"I am confident -- madam president, I am confident that the hottest places in hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God's creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt," Byrd said.
Byrd was a colorful character on the Senate floor, his peers said. He learned to play the fiddle at a young age and enjoyed playing it for his constituents, carrying it with him virtually everywhere he went. In one campaign year, the longtime senator even used his fiddle case as his briefcase. He performed at the Kennedy Center and recorded an album called "Mountain Fiddler."
"He'd strut onto the floor for years wearing colorful vests," Roberts said. "He had a pompadour. He was very different from your run-of-the-mill TV-era senators."
Byrd was also a self-professed "family man."
He met Erma Ora James, the daughter of a coal miner, at Mark Twain High School, and, shortly after graduation in 1937, they were married at age 19.
On his Senate website, it was noted, "For nearly 69 years, the Byrds were inseparable, traveling the hills and hollows of West Virginia and crossing the globe together."
The Byrds had two children, Mona Carole Byrd Fatemi and Marjorie Ellen Byrd Moore.
In March 2006, Erma Byrd died at age 88, prompting her husband to eulogize her on the Senate floor May 26, 2006, three days before what would have been their 69th wedding anniversary.
They are survived by both daughters, their husbands, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"Could I have made this journey without her? Could I have accomplished as much without her? I think not. The more important point is that I did it with her, and I would not have had it any other way," Byrd said.
"She was God's greatest gift to me."
ABC News' Karen Travers and Z. Byron Wolf contributed to this report.