As a reporter, I’m not supposed to get close to my sources. And, really, I can’t say that I was close to Sen. Robert C. Byrd. In the five years I covered the Senate, I knew him as a formal man, wrapped in rectitude, proper, perhaps even a bit uptight.
But still, I couldn’t help but like his gentlemanliness and the way that he would, occasionally, let his less-decorous side show through: When he teared up at a hearing after his dog, Billy Byrd, died. His off-key serenade on my 26th birthday. How his Southern soft touch melted my uptight Northern mother. His unchecked anger, flaring on the Senate floor. The way he’d look at his wife, Erma, ever tender after decades together.