Obama: West Virginia Lost a ‘True Champion’

Posted June 28, 2010 at 10:58am

Updated: 3:02 p.m.

President Barack Obama on Monday said the nation has lost “a voice of principle and reason” with the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd, who died early Monday at the age of 92.

Obama said West Virginia “lost a true champion” and the Senate “lost a venerable institution” with Byrd’s passing. He praised the West Virginia Democrat’s personal story as “uniquely American.”

“He was born into wrenching poverty, but educated himself to become an authoritative scholar, respected leader, and unparalleled champion of our Constitution. He scaled the summit of power, but his mind never strayed from the people of his beloved West Virginia. He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time,” the president said.

Obama also noted that Byrd was “generous with his time and advice, something I appreciated greatly as a young Senator.”

Vice President Joseph Biden mourned the loss of “a dear friend” and mentor who served with him in the Senate for more than three decades.

Byrd was “a guy who was there when I was a 29-year-old kid being sworn in to the United States Senate. … A guy who stood in the rain, in a pouring rain, freezing rain outside a church as I buried my daughter and my wife before I got sworn in,” Biden said.

The vice president described Byrd as “a tough, compassionate and outspoken leader” who never lost sight of his home state during his 51-year tenure in the Senate.

“We shall not see his like again. And the Senate is a lesser place for his going,” he said.