Harry Flood Byrd, Jr. (born December 20, 1914) is an American politician. He represented Virginia in the United States Senate from 1965 to 1983. He is most notable for leaving the Democratic Party in 1970 and becoming an independent, although he continued to caucus with the Democrats. He is the son of Harry F. Byrd, Sr., whom he replaced as senator.
Byrd was born in Winchester, Virginia. He was educated at the Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia. He became a newspaper editor and fruit grower, and served in the United States Navy during World War II. He assumed control of his father's chain of newspapers in the Shenandoah Valley in 1939.
Byrd served in the Senate of Virginia from 1948 to November 1965. In November 1965, Byrd's father resigned from the U.S. Senate for health reasons. At Harry, Sr.'s suggestion, Harry, Jr. was appointed to succeed him by Virginia Governor Albertis S. Harrison Jr. and won a special election as a Democrat to serve the remainder of his father's term in 1966. In 1970 Byrd broke with the Democratic Party because they asked him to sign an oath of loyalty to the party, which would have required him to support any and all Democratic nominees, from the president to the local clerk. Instead of signing the restrictive contract, Byrd ran as an independent. Byrd was widely popular in the state and became the second senator in history to win as an independent, earning 54% of the vote in a three-way race. He continued to caucus with the Democrats, and maintained his Democratic seniority.
Like his father, Harry, Jr. had a very conservative voting record and was a strong supporter of federal fiscal discipline. In fact, he authored and Congress passed a floor amendment stating, "Beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government should not exceed its receipts."
Byrd easily won reelection in 1976, defeating Democrat Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. The Republicans did not run a candidate because they felt the likelihood of winning was very small.
Even as a senator, Byrd contributed regular editorial content to his newspapers, blending journalism and politics with style.
Byrd did not run for reelection in 1982 and moved back to his hometown of Winchester.
Byrd served as Chairman of the Board of The Winchester Star until 1990.
He was owner of the Page Shenandoah Newspaper Corporation until 1987, which published the Page News & Courier in Luray and The Shenandoah Valley Herald in Woodstock.
He retired as publisher of The Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg and Chairman of the Byrd newspapers in 2001, turning over the business to his son, Thomas T. Byrd.
He was named to the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in 2003.