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.
“When I came to work for him in 1982, I know he had a birthday of Nov. 20,” she said.
“One day I was going through some back files and I saw a birth certificate with the day of Nov. 20 on it. For many years, he thought his birthday was Jan. 15.”
Byrd has enjoyed a legendary career in politics, starting with a seat in the West Virginia Legislature and rising to the position of Senate majority leader. Back in 1976, he ran briefly for the presidency. A few years earlier, President Richard Nixon had put him on a short list for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Byrd earned a law degree by attending night school at American University while holding down his full-time job in the Senate.
Easily winning re-election to a record ninth term the last time out a year ago this month by defeating John Raese, the senator has been at his desk since Jan. 3, 1959, and is the longest-serving member of the Senate.
Plans under way for birthday celebration
Make sure the cake is a huge one.
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