biden said.

The wife of the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy took time to talk about the close friendship of her husband and Senator Byrd. She said the two stood for the Constitution and dignity of the Senate.

Vicki Kennedy even joked and referred to the Senator as a "rock star."

"He was a giant in the history of the Senate and a giant in the state of the West Virginia," Vicki Kennedy said. "Someone will take Robert Byrd's seat, but no one will ever fill his place," Kennedy said.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller got emotional when he talked about Senator Byrd's legacy on the floor of the Senate and losing his long time friend.

"Working together with Robert C. Byrd was my greatest honor," Senator Rockefeller said. "I spent decades working in partnership with him. He made me - and all of us - so very proud to be West Virginians."

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, called Senator Byrd "a great American Patriot."

Historians have noted the love the late Senator Robert C. Byrd had of music.

The fiddle weaved seamlessly with patriotic music during his memorial service at the Capitol grounds in Charleston.

"Senator Byrd loved the fiddle," Hinton native Mark Hannah said. "I remember him playing on the front porch of my parents home back in 1965. He was trying to court me to take an appointment to West Point. I politely declined and told him I was going to WVU. "

Byrd's known for carrying his Bible and a copy of the US Constitution.

"Amazing Grace" which has become a universal anthem for Christianity was played during Friday's service. A service which ended with what has become a universal anthem for West Virginia, "Country Roads."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the crowd he will always carry a copy of the Constitution in his pocket as a constant reminder of Byrd's commitment of fulfilling the Constitution.

Friday's crowd also had a rare opportunity to see Byrd's family during the service. The senator's great-granddaughters, Emma James Clarkson and Kathryn James Fatemi laid a wreath at the senator's casket.

Congressman Nick Rahall and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also spoke during Friday's service.

Byrd died Monday at age 92 in a Washington, D.C. hospital.

Senator Byrd is the longest serving member of the U.S. Senate, and got his start in politics in 1947 when he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. He went on to never lose an election.

More than 50 projects across West Virginia bare his name and his beloved wife, according to the Governor.

Byrd's body will now be returned to Virginia, where he will be buried on Tuesday beside his wife Erma, who died in 2006.



UPDATE 7/2/10 @ 11:15 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Everyone is in place at the West Virginia State Capitol for the Memorial Service of Senator Robert C. Byrd.

The service is set to get underway at 11:30 a.m. Friday on the North Plaza of the State Capitol.

Five tour buses arrived at the capitol around 10:00 a.m. to drop off the dignitaries on the local, state and national front. The presidential fleet arrived at Yeager Airport early Friday morning.

Four planes arrived at the airport carrying members of the U.S. Senate and Congress.

Hundreds are expected to pay tribute to the longest serving senator in U.S. history.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to speak during the service along with several other high level guests. Those quests include, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sources also tell WSAZ.com President Bill Clinton is expected to attend Fridays service.

The service is open to the public. The gates opened at 10:00 a.m., but seating is on a first come, first serve basis.

For security reasons, the public is asked not to bring bags and limit personal items. No signs or banners are permitted, but cameras are allowed.

KRT is offering free shuttles to get around Charleston before and after the service. The buses will pick people up at the Federal Courthouse on Truslow Street, Clendenin Street at the Charleston Town Center Mall and the Laidley Street Transit Mall and drop you off at the State Capitol.

The buses are expected to run about every 20 minutes.

Byrd's body lay in repose for six hours in the U.S. Senate chamber before he was returned to West Virginia on Thursday.

Byrd died Monday at age 92 after serving longer than any other senator in history.

Starting at 11:30 a.m., you can watch the Memorial Service live on myZ and WSAZ.com.



UPDATE 7/2/10 @ 6 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Hundreds of people from all over West Virginia have stopped by the State Capitol to pay their respects to Senator Robert C. Byrd.

After a public procession through downtown Charleston Thursday, Senator Byrd's body was taken to the Rotunda where it is now lying in repose.

A security guard at the State Capitol tells WSAZ.com the line was formed from the Rotunda to the Cultural Center parking lot for more than four hours Thursday night. Around 1:30 a.m. the crowd started to taper off, but we're told there was a constant stream of people.

Several people have also brought letters, hats, flowers and other things to leave for the family of Senator Byrd.

"We kind of grew up with an appreciation for him and it just grew more and more as my life went on," Kaleb Glandon. "I think he was one of the greatest people that West Virginia ever produced."

There are eleven guest books for visitors to sign outside the Rotunda and a security guard tells WSAZ.com all of them were replaced around 1:30 a.m. Friday. People from all over West Virginia have signed the books, but people from places like Ohio and Illinois have also come to Charleston to pay their respects.

As of 5:30 a.m., there was not a long line to get in to the Rotunda, but a steady flow of people. The public viewing will continue until 9:00 a.m. Friday.

The memorial service is expected to start at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the North Plaza of the West Virgina State Capitol.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to be at the service along with several other high level guests. Those quests include, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sources also tell WSAZ.com President Bill Clinton is also expected to attend Fridays service.

The service is open to the public, but seating is on a first come, first serve basis. For security reasons, the public is asked not to bring bags and limit personal items. No signs or banners are permitted, but cameras are allowed.

The doors will open for the service at 10:00 a.m. Friday.

KRT is offering free shuttles to get around Charleston before and after the service. The buses will pick people up at the Federal Courthouse on Truslow Street, Clendenin Street at the Charleston Town Center Mall and the Laidley Street Transit Mall and drop you off at the State Capitol.

The buses are expected to run about every 20 minutes.

Byrd's body lay in repose for six hours in the U.S. Senate chamber before he was returned to West Virginia on Thursday.

Byrd died Monday at age 92 after serving longer than any other senator in history.

You can watch the Memorial Service live on myZ and WSAZ.com.



UPDATE 7/1/10 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Following a public procession, Senator Byrd's body is now lying in repose in the Rotunda at the West Virginia State Capitol for a public viewing.

Once the Senator's body arrived at the Capitol a short ceremony was held. The Governor and other dignitaries spoke about the Senator before the honor guard laid his body in the Rotunda.

The Senator's body will remain in the Rotunda throughout the night and the public will be able to attend for a public viewing.

At 11:30 a.m. an official service will be held to honor the Senator. You can catch that service live on MyZ and right here on WSAZ.com.



UPDATE 7/1/10 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The public procession to deliver Sen. Byrd's body to the Capitol building started shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Senator's casket was adorned with the W.Va. state flag while being transported in a horse-drawn hearse covered in flowers.

Governor Joe Manchin, First Lady Gayle Manchin, other dignitaries and many people paying their respects followed behind the Senator's body as it traveled up Virginia Street.

The Senator's body will lay in repose in the Rotunda at the Capitol for a public viewing throughout the night.



UPDATE 7/1/10 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The body of Senator Robert C. Byrd arrived at Yeager Airport in Charleston about 6 p.m. Thursday.

His body was transported in an Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft, and his body was removed by the honor guard and placed in the hearse.

A public procession will follow as his body is transported to the state capitol.

For a complete schedule of the memorial events click here.



UPDATE 7/1/10 @ 10:00 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) - For 51 years, the Senate chamber echoed with impassioned speeches from Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Now the nation's longest-serving senator is making his final visit.

Byrd’s body arrived at the U.S. Capitol Thursday morning. The body will lie in repose in the Senate chamber until 4 p.m.



UPDATE 6/30/10 @ 7:15 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Members of the local Air National Guard unit are bringing Sen. Robert C. Byrd home, according to a release from the West Virginia National Guard.

A C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying the body of the state’s senior senator will land at Yeager Airport at about 6 p.m. Thursday. The aircraft will taxi to the Air National Guard ramp where the senator’s remains will be transferred to a hearse for transport to a memorial procession that will begin at the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse at 300 Virginia Street East, follow the length of the Kanawha Boulevard and end at the State Capitol.

Byrd was instrumental in securing funding to bring new C-130s to the West Virginia Air National Guard in 1995. Ten years later he challenged the Pentagon when military officials wanted to move the 130th Airlift Wing’s C-130 fleet to Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina. Byrd took the fight to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, reminding commissioners of the unit’s outstanding reputation and service record and convincing them that Pentagon data supporting the base’s closure was flawed.

“There is no doubt in my mind that without Senator Byrd’s leadership, we would have lost our C-130s,” Adjutant General Allen Tackett said. “I think it’s very fitting that we are going to be bringing him home to West Virginia for the last time on the same airplanes that he fought so hard to secure in 1995 and to save in 2005.”

Tackett added that Byrd was also responsible for many new projects in the state, securing more than $786 million to fund revitalization or replacement of aging National Guard facilities.

“With Senator Byrd’s passing, the West Virginia National Guard has lost its best friend, and we’re so honored that we can bring him home and show his family how much he meant to our organization and our state,” Tackett said.



UPDATE 6/30/10 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Preparations are underway to welcome Sen. Robert Byrd home one final time.

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other dignitaries are all planning to attend a memorial service in Charleston on Friday, but the Governor’s office says they hope West Virginians will also come out to say goodbye.

There are three opportunities for people to pay their respects.

The first will be a public procession at 7 p.m. Thursday. The procession will begin at the Federal Courthouse along Virginia Street in Charleston, then move onto Laidley Street, Kanawha Boulevard and end in front of the Capitol for a ceremony. The public can join in the procession and walk behind Byrd into the Capitol.

Then, Senator Byrd will lie in repose in the Capitol’s lower rotunda starting at 9 p.m. Thursday. People can come by throughout the night until 9 a.m. Friday.

The final tribute will be on Friday when a memorial is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. The President, Vice President, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and several others are expected to be at the ceremony. The ceremony is open to the public and will take place on the back side of the Capitol.

“From that moment on, when he's in West Virginia,” Gov. Joe Manchin says, “we want to make sure that he's proud of what we're able to do for him.”

Getting around Charleston may be an issue during the memorial tributes so KRT is offering free shuttles on Thursday and Friday.

On Friday, the shuttles start at 9 a.m. and will run every 20 minutes. It will pick people up from the federal courthouse on the Truslow Street side, the Town Center Mall at Clendenin Street and the Laidley Street Transit Mall. The shuttle will drop people off at the Capitol complex.

If you choose to walk in the processional on Thursday, the shuttle will pick people up at the capitol and drop people off at each of these locations.



UPDATE 6/29/10 @ 9:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will attend a memorial service for the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd at the state Capitol.

The memorial service is set for 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Capitol's North Plaza in Charleston.

Gov. Joe Manchin is giving state government employees the day off Friday. He's declared it a day of observance in Byrd's honor.

The president and vice president also attended an April 25 memorial service in Beckley for the 29 miners killed at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine.

A Byrd spokesman says the late senator's casket is scheduled to arrive at Charleston's Yeager Airport shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday. The casket will be placed in a hearse for transport to the federal courthouse, followed by a public procession to the state Capitol.

Byrd's body will lie in repose at the Capitol's Lower Rotunda. The public can view the casket from 9 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday.

Burial is set for Tuesday near his wife, Erma, in Arlington, Va.



UPDATE 6/29/10 @ 7:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will attend a memorial service for the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd at the state Capitol.

The White House made the announcement Tuesday. The memorial service is set for 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Capitol's North Plaza in Charleston.

A Byrd spokesman says the late senator's casket is scheduled to arrive at Charleston's Yeager Airport shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday. The casket will be placed in a hearse for transport to the federal courthouse, followed by a public procession to the state Capitol.

Byrd's body will lie in repose at the Capitol's Lower Rotunda. The public can view the casket from 9 p.m. Thursday to 9 a.m. Friday.

Burial is set for Tuesday near his wife, Erma, in Arlington, Va.



UPDATE 6/29/10 @ 7 p.m.
WASHINGTON (WSAZ) -- President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will attend the memorial service Friday morning in Charleston for the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, according to a release from the White House Press Secretary's Office.

Byrd's body will lie in repose inside the U.S. Senate chamber on Thursday before being flown to West Virginia for a public funeral on Friday.

More information will be available in the next few days.



UPDATE 6/29/10@ 6:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Many people say there will never be another senator like Senator Robert C. Byrd, but there still has to be someone to take his spot.

Gov. Joe Manchin will name Byrd’s replacement and he says he won’t appoint himself. Now, in political circles, the names of replacement possibilities are starting to fly.

It may sound crass to discuss Byrd’s replacement a day after he died, but Democratic leaders are pressuring Manchin to make a decision quickly. The Democratic vote is crucial in Washington now for several votes that are scheduled soon.

“You cannot fill Senator Byrd's shoes, nor will there ever be another Senator Byrd,” Manchin says. “We just hope that as West Virginians we can follow in his footsteps.”

Manchin is not naming names and says he’ll work on finding the replacement starting next Wednesday.

“I have a lot of quality peoples names that have been given to me, a lot of people who have shown interest,” Manchin says. “Which I am so grateful for, these are some challenging times in the United States, challenging times in West Virginia that affect our state and basically affect every American. We want to look at the whole thing.”

Several political sources tell WSAZ.com a frontrunner is Nick Casey. Casey is an attorney and former chairman of the state’s Democratic party. Casey is up for a federal judgeship but he’s still considered one of Manchin’s top choices. Casey did not return our call for comment.

First Lady Gayle Manchin has been mentioned as another possible replacement, as well as Anne Barth, Byrd’s longtime aide.

Larry Puccio’s name also has been mentioned. He’s the Governor’s former chief of staff and the new chair of the Democratic party in West Virginia. Puccio says the Governor hasn’t said anything to him about Byrd’s replacement.

“I really enjoy what I do,” Puccio says. “I’m spending time in the private sector and now I’ve just accepted this challenge of being the chairman of the Democratic party. We'll set back and let the Governor do his work.”

Former Governor Bob Wise is also another name being thrown around. He had no comment, saying now is the time to mourn and honor Senator Byrd.

Byrd’s replacement will hold the seat until 2012.

Most people say it’s certain Manchin will run for Senate in 2012 when his term as Governor ends.



UPDATE @ 6/29/10 @ 1:00 p.m..
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Family, friends and constituents will have the opportunity to celebrate the life of Senator Robert C. Byrd later this week at services in Washington, D.C. and Charleston, W.Va.

Thursday, the body of Senator Byrd will lie in repose in the U.S. Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C., where he served for more than half a century. Governor Joe Manchin is expected to be in Washington, DC for the services.

Then, his body will be flown to Charleston for special services for his constituents to pay their respects.

West Virginians are invited to honor and celebrate the distinguished life of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, with a public procession through Charleston, starting Thursday evening, July 1, according to the news release. No time was immediately available.

Then, his body will lie in repose in the lower Rotunda at the W.Va. State Capitol from 9:00 p.m. Thursday to 9:00 a.m. Friday. According to a news release, the public is invited to pay their respects.

A formal memorial service will take place at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the state Capitol's North Plaza. Governor Joe Manchin's office tells WSAZ.com that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi are expected to attend the service.

Byrd died early Monday morning at the age of 92.

WSAZ will have complete coverage of the services. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.



UPDATE @ 6/29/10 @ 10:20 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The body of West Virginia Democrat Robert C. Byrd will lie Thursday in repose in the Senate chamber, where he served for more than half a century.

Byrd, who died early Monday at 92, was fond of saying that he loved the institution more than its members. He was the unquestioned expert on the Senate's bewildering rules and traditions, and he was the longest-serving member of Congress in history. He was third in the line of presidential succession, behind Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Law enforcement officials and a knowledgeable Senate aide said Byrd's casket will lie in repose in the Senate chamber, rather than the Capitol Rotunda.



UPDATE 6/28/10 @ 6:45 p.m.
RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There is sadness throughout West Virginia with Sen. Robert Byrd’s passing, but none deeper than in his hometown. Those in and around Sophia, in Raleigh County, say the Senator never forgot where he came from and, in return, they will never forget him.

A picture of a young Byrd in 1928 in his Sunday best still stands in his old church in Stotesbury. The town was once a thriving coal camp but now only a few homes remain.

"His family raised pigs and the neighbors, saved scraps for him and he'd go around and collect the scraps," Haley Bonds says.

Bonds cooked lunch for Byrd and his wife Erma during a visit back in the 1980s, and they went to the old church.

"When we started back to my house, he told the driver of the van, 'Me and Erma are going to walk back down the railroad tracks because that's where we courted,' " Bonds recalls.

The Senator is a source of pride for this community.

"We always tell everyone that this is the home of Robert Byrd," Tom Cox says. “He's one of our favorite sons.”

In nearby Sophia, wreaths and black ribbons have been put up throughout the town.

"He's been such an icon to our little county," Gary Basham says.

Senator Byrd once owned a grocery store in Sophia and lived upstairs in a small apartment.

"It’s like he was part of the family for each family in West Virginia," Terry Saunders of Crab Orchard says. "He was so close to everyone."

The signs of how he impacted the community are everywhere. Robert Byrd Drive runs through the town, and Mayor Danny Barr says federal funding helped relieve flooding problems in Sophia.

The town is planning a memorial service in Sophia to honor Byrd. The details are still being worked out, but it will likely be later this week.

CLICK HERE for WSAZ.com's special "Remembering Senator Robert Byrd" section with photos and archive video.



UPDATE 6/28/10 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Secretary of State Natalie Tennant says there won't be a special election this year to fill the seat vacated by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Tennant says based on a review of state law and a 1994 state Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Joe Manchin's appointee won't have to face election until 2012.

At that time, there will be two races for U.S. Senate. One will be for Byrd's unexpired term. The second would be for a full six-year term.

Tennant says the situation is unique, but state law requires appointees to file for the office and then stand for election in a primary election.

West Virginia's primary was in May and the next is not until May 2012.



UPDATE 6/28/10 @ 10 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Gov. Joe Manchin says he will not appoint himself to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created by the death of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Manchin told The Associated Press there is no timetable for him to consider a replacement for Congress' longest-serving member.

Manchin says his decision will be an important one because of the effects climate change and mining debates in Congress and at the federal level will have on the state.

The governor says his first priority is to honor Byrd's family's wishes regarding a memorial for the 92-year-old Democrat. Byrd died early Monday at a Virginia hospital.

CLICK HERE for WSAZ.com's special "Remembering Senator Robert Byrd" section with photos and archive video.



UPDATE 6/28 @ 5:30 a.m.
Washington, DC (WSAZ) -- U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., has died at the age of 92.

His office released a statement at 5:12 a.m. Monday.

"I am saddened that the family of Senator Byrd, D-W.Va., tearfully announces the passing of the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history," Jesse Jacobs said.

According to a news release, Byrd died at approximately 3:00 a.m. at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Byrd was admitted to the hospital late last week for what appeared to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration.

On Sunday, doctors described him as "seriously ill," according to his office.

In the last two years, Senator Byrd has been in and out of the hospital with various medical conditions, but was still very active on Capitol Hill.

Byrd was elected to the Senate in 1958, after spending six years in the House.

He broke several records during his term in the Senate, including becoming the first Senator to cast 18,000 roll call votes.

He's also the only Senator to win nine consecutive terms.

He was the Senate majority leader for six years during the late 1970s and 1980s and was third in the line of succession for the presidency.

As either chairman or the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee for 20 years, he steered billions of dollars in federal spending to West Virginia.

"He was the people's Senator," Assistant Senate Clerk Rick Winnell said. "He was a true defender of the Constitution, he was a true defender of the rules of the U.S. Senate and he did both very well."

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 6/27/10 @ 1:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSAZ) -- Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the longest serving member of Congress in history, has been admitted to an unnamed Washington, D.C. hospital. Doctors have described him as "seriously ill," according to his office.

Byrd, D-W.Va., was admitted to the hospital late last week after suffering from what appeared to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration after recent high temperatures in D.C. According to a spokesperson for Byrd, he was not expected to be in the hospital for more than a few days.

Now, other serious conditions have developed and doctors have described Byrd's condition as "serious," according to his office.

In May 2009, Byrd was admitted to the hospital for a staph infection and had to stay for 46 days. In September 2009, doctors found another infection after he fell at his home. He stayed in the hospital two days that trip.

In November, Byrd broke the record for congressional service. He began his career in Washington in 1952 with his election to the House. His elevation to the Senate came six years later.

Byrd is 92-years-old.

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