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Byrd collection a treasure

By Staff | Sep 4, 2010

What a treasure U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd has bestowed posthumously upon Shepherdstown and Shepherd University. The Byrd Center for Legislative Studies on the SU campus is the repository for the senator’s papers and memorabilia from not only his 60-year career in the U.S. Congress, but also from his childhood and early life in the Mountain State.

Byrd, a Democrat, died June 28 at the age of 92. The senior senator from West Virginia served longer than any other member of Congress in its history. The collection includes documents, speeches, school report cards, childhood mementos, thousands of photos, campaign materials, audio and video recordings, and personal correspondence with 11 U.S. presidents.

“We won’t just have paper things, but three-dimensional objects like the flags that hung in his office down to the knickknacks that sat on his desk,” said Raymond “Ray” Smock, Ph.D., director of the Byrd Center. “We’ll have an incredible record here … .”

It took two tractor-trailers to deliver the Byrd collection, which totaled some 2,000 cubic feet of documents, from the senator’s offices in Martinsburg, Charleston and Washington to the center. The most important documents frm the collection will be digitized and made available online.

The Byrd Center was selected to house this priceless collection because of its proximity to the nation’s capital. Surely, Smock’s 27-year association with Byrd played a role as well.

This collection is a trove of invaluable resources for historians researching Byrd, the U.S. Senate and the history of America. It will be quite a draw for anyone who wants to know what happened during the latter half of 20th century and beyond in Congress and the United States. Thank you for the gift, Sen. Byrd.