Senator and friend of SU passes

Hillary Legge, ‘Doah Managing Editor
September 4, 2013

On Tuesday, July 30, former U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. died at his home here in Winchester. Byrd was 98-years-old at the time of his death.

A member of the esteemed Byrd family, one of the First Families of Virginia, Byrd had been a major player in Virginia politics throughout his life.

He and his family also had an active role in Shenandoah University, including its move to Winchester in 1960. Due to his involvement with the school over the years the business school was named after him in 1984.

“The Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business has lost a great friend in the passing of its namesake. Senator Byrd was a champion of civic and financial responsibility, as well higher education. His largess is legendary, especially in regards to Shenandoah University and its business school.

“I have had the opportunity to interact with Senator Byrd on numerous occasions. Whether in public or the privacy of his home, he was always gracious and always wanted to know what was occurring at the business school,” said Dr. Miles Davis, the current dean of the business school.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Byrd worked for a time in the family orchard business as well as the local newspaper The Winchester Star, which they own.

In 1948, he was elected to the Virginia Senate. It was during this time that Byrd famously opposed the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down segregation in public schools. When Virginia schools closed in resistance of the federal orders Byrd supported them believing the government was overstepping its bounds.

Byrd joined the U.S. Senate in 1966, winning a special election to fill the seat vacated by his father. He left the Democratic Party to become an Independent in 1970.

A small government, budget hawk Byrd always stood firmly behind his beliefs, even going so far as to decline some of his pay increases while in the Senate. While he rarely introduced legislation during his tenure, he was committed to his work. In his 18 years in the Senate, he attended 96 percent of the roll calls.

Byrd left public office in 1983, however that was not the end of his career. Following his retirement he presented a lecture series at S.U. and remained a member of the board of trustees until 1994.

“Senator Byrd was a public servant and a gentleman. He believed deeply in protecting freedom of the press, and in the transformational power of education — and he believed very much in Shenandoah University.

“We are honored to have our business school named after him. Personally, I love that for generations to come, Shenandoah students will know his name and will remember him as a role model for being a good citizen.” said S.U. President Tracy Fitzsimmons.

“The business school was named after him in 1984. Programs have continued to grow and evolve at the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business even as Senator Byrd himself grew and evolved in his thinking over the long years of his life. We respectfully mourn his passing and celebrate the life he led and his everlasting contributions,” said Davis.

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