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Sen. Byrd stops by for a cigar, visit with staff

August 28, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - In a brief, unannounced visit to his Martinsburg office on Monday, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd met with his staff for lunch and then enjoyed a Honduran cigar at a tobacco shop about a block away, officials confirmed.

Byrd was not available for questions, but he didn't shy from taking a few photographs and shaking hands with friends and aides outside King Street Coffee & Tobacco Emporium before returning to Washington.

"Come back and see us anytime," shop proprietor Ed Trout told Byrd before the senator got into the back seat of a black GMC Denali, escorted by members of the Secret Service.

"We always got a chair for ya'."

Byrd is provided with the security detail everywhere he travels as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, a position customarily awarded to the most senior member of the chamber's majority party.

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The 89-year-old senator is third in the line of presidential succession, following Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Before he left at 3:45 p.m., little more than a couple of hours after arriving in Martinsburg, Byrd shook hands with a couple of men who happened to be walking east on King Street and crossed the road, one on crutches, to meet him. At least one of the two told Byrd he was a Gulf War veteran.

Byrd also was introduced to Kent Lemaster, a Martinsburg boy who the senator's staff said was considering applying for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

The boy's father, Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster Jr., said he first met Byrd about 30 years ago and was glad his son had the chance to meet him.

"Senator, good seein' ya', you have a safe trip back," Kenneth Lemaster told Byrd.

Dressed in a light blue, long-sleeve shirt and dark blue pants for the visit, Byrd donned a patriotic-themed tie and a straw hat, which shielded his white mane from the hot afternoon sun.

Surrounded by his security team, aides who traveled with him and his Martinsburg office staff, Byrd braved the heat for several minutes along King Street to take a few last puffs of the Punch cigar that Trout said he was smoking. Trout said he visited his shop for about 30 minutes.

One of Byrd's aides eventually rubbed the burning end of the cigar out on the curb, wrapped it in a napkin and returned it to Byrd. Another aide told Byrd he got a few cigars for the senator to smoke when he returned to his McLean, Va., home outside of Washington.

Registered in 1840, the Punch cigar was named after Mr. Punch of the European "Punch and Judy" puppet shows, according to historical accounts.

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