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Senator Byrd’s speeches series open for research

By Staff | Jul 15, 2016

Officials are excited to announce the opening of another series in the Robert C. Byrd Congressional Papers Collection: the Speeches Series. Spanning almost the entirety of Senator Byrd’s career in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, the speeches include the senator’s statements on issues of national significance, his study of history and the U.S. Constitution, his role in securing billions of dollars in federal aid for projects and his love for his home state of West Virginia.

The Speeches Series contains over 1,850 documents ranging in date from 1952 to 2008. Within the folders, original copies of speeches can be found with Senator Byrd’s annotations and notes. The entire collection is arranged chronologically, with the exception of a few folders at the end which contain undated speeches. These documents are arranged alphabetically. All together, the series covers 20 linear feet with 41 boxes of folders. The processing of this collection was completed by Byrd Center intern Kyle Staubs.

Glancing through the finding aid, one can appreciate the variety of speeches found in the series. One can see speeches made by Senator Byrd reflecting his devoted study of the U.S. Constitution, the legislative branch and the institution of the U.S. Senate. One such document is a speech entitled “The Senate: The Forum of Freedom,” written in 1963 during Senator Byrd’s first term in the Senate. Nearly 25 years later, Senator Byrd delivered a speech entitled “The Constitution in Our Time” in Philadelphia’s Congress Hall during the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution in 1987.

Many of the speeches convey Senator Byrd’s stance on issues of national and international importance, such as his 2003 speech against the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq. Five years later, Senator Byrd spoke on the need for the U.S. to lower its reliance upon foreign energy imports. Senator Byrd explicitly stated the need for continued use of coal while also expressing the need to diversify energy production through renewable sources. Senator Byrd also made significant efforts to support the coal miners, such as his early work to secure funding and training for enhancing health and safety in West Virginia’s coal mines.

The Speeches Series also documents Senator Byrd’s many visits to West Virginia. In 1976, Senator Byrd spoke at the dedication of the New River Gorge Bridge, celebrating the structure as “a monument to the technical and scientific skill of American industry and engineering.”

In recognition for his tireless efforts on the part of his home state, Senator Byrd was named the “West Virginian of the Twentieth Century” in 2001. In his remarks before the West Virginia State Legislature, Senator Byrd expressed his gratitude for the “opportunity to serve our state and our nation; to stand in the midst of history, among men and women who have changed the course of destiny, at the pinnacle of power in the greatest legislative body ever to grace the Earth.”

Also to be found in the speeches series are the Senator’s statements on historic occasions such as the 100th Anniversary of the Niagara Movement at Harpers Ferry’s Storer College in 2006 and the 145th birthday of West Virginia Statehood in 2008.