CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state that U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd represented for more than half a century still feels the effects from his death one year later, while his legacy continues to evolve beyond its borders.
From political upheaval within West Virginia to the debate on Capitol Hill over Afghanistan and the powers of the president, Byrd casts a shadow.
"We remember him for his passionate speeches and his fierce defense of West Virginia," said Anne Barth, a Byrd aide for more than 23 years who was his state director upon his death. "But there's also how he stayed in touch with West Virginians. Any small town we visited, he knew people and he knew them by name."
Barth and other veterans of Byrd's staff have been exchanging anecdotes and lessons as the June 28 anniversary of his death approaches. Former Byrd spokesman Jesse Jacobs said the current climate of discourse in Congress could use a dose of Byrd.
"I can see him sitting at his desk in the Capitol, shaking his head with his white mane of hair moving side to side in disappointment at the way the members of the world's greatest deliberative body talk around, over, about -- anything but to one another to address the problems confronting our country," Jacobs said in an email.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller spoke of Byrd's "special place in our collective history" in advance of the anniversary last week. The fellow West Virginia Democrat was Byrd's Senate colleague for more than 25 years. History's longest-serving member of Congress, Byrd was elected to a record nine six-year terms in the Senate following three, two-year terms in the U.S. House.
Byrd even altered the federal calendar. At his suggestion in 2004, the U.S. celebrates Constitution Day each Sept. 17. While not a federal work holiday, the resulting law requires any school and college receiving federal money to teach about the nation's governing document on or around that date.
West Virginia faces a court-ordered special election for governor Oct. 4 that can be traced to Byrd's death. The election was prompted when now-Sen. Joe Manchin resigned as chief executive after winning last November's special election for Byrd's seat.
The political domino effect triggered by Byrd's death also spilled into the state Legislature. The state Constitution tapped state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin to act as governor upon Manchin's departure, leading to the state's first acting Senate president.
When he wrote the president last week on the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, Manchin invoked, at length, an October 2009 speech by Byrd. Manchin's predecessor had warned that nation-building in that country would come at the cost of both stateside needs and the focus on destroying al-Qaida.
Manchin said Byrd also would have agreed with his Thursday vote targeting White House policymakers who are not subject to Senate confirmation. Manchin bucked most of his party in supporting the unsuccessful amendment.
Surviving Byrd are more than three dozen roads, campus buildings, research centers, business parks and other entities beading his name. These reflect the prowess of Byrd, who died at age 92, of securing federal funds for projects back home.