(Photo: REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst)
US Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) doffs his hat for reporters as he arrives at the Capitol in Washington, February 26, 2009.
Sen. Robert Byrd, Denmocrat of West Virginia, the longest serving elected lawmaker in the federal Legislature in U.S. history died on Monday, his office confirmed. He was 92.
He had been "seriously ill" from heat exhaustion and dehydration after being admitted to the hospital late last week, according to his office.
Byrd had served in the U.S. Senate since 1959 and in the House of Representatives from 1953-1959.
He a top senator in his party from the 1977 to 1988, serving as majority leader during the President Jimmy Carter's administration and as minority leader through President Ronald Reagan's tenure.
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Byrd shifted sharply away from his early support for policies permitting racial discrimination to become an ardent supporter of the civil rights movement.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, expressed condolences to "all those who loved him" in a statement and said it had been a "privilege" to serve with him.
"I looked up to him, I fought next to him and I am deeply saddened that he is gone," Rockefeller said.
While Byrd came from "humble beginnings" in the state's southern coal fields, Rockefeller said "he never forgot where he came from nor who he represented, and he never abused that power for his own gain."
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