The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

November 6, 2007

Sen. Byrd turns 90 in two weeks

Plans under way for birthday celebration

Make sure the cake is a huge one.

After all, when Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia sits down for his next birthday celebration come Nov. 20, he will need 90 candles to light up his cake and blow out while making traditional wishes.

Plans are still in the works for the birthday party, according to his staff, but one thing is certain at this point — any cards from well-wishers shouldn’t be sent directly to his Capitol office.

Given the security that intensified after 9/11 and an anthrax scare shortly afterward, mail is often delayed several weeks while it is being scrutinized for potential sabotage.

So the quickest route to get a card to the Democratic senator is to mail it to his Charleston office at 300 Virginia St., Suite 2630, Charleston, W.Va., 25301, according to staff spokesman Mark Farrell.

“We can take them up there from here,” he said. “That’s the best way.”

Byrd’s birthday has been a source of mystery to some, since Blue Books published in the 1950s and 1960s always carried his nativity as Jan. 15, 1917, meaning he would have turned 90 months ago if that had been accurate.

But the senator learned his actual birthday in the 1970s when a brother paid him a visit, according to Byrd aide Cindy Huber.

Actually, his real name at birth in Wilkesboro, N.C., was Cornelius Calvin Sale Jr., but was changed to Robert Carlisle Byrd when a sister-in-law of his dying mother and her husband adopted the senator, then less than a year old.

His natural mother died Nov. 10, 1918, a victim of a national influenza epidemic, Huber said.

“When Sen. Byrd met one of his brothers — I think this was in the 1970s — he told him that his birthday was Nov. 20, not Jan. 15,” Huber said.

Since the Byrds in West Virginia had no children, they adopted the future senator but somehow confusion developed as to his actual birth date, the staff spokesperson said, and wasn’t cleared up until the brother came to see him.

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