West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd died early this morning at the age of 92. The longest-serving senator in US history, Byrd was a conservative Democrat known for his fiery oratory and his skill at steering federal funds to battle poverty in his home state. Byrd was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1952 and moved to the Senate 6 years later. He was in frail health in recent years, hospitalized repeatedly and confined to a wheelchair, but he managed to vote for the health care reform bill in March, MSNBC reports.
The long-time chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he used his post skillfully and brazenly to amass power in the Senate. "Bob is a living encyclopedia, and legislative graveyards are filled with the bones of those who underestimated him," former House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, once said of him.