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NAACP Mourns The Passing Of Senator Byrd

Despite Senator Robert Byrd's, D-W.V., checkered past concerning race relations, the NAACP released a statement Tuesday in which the group said it mourns Byrd's passing.

"The NAACP is saddened by the passing of United States Senator Robert Byrd," the group stated in its release.

NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said, "Senator Byrd reflects the transformative power of this nation."

"Senator Byrd went from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights and liberties of our country," he added.

According to Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, Byrd came to consistently support the NAACP's civil rights agenda, standing with the group on "many issues of crucial importance to our members from the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, the historic health care legislation of 2010 and his support for the Hate Crimes Prevention legislation."

Byrd joined the KKK in 1942, eventually becoming the leader of his local group. The West Virginia Democrat claimed that he left the group in 1943 and has since stated that he considers his time with the Klan a mistake.

"I know now I was wrong," Byrd said in an interview in 2005. "Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times ... and I don't mind apologizing over and over again. I can't erase what happened."

Byrd also joined the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, personally filibustering the bill for 14 hours. In addition, he was the only Senator to vote against the nominations of both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. They are the only African-Americans to have been nominated to the Court.

Byrd died at a hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, on Monday. He was 92.

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