Senator Robert Byrd Becomes Longest Serving Member in Congress in History

In West Virginia, the late Sen.

Robert Byrd is already memorialized in more than 1,000 miles of highways and in the projects and jobs, worth billions of dollars, that he delivered over half a century to an impoverished state.

At 57 years, five months, and 26 days, Senator Byrd is the longest-serving member of Congress of all time – a record he broke on Nov. 8, 2009.

But here in the Senate – where leaders are considering a rare memorial service in the chamber – Byrd’s legacy is his passion for preserving the power and civility of the Senate, at a time when both are threatened.

Dubbed “the world’s most exclusive club and deliberative body,” the U.S. Senate is packed with white-haired lawmakers, many of whom have served in the chamber for decades.

While Americans generally retire in their mid-60s or so, about half of the 100 senators are 65 years or older.

And one of them, Democrat Robert Byrd, 91, of West Virginia, set the record on Wednesday as the longest serving member of the U.S. Congress ever — 20,774 days.

Byrd made it clear he has no thoughts of leaving anytime soon. “I look forward to serving you for the next 56 years and 320 days,” he said in a statement to mark his historic day.

By tomorrow, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, will have the honor of being the longest-serving member of Congress ever, breaking the record set by former senator Carl Hayden.

Politico reports that Byrd, who is 91, has now officially served 20,774 days -- or 56 years, ten and a half months -- in Congress. Byrd was elected to the Senate in 1959 after serving three two-year terms in the House of Representatives, and has since been reelected eight times. He accomplished a unique feat by earning a law degree while in Congress, graduating in 1963; and he is President pro tempore of the Senate, making him third in the line of presidential succession behind Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, Sen. Robert Byrd will become the longest-serving member of Congress ever — a capstone on a remarkable career in which the adopted son of a coal miner propelled himself from poverty to the pinnacle of legislative power, where he could, did and still does send billions of federal dollars back across the Blue Ridge to help build his home state of West Virginia.