While Byrd regularly attends receptions and dedications, in April 1989 he retired his black tie and tuxedo. "The person who invented it did not have much to do.... Wearing it makes me feel silly and stiff" he said.
Throughout his career in Washington, which began as a congressman in 1953, Byrd has funneled billions and billions in government money back to the Mountain State. Those funds have built roads, schools, medical research centers, bridges, post offices, rural health clinics, fisheries, federal buildings, national parks, National Guard armories and telescopes.
Byrd sometimes brought more than $200 million to his home state in less then two weeks.
As a result, many media stories lampoon him as "The King of Pork," a charge he rejects vehemently and repeatedly. "Such criticism rolled off me like water from a duck's back," he writes.
Byrd points out many other states routinely get billions to operate major military bases and many cities, such as Washington, D.C., and Boston, receive billions to build metro transportation systems and underwater tunnels.
The book also focuses on Byrd's opposition to legislation requiring a balanced budget and granting the president line-item veto authority.
The line-item veto, overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a dispute raging during the Clinton administration, would have allowed the White House to delete any part of any appropriation bill passed by Congress.
"When the Roman Senate gave away its control over the purse strings, it gave away its power to check the executive. From that point on, the Roman Senate declined," Byrd writes.
Byrd stresses the important role the Senate should play, but has recently failed to play in military conflicts.
"Involvement of the nation in military ventures always results in the expansion of presidential powers, especially in the area of justifying presidential use of military force without congressional authorization ...
"The power of the purse ... has become the only way to force a debate and to force a vote in Congress about the wisdom of risky foreign adventures," Byrd said in 1998, speaking at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Byrd backed the Vietnam War until its end in 1975, another decision he now regrets.
He briefly mentions his opposition to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Some readers might wish he had written more extensively about that.
The book ends at the close of 2001, before he embarked on his leading role questioning the invasion of Iraq.
On the last page of his autobiography, Byrd writes: "The U.S. was misled by a superhawk White House into the invasion of a sovereign country that posed no imminent or serious threat to the security of America - a colossal blunder that has become a catastrophe. I bitterly opposed the invasion of Iraq in speeches that appear elsewhere."
Last year. Byrd published his bestselling book focusing on that topic, "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency," which offered a powerful critique of the Bush administration.
Pat Conner, director of the West Virginia University Press, said, "Every word in the book came from him. And the first version of the manuscript was over 1,700 pages long."
Byrd's autobiography will be released in Morgantown today at 11 a.m. in the Lugar Courtroom at the WVU College of Law. Byrd will be on hand for the event, which will be followed by a reception.To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.