June 27, 2010 / 7:32 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. Senator Byrd, 92, "seriously ill" in hospital

* Veteran Democrat admitted to Washington hospital

* West Virginia senator is 92 years old

* Doctors say Byrd’s condition is “serious” - spokesman (Adds background, spokesman’s comment)

WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, the longest-serving member of Congress, is “seriously ill” and has been hospitalized, a spokesman for the West Virginia lawmaker said on Sunday.

Byrd’s spokesman Jesse Jacobs said the 92-year-old senator was initially admitted to a Washington-area hospital late last week for what doctors thought was a heat-related illness.

“However, upon further examination by his doctors, other conditions have developed which has resulted in his condition being described as ‘serious,’” Jacobs said in a statement.

Byrd was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1952 and served six years there before moving to the Senate.

Until last year, the often-ailing senator was the top Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee. He has also served as the Senate’s Democratic leader and held other key positions.

Byrd was an early and eloquent opponent of the Iraq war that began in 2003 and also warned against a buildup of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

A former member of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group, Byrd later became a champion of civil rights. He has also been a staunch supporter of his home state’s coal industry and more recently has spoken out about environmental and safety issues.

The senator’s health has been failing for years, often forcing him to use a wheelchair. He was hospitalized last September after falling. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

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