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Robert Byrd, longest-serving Congress member, a master historian

First elected to Congress in 1952, Sen. Robert Byrd has an encyclopedic knowledge of Senate rules and legislative history dating back to Roman times. On Wednesday, he became the longest-serving member of Congress.

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Before making legislative history, Sen. Robert Byrd – on Wednesday he became the longest-serving member of Congress since 1789 – spent a lifetime mastering it.

The Democrat for West Virginia once dazzled a British delegation, complaining that Americans didn’t know English history, by reciting all the kings and queens of England, from Egbert (829-839) through Elizabeth II, including riffs on their children and notable moments in their reign.

His four-volume history of the US Senate, based in part on a decade of floor speeches delivered on slow Friday mornings in the 1980s, became an instant reference on Capitol Hill. His encyclopedic grasp of Senate procedure, honed by constant study, is also a resource to colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Elected to the House of Representatives in 1952, Byrd went on to serve a record nine terms in the Senate. As of Wednesday, that adds up to 20,774 days of service in the Congress, or 56 years and 320 days – a record.

Arizona Democrat Carl Hayden previously held the record of longest-serving Congress member, serving from 1929 to 1969. He was known as the "Silent Senator."


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