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Harry Byrd Jr., Former Virginia Senator Who Bucked Party, Dies

Former Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. died Tuesday morning in his hometown of Winchester, Va. The 98-year-old, whose death was first reported by The Winchester Star, served in the U.S. Senate from 1965 to 1983 and previously worked in the state Senate from 1948 to 1965.

Byrd, who was originally appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1965 following the resignation of his father, won a 1966 special election as a Democrat before running as an independent in 1970. He also refused to support the Democratic presidential nominee, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, in 1972.

Byrd caucused with the Democrats but was known for voting with the most conservative senators on issues. Byrd maintained strong ratings from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before leaving Congress in 1983 after choosing not to run for re-election.

The Winchester native considered most federal expenditures a waste and was also known for his hawkish foreign policy stances, including his 1971 measure to end a chrome import embargo from Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, which was later repealed in 1977. Byrd also opposed congressional civil rights legislation and resisted Virginia school desegregation in the 1950s.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who holds the seat Byrd previously occupied, released a statement praising his predecessor.

“Few families have dedicated as much to our Commonwealth as the Byrds. One of the highlights of my time as governor was hosting Harry and his adult grandchildren at the mansion where he told stories from his boyhood. His civil manner and commitment to public service will be missed,” Kaine said.

A World War II veteran, Byrd attended the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia, working as an apple grower and newspaper publisher for much of his life. According to The Winchester Star, he is survived by his three children, nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

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