Longest-serving US lawmaker Robert Byrd dies, aged 92
Democratic US Senator Robert Byrd, the longest-serving member of Congress in history, has died aged 92, his spokesman has said.
The West Virginia lawmaker died peacefully at a hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, the spokesman says.
Senator Byrd was elected to the House of Representatives in 1952, becoming a senator seven years later.
His death is not expected to change the Democrats' current majority in the Senate.
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, a Democrat, is expected to appoint a Democrat to serve the remainder of Mr Byrd's current six-year term, which expires in 2012, Reuters reports.
Iraq war critic
Robert Byrd's health had been failing for years, often forcing him to use a wheelchair.
Last week, he was taken to hospital suffering from heat exhaustion and severe dehydration, but other medical conditions reportedly developed later.
The cause of death was not immediately known.
As a young man, Mr Byrd was for a brief period a member of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan and also joined Southern Democrats in an unsuccessful filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
He later apologised for both actions, saying that intolerance had no place in America.
In his later years as a senator, Robert Byrd became a champion of civil rights.
He was also an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war and warned against a build-up of US troops in Afghanistan, winning a record ninth term in the Senate in 2006.
As recently as 2009 he was a senior Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.