June 28, 2010 / 12:35 PM / 8 years ago

CORRECTED - FACTBOX-U.S. Senator Robert Byrd's career

(Corrects third paragraph to stay he started in House of Representatives in 1952)

June 28 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, who evolved from a segregationist to a civil rights advocate in becoming the longest serving member ever of the Congress, died on Monday. [ID:nN2814692]

Following are some facts about the West Virginia Democrat.

* Byrd served for 51 years in the U.S. Senate after first being elected in 1958. Before that, he was a member of the House of Representatives for six years, starting in 1952.

* On June 12, 2006, Byrd became the longest-serving U.S. senator. He broke the mark for Senate longevity set by South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, who retired in 2003 at age 100.

* Byrd’s total of 57 years in the House and Senate were a record for congressional service.

* Byrd was the Democratic leader in the Senate from 1977 to 1988 and was the top Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

* He helped direct billions of dollars in federal money to his chronically poor state. This drew scorn from critics, who accused him of wasting money on pet projects, but adulation from constituents for the new roads, bridges and hospitals.

* Over the years, Byrd evolved from being a young member of the Ku Klux Klan, which he later attributed to a mistake of youth, to a white-haired defender of civil rights who won liberal praise.

* Of the thousands of votes Byrd cast, he said his biggest regret was opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a landmark law that brought down barriers to black Americans. He personally filibustered against the measure for 14 hours.

* Byrd was known as a master of parliamentary procedure and used the Senate’s sometimes arcane rules to his advantage. He also was an expert on Senate history and the Constitution.

* Byrd was aligned with the coal industry, a powerful force in his home state, which earned him the ire of environmentalists.

* He was a fierce opponent of the Iraq war. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Byrd was one of several leading Democrats in Congress trying to bring the Iraq war to an end by tying troop withdrawals to war funds. Unlike many of his fellow Democrats, Byrd opposed the 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq from the outset.

* Byrd, who called himself a West Virginia hillbilly, grew up in poverty with relatives who took him in after his mother died. He was a meat cutter during the Great Depression and a welder building ships during World War Two.

Writing by JoAnne Allen and Paul Grant; Editing by Bill Trott and Vicki Allen

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