Unlike other prominent Senate Democrats such as 2004 presidential
nominee John Kerry of Massachusetts, who voted to authorize the war in
Iraq, Byrd stood firm in opposition — and felt gratified when public
opinion swung behind him.
“The people are becoming more and more aware that we were
hoodwinked, that the leaders of this country misrepresented or
exaggerated the necessity for invading Iraq,” Byrd said.
He cited Iraq when he endorsed then-Sen. Barack Obama for the
Democratic presidential nomination in May 2008, calling Obama “a
shining young statesman, who possesses the personal temperament and
courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly
Byrd’s accomplishments followed a childhood of poverty in West
Virginia, and his success on the national stage came despite a
complicated history on racial matters. As a young man, we was a member
of the Ku Klux Klan for a brief period, and he joined Southern
Democrats in an unsuccessful filibuster against the landmark 1964 Civil
He later apologized for both actions, saying intolerance has no
place in America. While supporting later civil rights bills, he opposed
busing to integrate schools.