Remembrances of Sen. Robert Byrd
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Letters to the Editor
Up we went. I was going to the fourth floor, but at the third, the senator got off -- leaving me unaccompanied in the elevator. Riding alone to my destination I began to worry about my conspicuous exit. When the doors opened on the fourth floor, I poked my head out to see if the coast was clear. Luckily, the hallway was empty, and I was able to make a discreet getaway. I will always remember Mr. Byrd's kind invitation, my close encounter with trouble and the adventure of riding on the senators-only elevator.
Laurie Collins, Washington
Robert Byrd's first campaign for the Senate was in the summer of 1958. I was a rising college sophomore and, as a fledgling journalist, was interning at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail. Candidate Byrd was speaking one evening, and since all the "real" reporters were off duty at my afternoon newspaper, I was assigned to cover his speech.
I was too young to vote (you had to be 21 in West Virginia), and I wasn't too enthused by the Byrd candidacy anyway, because of his former membership in the Ku Klux Klan.
After his speech, Mr. Byrd came to shake my hand and tell me that he supported lowering the voting age to 18. Obviously, he was seeking favor with this young person, and as a reporter I didn't think it was appropriate for me to tell him that I was not in favor of lowering the voting age.
Many years later, when I was national president of the League of Women Voters, I attended one of Mr. Byrd's events on Capitol Hill and sought him out to confess my sins. I told him I had changed my mind about the voting age and also had become one of his enthusiastic supporters. But I also said that if I been able to vote in 1958, I wouldn't have chosen him because of his Klan membership.
With a twinkle I will never forget, he replied that both of us had obviously learned important lessons since our youth.
Dorothy S. Ridings, Louisville, Ky.