Harry F. Byrd
|Harry Flood Byrd, Sr.|
|Former U.S. Senator from Virginia|
From: March 4, 1933 – November 10, 1965
|Predecessor||Claude A. Swanson|
|Successor||Harry F. Byrd, Jr.|
|Former Governor of Virginia|
From: February 1, 1926 – January 15, 1930
|Lieutenant||Junius Edgar West|
|Predecessor||Elbert Lee Trinkle|
|Successor||John Garland Pollard|
|Former State Senator from Virginia's 26th District|
From: January 9, 1924 – February 1, 1926
|Predecessor||James M. Dickerson|
|Successor||Joseph S. Denny|
|Former State Senator from Virginia's 10th District|
From: January 12, 1916 – January 9, 1924
|Predecessor||Frank S. Tavenner|
|Successor||Marshall B. Booker|
|Spouse(s)||Anne Douglas Beverley|
Harry Flood Byrd, Sr. (June 10, 1887 – October 20, 1966) was a senator from the state of Virginia from 1933 to 1965. A staunch opponent of desegregation and advocate of "separate but equal" who declared the "Massive Resistance", he was a Southern Democrat who led the Byrd Organization, a political machine during the 20th century that dominated statewide politics in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Having been a member of the Conservative Coalition, Byrd was also remembered as a leader against most New Deal initiatives spearheaded by FDR.
Harry Flood Byrd was born on June 10, 1887 to Richard Evelyn Byrd and Eleanor Bolling Flood in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Reared in Winchester along with his brothers, Byrd's lifelong prominence would root to the Southern culture he was raised with there. Quitting school at the age of fifteen, he managed to take over the family newspaper that had been failing, and transformed it into an enterprise that was profitable.
Early political career
At the age of 21, Byrd began his political career by serving an appointed term on the Winchester City Council. Losing election to a second term in the position, he would no longer take any elections for granted in the rest of his lifetime.
In 1915, Byrd was elected to the Virginia State Senate, and would serve for eight years from the 10th district and two years from the 26th district. Here, he was known for favoring prohibition, having an expertise on fiscal matters, in addition to being an opponent of women's suffrage.
Governor of Virginia
After having experience in running a Democrat political machine, Byrd garnered the experience that propelled him to successfully run in the 1925 Virginia gubernatorial election, defeating G. Walter Mapp in the primary and later Republican S. Harris Hoge in the general election held in November that year.
A fiscal conservative who favored a business-like approach to running government, Gov. Byrd was known for having centralized executive powers, re-organized the state government overall, utilized an authorized survey to reduce the number of elected state officers from eight to three, abolished a number of state agencies, and altered the statewide tax system that left the income tax to the state while allowing precincts/localities to enact taxations on personal property and real estate. All this had generated a surplus of four million dollars for the treasury, and the policies leading up to such was met with overall approval from the Virginia legislature.
Following two lynchings in Virginia during Byrd's gubernatorial tenure, the governor, despite being a racist segregationist, pushed the state legislature to pass tough anti-lynching bills; the Virginia Anti-Lynching Law of 1928 was passed and signed by Byrd in mid-March that year, though weakened by the legislature in spite of what Byrd sought and subsequently was never used to prosecute white-on-black crimes. Nevertheless, lynchings ceased in Virginia after the measure became law. Around this time, the assembly also passed a law without the signature of the governor that segregated all statewide public assemblies.
Despite having successfully pushed for and signed into law anti-lynching legislation as governor of Virginia, Byrd opposed such while in the Senate, twice voting with the majority of Senate Democrats (including both Northerners and Southerners) to kill federal anti-lynching measures from passing.
Along with fellow senator Carter Glass who shared most of his political viewpoints, Byrd initially supported the Civilian Conservation Corps New Deal program in 1933 though opposed its continuation a decade later. When facing re-election in 1934 during the Great Depression, he backed FDR and the New Deal. He would quickly turn against Roosevelt afterwards on domestic issues, moving to oppose New Deal programs and block as much as he could.
While opposing Franklin D. Roosevelt's domestic policies since the mid-1930s, Byrd supported the president's re-election in 1936. An internationalist, he also supported Roosevelt's foreign policy decisions during World War II.
Byrd helped author the Southern Manifesto in opposition to Brown v. Board of Education, which ordered the desegregation of all U.S. public schools. He also initiated the "Massive Resistance" to prevent integration by any means, which led to cutting state funds from public schools which refused to segregate and even shutting them down. The negative effects of school closures in turn weakened the influence of the Byrd Organization across the state.
In 1913, Byrd married Anne Douglas Beverley and had four children; of them, his son Harry F. Byrd, Jr. succeeded him in the Senate upon his death in 1966.
- Massive Resistance. Virginia Museum of History & Culture. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Massive Resistance. Encyclopedia of Virginia. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Anti-Lynching Law of 1928. Encyclopedia of Virginia. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Grimsley, J. Edward (April 16, 2016). Grimsley: Harry Byrd's fight to end lynching. Richmond Dispatch-Times. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- TO TABLE AN AMENDMENT TO S. 69, THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE ACT. THE AMEND. OFFERED BY SENATOR COPELAND WHICH WOULD HAVE ADDED HOUSE BILL 1507, THE ANTILYNCHING BILL, TO S. 69, A BILL LIMITING THE SIZE OF TRAINS IN INTERSTATE COMMERCE.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- TO TABLE AN AMENDMENT TO S. 2475. OFFERED BY SENATOR COPELAND WHICH WOULD HAVE ADDED THE ANTILYNCHING BILL AS PERFECTED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY TO THE PENDING LEGISLATION.. GovTrack.us. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Civilian Conservation Corps in Virginia, 1933-1942. University of Montana.
- Byrd, Harry. encyclopedia.com. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- ROOSEVELT BACKED BY GLASS AND BYRD; New Deal Critics Will Give Active Support, Farley Says -- Virginia Listed as Safe. SWEEP SEEN IN INDIANA Mayor of Baltimore Less Sure of Outlook in His State Because of Labor Controversy.. The New York Times. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Byrd Organization. Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Two references:
- Vozzella, Laura (February 23, 2021). Virginia’s legislature votes to remove tribute to segregationist governor. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- Rankin, Sarah (January 2021). Virginia lawmakers vote to remove statue of segregationist. Associated Press. Retrieved April 21, 2021.
- The New Deal and the States: Roosevelt Versus the Byrd Organization in Virginia
- Byrd, Harry Flood - Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
- Harry F. Byrd (1887–1966) - Encyclopedia Virginia
- Biography at the Library of Virginia