"I don't think there's another state in the union whose leadership in the last half century has left a more indelible mark on public policy and the United States Senate than the state of West Virginia," he said. "These three great men had a common thread that runs through all of them, an incredible sense of decency and concern, most of all, with the struggles of ordinary people."
Biden recalled that Byrd fundraised for him and helped get him elected for the first time in 1972.
Before he was sworn in, Biden's wife and daughter were killed in a car accident and his two sons were badly injured.
Biden recalled the memorial service for his wife, at a jam-packed Catholic church.
"Bob Byrd stood out in the rain," he said. "They said 'please come in,' he said, 'No, I don't want to take anyone else's place.'
"He was my image of West Virginia," Biden said. "Selfless, seeking no recognition, there for a kid that needed a whole lot of help."
Biden recalled driving from Washington to Morgantown with Randolph, for a dinner and to see the Ms. West Virginia pageant.
"Jennings had the ugliest brown Dodge I ever saw," Biden said. "Up to the corner comes Jennings, beeps the horn and says, 'Let's go.'
"You all had one motivating position in common," Biden said of West Virginia's three legendary senators: "Give everyone an equal shot."
For a fundraising dinner (attendees paid $75 to attend) the evening was mostly, but not entirely, free of political talk.
About 75 people, waving yellow tea party flags, protested outside the Charleston Civic Center. They were joined by Pat McGeehan, who is a heavy underdog running against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in the Republican primary for the Senate seat Rockefeller is vacating.
Daniel Belcher, a mining engineer from Boone County, said they were there because they were "sick and tired of all the policies coming out of Washington."
He mentioned specifically the Affordable Care Act and Second Amendment issues.
Rockefeller took just a moment to boost the Senate candidacy of Tennant, who is running to replace him.
"I'm proud of the work I've done in the Senate, but I don't want that work to be passed on to the wrong person," he said. "Join me in an all-out effort to elect Natalie Tennant."
Reach David Gutman at 304-348-5119 or david.gut...@wvgazette.com