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Former Senator Harry Byrd Jr. of Virginia Dies

By: AP
By: AP

Former Va. Sen. Harry Byrd Jr., opponent of racial integration who won as independent, dies at the age 98.

(AP Photo / Henry Griffin, File)

July 30, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Former Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. of Virginia, a conservative Democrat turned independent who followed in his father's footsteps, has died.

Byrd's son, Tom Byrd, is president and publisher of The Winchester Star. Tom Byrd's office confirmed Tuesday that the former senator had died at age 98.

Harry Byrd Jr. was a former publisher of the paper and a former vice president of The Associated Press.

Byrd served 17 years in the U.S. Senate, from 1965 to early 1983. He began as a Democrat but switched to independent to win re-election in 1970 and 1976.

He was first appointed to replace his powerful father, Harry Sr., a senator from 1933 until failing health forced him to retire.

Like his father, Byrd opposed racial integration. He defended Virginia's strategy of "massive resistance" to school desegregation.

He told The Washington Post in 1982 that he had "personally hated" to see schools close, but even those many years later he didn't disavow massive resistance and suggested it helped the state avoid racial violence.

"It is one thing to sit here in 1982 and say what was done in 1954 was a mistake," he said. "It may or may not have been, because you have to look at it in the context of the times. When you have to make a very dramatic change, sometimes, most times, that needs to be done maybe over a period of time and not abruptly."

Byrd often indicated that switching from the Democratic Party to become the Senate's only independent was a philosophical move.


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