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The Last Great Senator: Robert C. Byrd's Encounters with Eleven U.S. Presidents Hardcover – October, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (October 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612344992
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612344997
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“In my Senate leadership lecture on July 14, 1998, I discussed how Sen. Robert Byrd and I made an agreement to work together to make the Senate operate smoothly and productively. ‘It was an agreement,’ I said, that ‘we never broke, not once in the eight years we served together as Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate.’ Determined to document Byrd’s place in American history, David Corbin has detailed the incredible career and accomplishments of the distinguished Senator from West Virginia by focusing on his encounters with the last eleven presidents. I hope this book will become a must read for people interested not only in Senator Byrd, but the U.S. Senate and the presidency. I thank David for putting this book together about my good friend and former colleague.”—Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN), former Senate majority leader

“Sen. Robert C. Byrd was my predecessor as the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. When he cast his twelve thousandth vote in the Senate, I stated, ‘There are few honors greater than to be able to say that we served in the U.S. Senate with Robert Byrd.’ Now David Corbin has produced this much-needed account of Byrd’s life and career: how he embodied the Senate as an institution, how he was a powerful reminder to presidents and senators of the need to abide by the Constitution, and how he was a crucial part of American history for more than a half century. And he always remained so proud of his southern West Virginia roots. This is an important story that needed to be told, and David tells it so well.”—Sen. George Mitchell (D-ME), former Senate majority leader

“Robert C. Byrd grew in stature remarkably over his six decades of political power. From his beginning as a self-described ‘rustic boob from West Virginia,’ he slowly rose to become the mighty ‘conscience of the Senate’—one of the few brave enough to oppose George W. Bush’s unnecessary Iraq invasion. I was Byrd’s first press secretary when he entered the Senate in 1959, and I watched him evolve. David Corbin does a superb job of telling this important American story.”—James A. Haught, editor, Charleston (WV) Gazette

"Superbly written, enhanced with extensive notes, a bibliographic essay, and a comprehensive index, The Last Great Senator: Robert C. Byrd's Encounters with Eleven U.S. Presidents is a unique and highly recommended contribution..."—Review, The Midwest Book Review, January 2013

About the Author

David A. Corbin served as a Senate staffer for twenty-six years—six years on the leadership staff of Senate majority leader Byrd and ten years on the leadership staffs of Senate majority leaders George Mitchell and Tom Daschle. He also served as Senator Byrd’s speechwriter for the last ten years of his career. Corbin is the author of The West Virginia Mine Wars: An Anthology (1990) and Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880–1920 (1981). He received his PhD in history from the University of Maryland and lives in Annapolis.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 12 customer reviews
This is, without question one of the best books I have ever read.
Larry A. Gibbs
For all of his accomplishments, he was kind and always gracious, with a sense of humor that most often put a twinkle in his eye.
Herschel H. Rose
David Corbin's book is well written and a fascinating story of the longest lasting senator, Robert Byrd.
Michael P. Riccards

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Herschel H. Rose on March 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Senator Byrd was a remarkable man for a number of reasons. His mother died when he was an infant and he was reared by an aunt and uncle. Their economic circumstances were very difficult. As Senator Byrd once said, "On my ladder of success, the bottom rungs were kicked out." Despite this, he was an excellent student and received an excellent education in the rural schools of Raleigh County, West Virginia. He was a ferocious reader with a virtually photographic memory. He worked hard all of his life. He didn't have hobbies. He once described the New Year's Day on which he watched football games. He enjoyed them, but at the end of the day, he said he was no better off than he been at the beginning. He didn't watch any more football games. Altogether, he was very very smart, worked very very hard and remembered virtually every event associated with his life.

For all of his accomplishments, he was kind and always gracious, with a sense of humor that most often put a twinkle in his eye. But the most remarkable objective fact about Senator Byrd is that he served at the very pinnacle of the United States government for fully a quarter of the life of the Republic.

Doctor David Corbin, who is a distinguished professional historian, worked as a staff member in Senator Byrd's Washington office for several decades. He drafted many of Byrd's most notable speeches and articles. No historian has been in a better position than Doctor Corbin to observe his subject. As a result, this extremely interesting and well-written account of Senator Byrd service with 11 presidents is an indispensable addition to the history of the nation, the Senate and West Virginia. It should be required reading of anyone elected to or working for the United States Congress as well as anyone who has an interest in learning more about one of the greatest public servants in the history of the Republic.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mike Fulton on January 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"The Last Great Senator" by Dave Corbin enlightened me on many areas of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd's political life and achievements, and I am from West Virginia and worked in the Congress for 10 of his illustrious years. Most West Virginians think they know Senator Byrd. And people not from the Mountain State have an even more distorted view of our "great Senator."
I encourage you to buy a copy of Dave's well-organized and entertaining account of the Senator. You will enjoy the Senator's political challenges, rationale for key landmark votes, relationships with 11 U.S. Presidents (including some unlikely allies) and wholesome account of a man (and faithful wife Irma) who triumphed against all odds.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Price on December 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As a former US Senate Page, appointed by Senator Robert C Byrd, I had to read, "THE LAST GREAT SENATOR."

The power of most politicians is measured in years. The power of Robert C Byrd is measured in decades.

This book is both feel good history and real history. It documents the rise of a poor white trash, orphan hillbilly, "who rose to the height of American political power to walk with Kings, to negotiate with Prime Ministers, and humble presidents of the United States."

This is a story that that needed to be written, and needs to be read. I doubt anybody could have told this story as well as Dr. David Corbin who knew and worked for Senator Byrd for 27 years. Dr. Corbin deserves a Pulitzer Prize in History for this well documented historical work.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ellimac on March 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My husband received this as a gift for Christmas and he loved it. He stated that this is a book everyone should read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Larry A. Gibbs on February 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is, without question one of the best books I have ever read. There is so much history in it, yet it is easy, even enjoyable to read. I have read Dr. Corbin's two books on the southern West Virginia coal miners, so I expected to learn a lot of Byrd's youthful background in the coal fields, and I did. It was fascinating to read just how humble Byrd's childhood background really was, and to read of his real, well-documented experiences in the coalfields. This is in contrast to the one everyone thinks they know. But once Byrd is elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958, the book becomes more intriguing. It is no longer just a biography of Byrd but an account of encounters with the presidents--eleven of them, from Eisenhower to Obama. That is one-fourth of all the presidents in American history. I agree with the statement by former Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker on the book's dust jacket that this book should become a "must read" for people interested not only in Senator Byrd, but the American presidents as well as the U.S. Senate. I easily give it five stars. I would give it more if I could.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Doug Estepp on February 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Having grown up in West Virginia and having been politically engaged, I thought I was well informed on the life and political legacy of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd. Like most people I was aware of his humble beginnings as the adopted son of a coal miner and of his steady rise to the most powerful posts in the US Senate which I attributed in part to his longevity. But to my surprise, David Corbin's book opened my eyes to a range of misconceptions I had held.

For one I did not realize how humble those beginnings actually were nor did I appreciate how hard the political establishment in the state fought to exclude Byrd from political success. I also failed to grasp the sheer determination of his character and the force of will he exerted to achieve his aims. Corbin deftly tells the story of Byrd's journey from behind the meat counter of a country store to the top of the state's and eventually Washington's political structure surprising opposing politicians and political observers alike again and again.

Corbin also enlightens the reader to the condescension and personal smears Byrd endured by the political and media elites in Washington. Painted as a racist hillbilly, expedient slurs cheaply tossed at many a native of the Mountain State, the hack job was so complete as to be accepted by most without question. The author deconstructs the slander and we discover Byrd's opposition to the Civil Rights Act was based not on racism but on constitutional issues and that once those were resolved Byrd was supportive not only of legislation but he was also a pioneer in desegregating the bureaucracy of Capitol Hill.

Even on the issue of Byrd's brief membership in the Ku Klux Klan, the lapse most often cited by his critics, we find the truth is complicated.
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