About Senator Robert C. Byrd
(November 20, 1917 – June 28, 2010) Born in 1917 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Robert Byrd was brought to West Virginia by his aunt after his mother’s death when he was one year old. There, the future Senator grew up in various coalfield communities, graduating as valedictorian of his high school.
Unable to afford college tuition at the time, Byrd worked as a welder, a skill high in demand after the start of World War II. After the war, Byrd returned to West Virginia with a new vision for his home state and country. In 1946, he made his first run for political office, and was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. After two terms, Byrd was elected to the West Virginia Senate; then to the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms; and finally, in 1958, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Senator Byrd represented West Virginia continuously until his death in 2010, becoming the longest-serving senator in the U.S. history
In addition to fulfilling his Senate responsibilities, he earned his law degree (J.D.), cum laude, from American University in Washington, D.C. in 1963. This marked the first time in history a sitting member earned a law degree while serving in Congress. Senator Byrd became a member of the Senate Leadership in 1967, when he was selected by his colleagues to be Secretary of the Democratic Conference. In 1971, he was chosen Senate Democratic Whip. In 1977, his Democratic colleagues elected him Democratic Leader, a position he held for six consecutive terms. Ultimately, Senator Byrd held the most leadership positions in Senate history.
Senator Byrd had a long track record of promoting and defending the US-Turkey relationship and was the driving force behind the creation of the Appalachian-Turkish Trade Project, an initiative to promote mutually beneficial trade and investment programs, and to build a long lasting and mutually meaningful relationship between the 13 Appalachian states and Turkey. Today, the Trade Project is operated as an official program of the U.S. Commercial Service, whose staff in Turkey and the U.S. works with Appalachian-area companies to identify reciprocal investment and business opportunities in key Turkish cities, including Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana.