Ted Kennedy, Senate Lion and
Liberal Champion, Dies at 77
The Massachusetts Democrat was seen by many as an American version of
a Greek tragedy as his personal losses along with his professional
triumphs unfolded in the public eye.
FoxNews. August 26, 2009. Sen. Edward Kennedy, the longtime
Massachusetts lawmaker whose personal tragedies along with his
professional triumphs and losses unfolded in the public eye, died late
Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port after battling a brain tumor. He was
His family announced his death in a brief statement released early
Wednesday. He is expected to be buried alongside his brothers at
Arlington National Cemetery.
"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in
our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance
will live on in our hearts forever," the statement said. "We thank
everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone
who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress
toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all."
The Massachusetts Democrat was seen by many as an American version of a
Greek tragedy. Born into political royalty, Kennedy's triumphs were
often overshadowed by those of his brothers, John and Bobby Kennedy. But
nonetheless, the younger Kennedy carved his own political legacy as the
second longest-serving senator in U.S. history.
President Obama, on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, said Kennedy was a
"singular figure in American history" and that he and Michelle Obama are
"heartbroken" by the loss.
"His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in
millions of lives," Obama said.
In emotional remarks, Vice President Joe Biden called Kennedy a "truly
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on Wednesday both the Kennedy
family and the Senate have "lost our patriarch."
Reid promised that Congress, while mourning Kennedy's loss, would renew
the push for the cause of Kennedy's life, health care reform.
"Ted Kennedy's dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought
and for which his brothers sought to realize," Reid said in a statement.
"The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall
Kennedy's funeral will be held in Boston.
The youngest of the nine-sibling Kennedy clan, Teddy had much of his
path paved by famous older brothers and father. That created problems as
well as opportunities for him.
As a member of a roving family, Kennedy moved around a lot in his youth,
having lived in London briefly while his father was U.S. ambassador. He
made friends easily. He attended Harvard in 1951, playing on the
freshman football team before he was caught cheating by having a friend
take his Spanish language exam.
Kennedy was expelled and entered the Army, where he served in Paris
during the Korean War, and after almost two years was re-admitted to
Harvard for demonstrating good behavior.
He went on to get a law degree from the University of Virginia Law
School and served as an assistant D.A in Suffolk County, Mass. He
married Virginia Joan Bennett, who was introduced to him by his sister
Jean. They had three children, the youngest was Patrick, who also would
enter public office.
When John Kennedy was elected to the presidency in 1960, it appeared the
Kennedy clan had the makings of a political dynasty. At the time, Robert
Kennedy was attorney general and Teddy, as he was affectionately known,
was elected to the Senate in 1962.
But Kennedy soon found himself alone on the political stage after his
brothers were killed by assassins in 1963 and 1968.
Shouldering the burden of a grieving family, Kennedy delivered Bobby's
eulogy at New York's Saint Patrick's Cathedral in 1968, attributing to
Robert a quote by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw: "Some men see
things as they are and say 'why.' I dream things that never were and say
He added: "Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today
pray that what he was to us, and what he wished for others will someday
come to pass for all the world."
But Kennedy's own aspirations for the White House were dashed in 1969
when his car plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick on Martha's
Vineyard, killing Robert Kennedy campaign aide Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy
swam to safety and only alerted authorities to the accident hours later.
As Kopechne's body was pulled from the dark sedan, the senator told
investigators he panicked.
"That tragedy will live with me for the rest of my life...every day for
the rest of my life," he said.
An investigation later absolved Kennedy of responsibility. He received
two months suspended jail time for leaving the scene of an accident, but
questions about his character would follow him and haunt his political
ambitions for the nation's highest office.
Despite the Chappaquiddick incident, Kennedy decided to throw his hat
into the 1980 presidential race, going up against incumbent Democrat
Jimmy Carter. Kennedy lost his bid for the White House and returned to
the Senate -- becoming the lion of the liberal left.
Like his first wife, Joan, Kennedy also struggled with alcohol, and
through much of the 1980s was viewed as a playboy with a bottle. That
image culminated with the arrest of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith,
who was later acquitted on charges of raping a woman he met at a bar
while out with his uncle. It also hurt his ability to fight the Supreme
Court nomination of Clarence Thomas over allegations of harassment by
former Thomas aide Anita Hill.
Kennedy credited his second wife Victoria Anne Reggie with turning him
around and redirecting him back to his political career and liberal
Kennedy served as an ardent supporter for other Democrats seeking the
presidency and endorsed Barack Obama early in his campaign -- comparing
the Illinois senator with his late brother, John.
At times, it seemed Kennedy and his abundant energy would last for
years. But last May, he suffered a seizure at his Cape Cod home and was
diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
Kennedy stayed active for as long as he could after his diagnosis,
offering a key address in support of Obama during the Democratic
National Convention in Denver in August 2008. He also attended Obama's
presidential inauguration, where he had to be taken away in a stretcher.
Though he was absent from the Senate for much of President Obama's first
year, his name was attached to health care legislation, penned a widely
read op-ed in support of health care reform and was a critical vote on
several piece of legislation.
Kennedy was too ill to attend his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver's
funeral or to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed upon
him by President Obama, both in in August 2009.
FOX News' Molly Line contributed to this report.