Vice President Biden Notes Passing of His 'Dear Friend' and Mentor, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:

Vice President Biden said today that with the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) the Senate lost a legend and he lost a dear friend and mentor.

“We lost the dean of the United States Senate, but also the state of West Virginia lost its most fierce advocate and, as I said, I lost a dear friend,” Biden said today in Louisville, Ky.

Biden and Byrd were Senate colleagues for 36 years.

The vice president recalled how the West Virginia senator was there to support him at one of the most difficult times in his life, after the deaths of his wife Neilia and daughter Naomi, before Biden had even entered the Senate.

“A guy who was there when I was a 29-year-old kid being sworn into the United States Senate shortly thereafter; a guy who stood in the rain, in a pouring rain, freezing rain outside a church as I buried my daughter and my wife before I got sworn in, Robert C. Byrd,” Biden said

Biden called Byrd a “tough, compassionate, and outspoken leader” and said the late senator was “dedicated above all else to making life better for the people of the mountain state -- his state, the state of West Virginia.”

“We shall not see his like again,” the vice president said. “And the Senate is a lesser place for his going.”

At a campaign rally in West Virginia in October 2008, Byrd slipped and introduced then-vice president candidate Biden as “the next president.”

“I’ve known him for nearly four decades,” Byrd said of Biden at the event in Charleston. “And in his heart, in his beliefs, and in his life story, he is a West Virginian!”

Biden returned the compliment by noting that “to learn the ways of the Senate from Bob Byrd is like getting a trumpet lesson from the angel Gabriel.”

-Karen Travers

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