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Senator Byrd Overcame Early Ku Klux Klan Membership

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By Sara Sciammacco

The late Senator Robert Byrd’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan as a young man was a problem that dogged his earlier career - and it had the potential to permanently alienate African-American voters.

However, his apologies and accomplishments in Congress were what he became better known for.

Senator Byrd spent decades apologizing for his youthful indiscretion, but he still opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

He later went on to show support for African-American concerns.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says Byrd redeemed himself as a Senator.

"Today no one would consider Senator Byrd anything but a civil rights Senator except for one issue I was never able to convince him to vote for -- the DC Voting Rights Act -- which made it necessary to go and recruit several Republicans because that was one Democrat I did not have," Norton says.

Holmes Norton went on to say that his strong opposition to the Iraq war also helped him turn around his reputation among AfricanAmericans.

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