US – Race Politics – Death of Robert Byrd – Byrd Membership in the Ku Klux Klan – 30 June 2010

Had to say something about the death of Robert Byrd. This article about him is really interesting. Byrd was a Klansman in the 1940s, but a reasonably liberal senator towards the end of his career in many respects (though not all…he was also one of those leading the charge against legal equality for gays up until his death).

The article notes that Byrd’s interest in the Klan was political – he wanted to join an organization in which the “leading” persons were also members, and in 1940s West Virginia, that meant the Klan. When he ran for Congress in the 1950s, however, this was beginning to change, and Byrd had to repudiate the Klan association. He tried to make it seem like a youthful indiscretion that lasted around a year, but did not come clean – he maintained the Klan connection, the evidence shows, for most of the 1940s.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that my view of Byrd is that, although he largely left his racist views of the past back there in the past, I’m not sure I buy that he “evolved” in his thinking. I think it was more like it was with Alabama’s governor George Wallace – the times changed, and in order to keep winning elections, Byrd willingly changed with them. Props for doing that instead of being a racist dinosaur – but let’s tamp down the hero worship, shall we?

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