By Malorie Matos
Our final installment of the Mountain Fiddler series will focus on Senator Byrd’s musical legacy.
For Robert C. Byrd, music was always an important aspect of life. Although he used the fiddle as an unorthodox political tool, and his opponents used it as a subject of criticism, for Byrd, fiddling was first and foremost a personal passion. His devout appreciation for fiddling and bluegrass is evident in the amount of musical memorabilia we have in the Byrd collection here at the Byrd CLS.
Amongst the countless objects obtained by the Byrd CLS following the senator’s passing in 2010 are two fiddles from his personal collection.
Byrd’s passion for mountain music really comes through in a 1964 “Byrd’s Eye View” article where he describes the importance of fiddle tunes in Appalachian culture by lovingly explaining that: “To a mountain music lover, a fiddling contest in his community is an event with more life than an Independence Day parade in any metropolis.”
Despite whatever issues faced Senator Byrd in his political life, his love for music and the fiddle always stayed constant. The fiddle was his way of personally connecting to the people of West Virginia and he maintained that connection for over 60 years.
Robert C. Byrd left behind a long political legacy, but nearly as enduring is his musical legacy. Through gifts and awards, we can see that Byrd the Fiddler was almost as important to constituents as Byrd the Politician.
Even after his passing in 2010, the fiddle continued to be recognized as a significant aspect of Senator Byrd’s life.