Click here to see a timeline, videos and more on Robert C. Byrd. |
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The crowd that gathered Friday at the state Capitol to celebrate the life of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., was filled with dozens of U.S. senators, members of Congress, former governors, state officials and long-time members of his staff.
"This was a fitting celebration for the end of an era," said Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin. "I think that Senator Byrd would have been very proud."
U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers said, "Senator Byrd will be so missed. He meant so much to West Virginia and to the country. This was a beautiful celebration of his life, and he will be long remembered."
Former Gov. Gaston Caperton, now president of the College Board, based in New York City, said he will always remember the reverence with which Byrd's life and traditions were celebrated in Charleston.
"It was an honor to walk behind the horse-drawn hearse on Thursday evening," Caperton said, "seeing so many people lining the roads in Charleston, holding up old campaign posters for the late senator.
"No one else in America could have brought together the leadership that came here today," Caperton said, referring to guests that included President Obama; Vice President Biden; former President Bill Clinton; Senate President Harry Reed, D-Nev.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
The crowd included more than 35 of Byrd's colleagues from the U.S. Senate.
"This was something that was never done before and will never be done again -- an event in total appreciation for this man," Caperton said.
Anne Barth, Byrd's longtime state director, said, "This was a beautiful ceremony. He would have loved it. It really showed the effect he had on people around him.
"We were always inspired to do our best because we wanted to do our best for him. And he always said, 'If you never forget the people of West Virginia, they will never forget you.'"
State Senate Majority Leader Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, called the ceremonies "an appropriate tribute to a great leader in West Virginia."
Walter J. Stewart, who served as secretary of the U.S. Senate and was later a lawyer for the Senate Appropriations Committee, said, "In this world of plasticized politicians, Byrd stands out as an icon of what one would like to see in public service.
"This was a beautiful and very fitting ceremony today. It hit the right chords. His three loves were his country, his state and the Senate. He spent his entire life serving them.