Robert C. Byrd, was a recruiter for the Klan while in his 20s and 30s, rising to the title of Kleagle and Exalted Cyclops of his local chapter. After leaving the group, Byrd spoke in favor of the Klan during his early political career. Though he claimed to have left the organization in 1943, Byrd, wrote a letter in 1946 to the group's Imperial Wizard stating "The Klan is needed today as never before, and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia." Byrd attempted to explain or defend his former membership in the Klan in his 1958 U.S. Senate campaign when he was 41 years old. Byrd, a Democrat, eventually became his party leader in the Senate. Byrd later said joining the Klan was his "greatest mistake." However, in a 2001 incident Byrd repeatedly used the phrase "white niggers" on a national television broadcast.