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Bond cites 'humble beginnings' of late colleague, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 28, 2010 - U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill, were the first of the region's congressional delegation this morning to comment on the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the Senate's most veteran member.

Byrd died this morning at a hospital in Fairfax, Va., in suburban Washington. He was 92 and had been in office since 1959.

"Sen. Byrd was first and foremost a champion for the people of West Virginia," Bond said in a statement this morning. "From humble beginnings, Sen. Byrd became the longest serving member of the Senate. Throughout his many years of service, there has been no greater student, teacher, and protector of the Senate institution."

Durbin said, "No one in the history of the Senate could match Byrd's thunderous oratory; his sense of history; his determination to teach every president the limits of his power; and his lifelong passion to fight for West Virginia. Daniel Webster, set another chair at Heaven's table. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia has arrived.”

Later today, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., issued her condolences: "Senator Byrd knew the Senate better than anyone and his love and respect for this body and his dedication to upholding the Constitution of our great nation were unwavering. He demonstrated many moments of courageous independence. He will be missed.”

Byrd's passing is unlikely to change the political makeup of the Senate, which now has 59 Democrats (including two independents). His replacement will be selected by West Virginia's governor, who also is a Democrat.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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