By Kyle Staubs, Byrd Center Archives Intern
All of the interns and employees at the Byrd Center have our favorite photos in Senator Byrd’s Photograph Collection. The photographs in the archives had already been arranged in chronological order before I was given the task of digitizing these images. While some of them were dated by a stamp or handwritten note on the back, other photographs had to be dated by researching Senator Byrd's press clipping scrapbooks and documents. My project is to scan them and prepare access copies so that they can be accessible to everyone.
Another of my favorite pictures is the one below showing the Washington Monument. The photograph may have been taken while Senator Byrd was preparing his walking tour around the nation’s capital in the early-1960s. This picture is absolutely beautiful and captures the Washington Monument above the blooming cherry trees and it’s reflection in the Tidal Basin below. At times, I’m amazed by the beauty that black and white pictures can capture.
During my internship at the Byrd Center, I processed Senator Byrd's speeches before moving on to this project digitizing his photographs. So it became very interesting to me when I came across a photograph of Byrd giving a speech that I had previously seen in his speech collection or seeing an artifact that is preserved in the archive or displayed in the center. There are many great photographs in the collection, including family portraits and countless moments with U.S. presidents over the years of Senator Byrd's career.
There are a couple of photos that I would like to share that can be connected to documents and even artifacts in the collection here at the Byrd Center. First is a photo of Senator Byrd getting his law degree at American University in Washington D.C. on June 10, 1963. The photo shows Senator Byrd receiving his diploma from President John F. Kennedy who was the speaker at the commencement ceremony. In the collection we have that very same diploma. Senator Byrd is the only member of the U.S. Senate to earn his law degree while serving as a member.
The last photo that I want to share is of the christening of the USS Sunfish by Senator Byrd’s wife, Erma. The submarine was christened on October 14, 1966. In the office at the Byrd Center, we have the belaying pin on display and in the archive, we have the bottle used in the christening of the submarine. The submarine was a Sturgeon-Class attack submarine and it was two hundred and eighty nine feet in length, reaching speeds in excess of twenty knots (twenty three mph). The Sunfish was decommissioned in March 31, 1997 and removed from the Naval Vessel Register on that very same day.
This has been a great opportunity to go through the life of a man that has experienced so much and has gone to so many different places around the world. If you have never taken a tour of the Byrd Center and its archives, I highly recommend it. We look forward to continuing to expand access to Senator Byrd's extensive and unique photograph collection.
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