"The Arrogance of Power," his book published in 1966, argues America should serve as an example of democracy to the world by the way we run our own society, not by forcefully imposing our "democracy" on others.
If "America is to become an empire, there is very little chance that it can avoid becoming a virtual dictatorship as well," the book warned.
"Greece, Rome, Spain, England, Germany and others lost their preeminence because of a failure to recognize their limitations, or, as I call it, the arrogance of power," Fulbright wrote to President Lyndon B. Johnson that year. "My hope is that this country, presently the greatest and most powerful in the world, may learn by the mistakes of its predecessors."
In 1956, Fulbright and Russell were two of 19 Southern senators who signed "The Southern Manifesto," a harsh criticism of the path breaking 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Brown held that public schools could not be "separate" and "equal."
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Fulbright routinely voted against civil-rights legislation.
Fulbright later said he believed it would have been very difficult for him to win re-election if he openly opposed segregation. If he had, the nation might have lost one of its most powerful and eloquent voices questioning foreign wars.
Robert C. Byrd
Robert C. Byrd, born in 1917 grew up in Sophia and Stotesbury, coal town in Raleigh County. In late 1941 and early 1942, Byrd organized a local Ku Klux Klan Klavern, with more than 150 members, in nearby Crab Orchard. During his early political career, he opposed most civil rights legislation. He voted against the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. He called Martin Luther King "a self-seeking rabble rouser."
Byrd frankly and repeatedly discusses his earlier views in "Child of the Appalachian Coalfields," his autobiography that will be released on June 20 by the West Virginia University Press.
"The Klan albatross is a mistake which has haunted me throughout my political career, and it will undoubtedly be prominently referred to in my obituaries," he wrote in his new book.
In March, Barack Obama, the African-American Illinois senator elected in 2004, asked people to contribute to Byrd's upcoming Senate race. "In 2006, Senator Byrd will be the target of Republicans because he stands up for what he believes. Will you join me in supporting Senator Byrd's campaign for re-election?" Obama's plea raised $823,000 in 48 hours.
But Byrd changed his views on racial issues more than 30 years before.
The nationally-prominent African-American Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas, introduced Byrd at a Democratic Party convention in Kansas City in 1974.
"Orphan, senator, lawyer, legislator, leader. What is the measure of one man?" Jordan asked. "Some measure a man by the content of his commitment to a government of laws and others by his sense of justice."
Like Fulbright, Byrd voted for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. But Byrd remained a supporter of the Vietnam War until it ended in 1975.
But he also changed his mind on foreign policy, perhaps beginning with his efforts to return the Panama Canal to Panamanians during Jimmy Carter's presidency.
In June 2002, Byrd told the Senate, "I recall all too well the nightmare of Vietnam. I recall too well the antiwar protests and demonstrations, the campus riots and the tragic deaths at Kent State, as well as the resignation of a president. And I remember all too well the gruesome daily body counts in Vietnam."
Byrd praised Sens. Wayne Morse, D-Ore., and Ernst Gruening, D-Alaska, for casting the only votes against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.
"Morse expressed his concern that the Pentagon and the executive branch were perpetrating a 'snow job' upon Congress and the American people. If the Senate approved the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, Senator Morse warned, the 'senators who vote for it will live to regret it.'"
Byrd was one of those senators.
"Today I weep for my country," Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., told the Senate nine months later on March 19, 2003, beginning his final plea that the White House halt plans to launch the "wrong war" against Iraq.
"I, along with millions, scores of millions, of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent women, children, babies, old and young, crippled and deformed, sick civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland," Byrd said.
"I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of a strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned."
Then Byrd criticized the Senate.
"A pall has fallen over the Senate chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq."
Later that afternoon, I sat in the senator's office, looking out the window as fog encircled the Washington Monument. I asked him why he had become so insistent in his fight to stop the impending war.
Byrd mentioned his devotion to the Constitution and the duties it imposes on the Senate. Looking at our son Christopher, then 9, he said he wanted to do everything he could do to make sure all the young people in the world today will enjoy good lives.
Having studied history for nearly 50 years, I have come to increasingly respect the central role U.S. senators can play in "confronting a reckless and arrogant president," to use Byrd's words.
And over the years, it is more and more obvious that we should avoid vilifying people simplistically, including a man who was always a segregationists, another man who supported segregation publicly but questioned it privately, and a third man who had a change of heart more than 30 years ago.To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.