President Obama wrote the following on Twitter: "With Robert Byrd's passing, West Virginia has lost a true champion, and America has lost a voice of principle and reason."
Let's put this in perspective. That sentence was written by America's first black president about a man who while he was serving in Congress filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and as a young man had belonged to the KKK. Byrd later said that he regretted both of those decisions, but to me that even further highlights the change we've seen in this country in what is really a historical blink of an eye.
Here's an interesting fact for those of us who live in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina: Byrd was born in 1917 in North Wilkesboro (about an hour from Winston-Salem) and was originally named Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr. His mother died in the 1918 flu pandemic and he was adopted by his aunt and uncle from West Virginia and they changed his name to Robert Carlyle Byrd.