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‘An Evening with Congressional Historians’ celebrates Ray Smock’s legacy

By Staff | Aug 3, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — “An Evening with Congressional Historians” may have been focused on raising money to fund the Robert C. Byrd Center’s two internships for next year, but it also highlighted the impact of one of the evening’s featured speakers.

During the July 23 event, former Robert C. Byrd Center director Ray Smock was given the title, Director Emeritus of the Robert C. Byrd Center, by the Friends of the Byrd Center and the Congressional Education Foundation, Inc., which operates the center.

“Thanks to Ray, now we have archived all of Senator Byrd’s artifacts and historic documents,” said Walter J. “Joe” Stewart, chairman of the board of directors of the Congressional Education Foundation, Inc.

“Many of you know some part of the contributions Ray Smock has made to the Byrd Center. In these times, we need more advocates like (Ray), and more people who will listen,” Stewart said of Ray, historian of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-1995. “Ray has agreed to serve on the board of the Byrd Center. The board did want to recognize his service, so we have named Ray as Director Emeritus of the Byrd Center.”

According to Stewart, Smock brought valuable personal knowledge of Byrd to the center.

“Senator Byrd had a long experience with Ray Smock, including the (U.S. Senate’s) Bicentennial Celebration preparations in 1989,” Stewart said. “The Bicentennial is just one example of Ray’s dedication to history. Senator Byrd was a meticulous man, and I think that’s why he appealed to Ray.”

During the presentation to Ray of a plaque recognizing his honorary title, a representative from Byrd’s family spoke about the importance of the center’s legacy, and what it means to the Byrd family.

“It means a lot to me and my family, to know you are keeping his memory alive,” said Senator Byrd’s grandson, Erik Byrd Fatemi.

Ray’s friends and family said they were pleased with his recognition, and according to his wife, Phyllis Smock, they were also very proud of the legacy he has left behind him, in the form of the Byrd Center.

“I’m very proud of him, and we are very happy with our experiences in West Virginia,” Phyllis said, mentioning the couple moved to West Virginia when the center opened. “I think the Byrd Center brought a lot of information and education to the community.”

As the evening ended, Ray said he appreciated the board’s gesture.

“That was very nice of the board, to do that. I’m proud to have been the director — running the Byrd Center was a dream job for a historian of Congress,” Ray said, mentioning in his 16 years as director, he helped establish the center as a valuable location for community education, while also cataloging Byrd’s “vast collection,” which included 60 years of documents relevant to West Virginia history.

“An Evening with Congressional Historians” featured a discussion about American history and the United States Congress with the first three individuals to hold official positions as congressional historians — Richard Baker, historian of the U.S. Senate from 1975-2009; Donald Richie, historian of the U.S. Senate from 2009-2015; and Ray. C-SPAN recorded the discussion, which was moderated by C-SPAN Founder Brian Lamb. A buffet dinner, followed by Ray’s recognition, ended the event, which was hosted by the Byrd Center, the Friends of the Byrd Center and Shepherd University’s Lifelong Learning Program.