Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia is laid to rest

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) served in the U.S. Congress longer than any member in history. The nine-term senator assumed office Jan. 3, 1959, after serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

When Sen. Robert C. Byrd's niece began to sing "On the Wings of a Snow White Dove" at his funeral Tuesday, she faltered.

Jassowyn Sale Hurd said she had never gotten the chance to sing with the late statesman, and now, as she stood before his polished brown casket in an Arlington church, she briefly forgot the tune.

She apologized. "Let me try this again," she said, and as she did, the congregation assembled to bid the lawmaker a last farewell on a broiling summer day began to softly sing along:

When troubles surround us, when evils come, the body grows weak, the spirit grows numb.

It was a moment that might have made the Democrat from West Virginia smile: the sweet melody, the evocative refrain:

On the wings of a snow-white dove, He sends His pure sweet love.

The longest-serving lawmaker in the history of Congress and proud son of Appalachian Bible country was borne to his rest Tuesday amid the strains of the music he loved and the words of the Scripture he revered.

Byrd, who died June 28 at age 92, was buried beside his wife, Erma, in an Arlington County cemetery after a simple but moving funeral at Arlington's Memorial Baptist Church.

It was the final goodbye in a week of heartfelt salutes to the child of the coal fields who grew up to become a lion of the U.S. Senate and a legend in West Virginia.

Byrd's flag-draped casket arrived a little after 9 a.m. and was carried by a military honor guard from the gleaming hearse into the red-carpeted sanctuary of the 60-year-old brick church on Glebe Road.

The casket, covered in a large bouquet of white roses with a single red rose in honor of Byrd's wife, was placed at the front of the church on a catafalque hung with black, as dignitaries and mourners paused outside in the shade to sign a guestbook.

On a table before the casket, a large Bible was opened to the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd . . . "

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