Senator Robert C. Byrd, who passed away Monday, June 28 at the age of 92, turned away from the unholiest of beginnings to a very long career as one of Congress’s greatest Constitutional champions. As The Nation‘s John Nichols argues, "America’s journey was Byrd’s journey. Indeed, Byrd’s transit of the arc of history provides one of the most redemptive stories of this nation’s progress."
A member of the Ku Klux Klan in his youth and a segregationist when first elected to Congress in 1952, Byrd slowly evolved over the following half-century, repudiating his racist past to eventually endorse Barack Obama in 2008. He had become an outspoken critic of unchecked executive power and, following the invasion of Iraq, declared on the Senate floor in May of 2003, "it appears to this senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of longstanding International law, under false premises."
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