Robert Byrd (born 1917) is a Democratic Senator from West Virginia. He is currently the oldest and longest-serving member of Congress, President pro tempore of the US Senate, and is the longest-serving Senator in history, having been first elected in 1959.
During the 1940s, he was involved in the Ku Klux Klan where he reached the rank of Exalted Cyclops, the leader of the local chapter of the organization. He repeatedly expressed his desire for the Klan to expand to its previous size and power, once remarking in a letter that "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia" and "in every state in the nation." 
Byrd commented on the 1945 controversy raging over the idea of racially integrating the military. In his book When Jim Crow Met John Bull, Graham Smith referred to a letter written that year by Byrd, when he was 28 years old, to segregationist Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, in which Byrd vowed never to fight:
- Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."
He had earlier written Bilbo:
- "I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side"
By the 1950s, he was no longer involved with the Ku Klux Klan.
On March 4, 2001, during an interview with Tony Snow, Byrd said the following comment on race relations:
- "There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word."
Byrd's use of the term "nigger" created immediate controversy.
- Pianin, Eric. A Senator's Shame: Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK. Washington Post, 2005-06-19, pp. A01
- King, Colbert I. Sen. Byrd: The view from Darrell's barbershop, Washington Post, March 2, 2002