The KKK Senator

June 28, 2010

Senator Robert Byrd died at the age of 92, another of the stalwart Democratic senators leaves the stage. It might shock some to know that being a Democratic senator, he had joined the Klu Klux Klan back in 1942 at the age of 24. Or that he was a strong proponent of segregation:

“I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side… Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”

— Robert C. Byrd, in a letter to Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-MS), 1944

But the amazing thing about the senator, was that he changed. By 1968 he was supporting the Civil Rights Bill and called previous voting the worst votes of his life. He apologized and sincerely said that he was embarrassed to be part of the KKK, an organization that appealed to him as a young man because they complimented him and gave him confidence and approval.

You will not find that kind of “flip flopping” with any elected officials today, simply because they think they would alienate their constituency and not get reelected. But he willingly and clearly switched sides on the most hot button topic of his time and was reelected for a record number of terms in office.

And that is why he should be celebrated as a man who recognized and acknowledged his mistakes, and to those who voted for him over the past 50+ years, I personally am proud of you for acknowledging his faults and supporting him anyway.

R.I.P. Senator Byrd - we shant see your like again.

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