President Barack Obama says he'll remember the late Sen. Robert Byrd as a Senate icon, Democratic Party leader and elder statesman, but most of all as a friend.
Obama joined hundreds in the courtyard of West Virginia's gold-domed Capitol Friday to remember Byrd. The West Virginia Democrat, who died Monday at age 92, was the longest-serving member of Congress.
Obama said that years from now when he thinks of his former colleague, he will remember Byrd the way Byrd was when Obama first met him, with his white hair full like a mane, his gait steadied with a cane yet determined to make the most of every lasting breath.
Obama said Byrd's life was one that was "bent toward justice." He says even though Byrd joined the Ku Klux Klan as a youth, the senator showed "a capacity to change, a capacity to learn."
Former President Bill Clinton recalls that Byrd made no apologies for delivering billions of federal dollars to his home state of West Virginia.
At the memorial service, Clinton recalled him saying that "the constitution does not prohibit humble servants from delivering whatever they can to their constituents."
Victoria Kennedy spoke on behalf of her late husband, Ted Kennedy. She said tears flowed down her cheeks when she watched Byrd vote in favor of Obama's health care reform law, and dedicate his vote to Kennedy.
Byrd spent nearly six decades in Congress, first in the House of Representatives and then his final 51 years in the Senate, becoming the nation's longest-serving member of Congress.
His casket was carried down the steps of the West Virginia Capitol Friday morning and placed before hundreds of people who came to pay their respects.
It was draped with a West Virginia flag and a bouquet of red roses.
After the ceremony, Byrd's body will be flown to Virginia for burial Tuesday. He will be buried beside wife, Erma, who died in 2006.
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