Byrd, Harry Flood
(1887-1966)
   Although a Democrat, one of the New Deal’s staunchest critics, Harry Byrd was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and began working for the family newspaper in Winchester, Virginia, at the age of 15. He eventually became a newspaper publisher and businessman, and he served in the Virginia state senate from 1915 to 1925, and as state governor from 1926 to 1930. He gained a reputation as a progressive governor, streamlining the state administration and making it more efficient. He also encouraged industrial development and investment in the state. However, at the national level he was a conservative. In 1933, he was appointed to replace Senator Claude Swanson, whom President Franklin D. Roosevelt had appointed secretary of the navy. A defender of states’ rights and fiscal conservatism, Byrd opposed the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act and was incensed by the president’s attempt at “court packing” in 1937. He opposed Roosevelt’s renomination in 1940. His criticism of federal spending continued after the war, and he opposed the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. In the 1950s, he led the massive resistance to the desegregation of the schools following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision, and he consistently opposed the civil rights reforms of the 1960s. In every way, Byrd was representative of the old-fashioned, traditional southern Democrats.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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