Former Sen. Harry Byrd Jr. of Virginia dies at 98

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Former Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. of Virginia, a conservative Democrat turned independent who followed in his father's footsteps, has died.

Byrd's son, Tom Byrd, is president and publisher of The Winchester Star. Tom Byrd's office confirmed Tuesday that the former senator had died at age 98.

Harry Byrd Jr. was a former publisher of the paper and a former vice president of The Associated Press.

Byrd served 17 years in the U.S. Senate, from 1965 to early 1983. He began as a Democrat but switched to independent to win re-election in 1970 and 1976.

He was first appointed to replace his powerful father, Harry Sr., a senator from 1933 until failing health forced him to retire.

Like his father, Byrd opposed racial integration. He defended Virginia's strategy of "massive resistance" to school desegregation.

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