On this day in 1887, Harry Flood Byrd was born in Martinsburg. Directly descended from men who lived life with a flourish (if you know what I mean), and the older brother to the famed Arctic explorer, Byrd became the dominant force in twentieth-century Virginia politics. The Byrd Organization ran things, and with nothing more than a nod its boss made careers. A pay-as-you-go governor in the 1920s, Byrd supported Shenandoah National Park and the antilynching laws advocated by the newspaper editor Louis Isaac Jaffé. (Byrd was a former journalist himself.) But in the United States Senate, he preferred “no” to “yes.” He voted against aid to education, public housing, antipoverty programs, and minimum-wage increases. He was anti-union and refused to support the Marshall Program.
And when a simple “no” wouldn’t do, he could always call on a Massive Resistance. He actually coined the term, it turns out.
In some ways, he was the John Boehner of his day, don’t you think?
IMAGE: Harry F. Byrd Sr. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)