Harry F. Byrd, Jr., U.S. Senator

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Harry Flood Byrd, Jr.

Birthdate: (98)
Birthplace: Winchester, VA, USA
Death: Died in Winchester, Virginia
Immediate Family:

Son of Harry F. Byrd, Sr., US Senator and Anne "Annie" Douglas Byrd
Husband of Gretchen Bigelow Byrd
Father of <private> Byrd; <private> Byrd and <private> Byrd
Brother of Westwood Beverly Kern; Bradshaw Byrd and Richard E. Byrd, Sr., apple grower

Occupation: US Senator of Virginia
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Harry F. Byrd, Jr., U.S. Senator

Byrd was born December 20, 1914 in Winchester, Virginia, the eldest child of Harry F. Byrd Sr. and wife Anne Byrd (née Beverley). His siblings included a sister, Westwood ("Westie") and two brothers, Richard Evelyn (Dick) and Beverley.[1] He was a member of one of the prominent First Families of Virginia, including his uncle Richard E. Byrd, a pilot and polar explorer. On August 9, 1941 Byrd married Gretchen Thompson. They had two sons, Harry and Thomas, and a daughter Beverley.[2] ______________________________________


Harry Flood Byrd, Jr. (born December 20, 1914) is a retired American politician. He represented Virginia in the United States Senate from 1965 to 1983. He is most notable for leaving the Democratic Party in 1970 and becoming an Independent, although he continued to caucus with the Democrats. He is the son of Harry F. Byrd, Sr., whom he replaced as senator. On October 20, 2009, with the death of retired U.S. Senator Clifford P. Hansen, a Wyoming Republican, Byrd became the oldest living former senator.


Byrd was born in Winchester, Virginia and was educated at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. In 1939, he assumed control of his father's chain of newspapers in the Shenandoah Valley. He served in the United States Navy during World War II.

Political career

Byrd served in the Senate of Virginia from 1948 to November 1965. In November 1965, Byrd's father resigned from the U.S. Senate for health reasons. At Harry, Sr.'s suggestion, Harry, Jr. was appointed to succeed him by Virginia Governor Albertis S. Harrison Jr. and won a special election as a Democrat to serve the remainder of his father's term in 1966. In 1970 Byrd broke with the Democratic Party because they asked him to sign an oath of loyalty to the party. Instead of signing the restrictive contract, Byrd ran as an independent. Byrd was widely popular in the state and became the second senator in history to win as an independent, having earned 54 percent of the vote in a three-way race. He continued to caucus with the Democrats, and maintained his Democratic seniority.

Like his father, Harry, Jr. had a very conservative voting record and was a strong supporter of federal fiscal discipline. In fact, he authored and Congress passed a floor amendment stating, "Beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government should not exceed its receipts."

In 1971, Byrd proposed a bill to allow the importation of various metals from Rhodesia, contradicting the position of the President and the United Nations Security Council which forbade most forms of trade or financial exchange with Rhodesia, which had a white-controlled government.[1] The bill passed, and the 1971 Byrd Amendment allowed Rhodesia to evade these sanctions.[2]

Byrd easily won reelection in 1976, having defeated Democrat Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. The Republicans did not run a candidate that year and concentrated in carrying Virginia, by the narrowest of margins, for U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, Jr.

Even as a senator, Byrd contributed regular editorial content to his newspapers, blending journalism and politics.

Byrd did not run for reelection in 1982 and moved back to his hometown of Winchester. He was succeeded by U.S. Representative Paul S. Trible, who served only one term and did not seek reelection in 1988.

Post political career

Upon retirement, Byrd became a lecturer at Shenandoah University and in 1984, the business program was reorganized and became the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business.

Byrd continued to be actively politically, albeit no longer as a candidate. He endorsed Marshall Coleman, the Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia in 1989. [3] Yet Byrd publically supported then Governor Mark Warner in 2004 when Warner sought to raise taxes and faced conservative opposition [4]

Byrd served as Chairman of the Board of The Winchester Star until 1990.

He was owner of the Page Shenandoah Newspaper Corporation until 1987, which published The Page News and Courier in Luray and The Shenandoah Valley Herald in Woodstock.

He retired as publisher of The Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg and Chairman of the Byrd newspapers in 2001, turning over the business to his son, Thomas T. Byrd.

He was named to the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in 2003.

Mr. Byrd recently appeared in the PBS special "Chasing Churchill: In Search of My Grandfather". A show by Winston Churchill's granddaughter, Celia Sandys, in which she travels the world retracing the steps of Churchill and meeting the people he used to know. Byrd recalled experiences he had when Churchill visited his family's home in Virginia and stayed with them for a week.[5]


Harry F. Byrd, Jr. is a son of Harry F. Byrd, who preceded him in the United States Senate, and is a nephew of Richard E. Byrd, the flier and polar explorer. The Winchester, Virginia, Byrd family is not related to Robert Byrd, a late U.S. Senator from West Virginia.

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Harry F. Byrd, Jr., U.S. Senator's Timeline

December 20, 1914
Winchester, VA, USA
July 30, 2013
Age 98
Winchester, Virginia