The Winchester Star reports that former Sen. Harry F. Byrd, Jr. has died. He was 98.
He was senator from 1965 until 1983.
The Star has an obituary here.
UPDATE: Gov. Bob McDonnell has ordered state flags to half-staff on Friday and Saturday in memory of the late senator. The governor’s release also notes that Byrd was the nation’s oldest living ex-senator.
Here’s reaction as it comes in:
* From Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.:
“Anne and I join all Virginians in mourning the passing of Harry Byrd Jr. Few families have dedicated as much to our Commonwealth as the Byrds. Harry carried on that tradition as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy during World War II and an elected representative in both the Virginia legislature and the U.S. Senate. One of the highlights of my time as governor was hosting Harry and his adult grandchildren at the mansion where he told stories from his boyhood. His civil manner and commitment to public service will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this time.”
* From Gov. Bob McDonnell:
“This morning, Harry F. Byrd, Jr., America’s oldest living former senator, passed away at his home in Winchester. This is a sad day in the Commonwealth. A chapter of our history has concluded; we’ve lost a good and decent person and a dedicated public servant.
Senator Byrd was a son of the Valley. He was born in Winchester. While he would go on to attend school at VMI and UVa, serve our nation in World War II, represent the area in the State Senate, and then serve three terms in Washington as a United States Senator, it was always true that in spirit and in soul, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. never left the Valley that he loved.
Senator Byrd was an iconic figure in Virginia history. He lived through a century of immense change, both here at home and abroad, and he never sat on the sidelines. From his time in public office to his long career in journalism, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. was at the center of the great debates and policy discussions that marked our nation’s path forward. He made his mark as a strong fiscal conservative, always committed to ensuring that taxpayer dollars be wisely and conservatively utilized.
I had the great opportunity to visit with the senator several times over the past few years at his home. His mind was sharp, and he was quick with stories from growing up in Virginia’s Executive Mansion in the 1920’s to his experiences as the first person ever elected and re-elected to the United States Senate as an independent. The senator was rightly known for his civility, candor and wit, and those attributes remained with him until the very end. As governor, there were a number of times I would receive a carefully handwritten letter from the senator, well into his 90’s, letting me know how he felt about legislation and policy discussions in Richmond. He lived to participate in the public discourse and he cherished democracy and civic engagement. That was the common thread that ran from his time in public office to his editorials and columns in The Winchester Star and The Harrisonburg Daily News-Record.
Virginia will mourn the passing of Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr.”
* From Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County:
“Virginia lost a devoted public servant today. Senator Byrd lived a remarkable life, dedicated to serving his country and his fellow Virginians. I was fortunate to visit with Senator Byrd at his home just a few months ago. He still took a keen interest in public policy and politics. His mind was sharp and his advice solid, even at the age of 98. I will long remember this visit, just as Senator Byrd’s legacy will long be remembered in the Shenandoah Valley and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Maryellen and I extend our condolences and prayers to the Byrd family.”
* From former Sen. George Allen, R-Va.:
Virginia and America mourn the passing of one of the most influential, respected and principled leaders of the 20th Century, Harry F. Byrd, Jr.
“I will always remember his distinctive laugh and remarkably sharp perspectives throughout his long, meaningful life. The lasting legacy of Senator Byrd is his consistent, sound and unflinching leadership in working to achieve the ideal of a wise and frugal government. Senator Byrd was an independent, cheerful and amazingly insightful friend. I shall treasure his encouragement and counsel through the ups and downs of public service. Indeed, we emulated Senator Byrd’s example by returning unused Senate office funds every year.
“Above all, Harry Byrd, Jr. was a gentleman of impeccable integrity in all aspects of his life.
“Susan’s and my thoughts and prayers are with his children Harry III, Tom and Beverly, and the whole Byrd family, including grandson John who worked with me in the U.S. Senate. They are a wonderful, honorable family.”