Note: This post was previously listed under our "News from the Grey Box" blog series
By Jody Brumage
“I continue to believe, just as earnestly as I believed then, that the development of the human mind is all important, and that education should be a continuing thing, extending beyond high school and college, and that one should never stop learning.” These words, written by Robert Byrd in his autobiography, speak volumes to the incredible intellect and thirst for knowledge that so defined the senator.
Recently, while processing remaining legislative files, an interesting artifact turned up among the bills and correspondence associated with Byrd’s lengthy career in the Senate. It is an unassuming, leather-bound binder, only 4 ½” by 6 ½” in size. Just one of the hundreds of such binders which Byrd kept notes in. However, upon closer inspection, this artifact lends significant insight into Byrd’s ever-inquisitive mind.
The binder contains a travel diary from Byrd’s round-world trip as part of the Foreign Affairs Committee in 1955. Only in his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives, the opportunity must have been thrilling for the congressman who had rarely been outside the mountains of West Virginia, let alone the United States.
The main focus of the trip was centered in Asia and the Middle East. Byrd’s diary recounts visits to Tokyo, Singapore, Taiwan, and many other destinations which provided him with the knowledge necessary to serve on his appointment to the Subcommittee on the Far East and the Pacific. Yet, personal notes also feature in places throughout the notebook including times when he received letters from Erma, when he purchased gifts for his wife and daughters, and a note written when he departed Honolulu stating “14 hours until I see Erma + daughters.”
The notes contained within this small binder provided Byrd with a full chapter in his autobiography. While it is easy to overlook items in a collection on the scale of ours here at the Byrd Center, closer inspection often reveals unique and valuable insights into people and events of the past, not only building the provenance of an artifact, but the importance of our mission in preserving the legacy of Senator Robert C. Byrd.
Source: Byrd, Robert C. Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2005, 67-92, 155.
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