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Byrd’s Love Letters From Senate Floor

Tributes from the late Sen. Robert Byrd to his wife, Erma, read like love letters from the Senate floor.

The West Virginia Democrat often reminisced about their courtship and marriage. After her death in 2006, he recalled the story of their wedding: “We were so proud and so poor that I could not even take a day off from work. We did not have the money for a honeymoon, so after the wedding we went to a square dance where I played the fiddle and she danced. … My Erma never changed. From being the wife of a meat cutter … to the wife of the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Erma never stopped being herself.”

He frequently rhapsodized about Erma’s cooking, and her Thanksgiving menus were a popular topic. In 2003, he raved: “You should try Erma’s cranberry sauce; there is nothing like it anywhere in the world, my wife’s cranberry sauce. Just to think of it makes me want to go home now. … Nobody in my lifetime can spread a table like my wife Erma.”

In 1987, the Byrds celebrated their 50th anniversary with a party with their Senate colleagues. The next day, Byrd described the evening: “It showed a soft and tender, understanding and affectionate, and loving side of the Senate. It was an outpouring of grace that I shall never forget.”

Even when the subject wasn’t Erma, Byrd was an unabashed romantic. In 1999, he greeted the fall with these words: “In Washington, the skies today are sapphire blue and they look like parchment marked only with wispy glyphs of aircraft contrails.” On Mother’s Day in 2005, he noted, “The new leaves on the trees are bright green, soft and whole — not yet the tough, sun- and insect-scarred veterans of late summer, but soft as a baby’s skin.”

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