WASHINGTON (AP) – Former Sen. George Smathers used to tell the story about how Robert C. Byrd had turned down a half-dozen invitations to join other senators in Florida for deep sea fishing or golf or gin rummy or tennis.
“I have never in my life played a game of cards. I have never had a golf club in my hand. I have never in life hit a tennis ball,” Byrd told the Florida Democrat, according to an interview Smathers gave to a Senate historian.
“I don’t do any of those things. I have only had to work all my life.”
After almost 48 years in the Senate, Byrd is still working. On Monday, the West Virginia Democrat passes the late GOP Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina as the longest serving senator in history.
And Byrd is not finished.
No, he has to continue to amass his self-named pork collection. This is a man with more buildings named after him than a banana republic dictator:
The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program
The Robert C. Byrd High School
The Robert C. Byrd Institute
The Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center
The Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health
The Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam
The Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center
This list barely scratches the surface. Ann Coulter did more extensive research, as published on page 124 of “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)”:
At a Senate Budget Committee hearing last week (2/7/02), Sen. Robert Byrd, who was named after a bridge in West Virginia, viciously attacked Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill for having made a success of himself. Claiming to speak for worthless layabouts, Byrd snippily informed O’Neill: “They’re not CEOs of multibillion-dollar corporations. … In time of need, they come to us, the people come to us.”
Evidently what the people-in-need are asking for is a lot of federal projects named after Senator Byrd.
Some items funded by taxpayers — but still somehow named after “Robert C. Byrd” — are: The Robert C. Byrd Highway; the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam; the Robert C. Byrd Institute; the Robert C. Byrd Life Long Learning Center; the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program; the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope; the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing; the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse; the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center; the Robert C. Byrd Academic and Technology Center; the Robert C. Byrd United Technical Center; the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building; the Robert C. Byrd Drive; the Robert C. Byrd Hilltop Office Complex; the Robert C. Byrd Library; the Robert C. Byrd Learning Resource Center; the Robert C. Byrd Rural Health Center.
And then it got late, and I had to stop researching. But it appears that every slab of concrete in West Virginia is named after Bob Byrd.
If West Virginia fielded a Major League Baseball franchise, you can bet the stadium would be named “Robert C. Byrd Field at Robert C. Byrd Stadium.”
Apparently that’s what 48 years in the Senate gets you: memorial cornerstones set up long before you pass from this world.