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Former Sen. Harry Byrd Jr. dies at 98

RICHMOND, Va. -- Harry F. Byrd Jr., a 20th- century champion of racial segregation and fiscal restraint who followed his father into the U.S. Senate but left his father's Democratic Party, died Tuesday. He was 98.

Byrd, whose genteel demeanor masked thundering political clout, was the archetypal Southern senator during his 17 years in Washington. His 1983 retirement amounted to an epilogue for the "Byrd Machine" that once dominated Virginia politics.

His death was first reported by The Winchester Star, where his son, Tom Byrd, is president and publisher.

When failing health forced his father, Harry F. Byrd Sr., to vacate his Senate seat in 1965, the namesake son easily won a special election the next year to serve out his term. Then he left the still-dominant Democratic organization, marking only the second time an independent candidate had won a U.S. Senate seat. He won re-election in 1970 and 1976.

He defended Virginia's "massive resistance" to federal desegregation orders and said Congress could balance the budget if it would hold annual spending hikes under 5 percent. -- AP

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