Obituary : Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Senator Edward Moore Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night at his home in Hyannis Port. He was 77. Mr. Kennedy had been in precarious health since he suffered a seizure in May 2008. His doctors determined the cause was a malignant glioma, a brain tumor that often carries a grim prognosis.
Born February 22, 1932, in Brookline, Edward Moore Kennedy grew up in a family of shrewd politicians. Both his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, and his mother, the former Rose Fitzgerald, came from prominent Irish-Catholic families with long involvement in Democratic politics in Boston and Massachusetts. His father, who made a fortune in real estate, movies, and banking, served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and then as ambassador to Britain.
Edward was the youngest of nine Kennedy children. They grew up talking politics, power, and influence because those were the things that preoccupied their father. As Rose Kennedy, who took responsibility for the children's Roman Catholic upbringing, once put it, "My babies were rocked to political lullabies."
Mr. Kennedy served 46 years as the most well-known Democrat in the Senate, longer than all but two other senators.
President Obama issued a statement on Wednesday morning from Chilmark acknowledging Mr. Kennedy's accomplishments: "An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time."
Senator Kennedy was at or near the center of much of American history in the latter part of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. He was the last surviving brother of a generation of Kennedys that dominated American politics in the 1960s and that came to embody glamour, political idealism, and untimely death. President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were felled by assassins' bullets in their 40s. The eldest brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., died in World War II in 1944 at the age of 29. Senator Kennedy was involved in the drowning death on Chappaquiddick of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to his brother, Robert. His nephew, John F. Kennedy Jr., died in a plane crash a few miles southwest of Gay Head in 1999 at age 38. Senator Kennedy himself was almost killed in 1964, in a plane crash that left him with permanent back and neck problems.
Mr. Kennedy's first foray into politics came in 1958, while still a law student, when he managed his brother John's successful U.S. Senate re-election campaign. That same year, Mr. Kennedy married Virginia Joan Bennett, a debutante from Bronxville, a New York suburb where the Kennedys had once lived.
Dismissed early in his career as an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. Mr. Kennedy left his mark on legislation concerning civil rights, health care, education, voting rights, and labor. He was chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at his death.
Although he was a leading spokesman for liberal issues and a favorite target of conservative fund-raising appeals, the hallmark of his legislative success was his ability to find Republican allies to get bills passed. Perhaps the last notable example was his work with President George W. Bush to pass No Child Left Behind, the education law pushed by Mr. Bush in 2001. He also co-sponsored immigration legislation with Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. One of his greatest friends and collaborators in the Senate was Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican.
Mr. Kennedy led the Congressional effort to impose sanctions on South Africa over apartheid, pushed for peace in Northern Ireland, won a ban on arms sales to the dictatorship in Chile, and denounced the Vietnam War. In 2002, he voted against authorizing the Iraq war; later, he called that opposition "the best vote I've made in my 44 years in the United States Senate."
At a pivotal moment in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, Mr. Kennedy endorsed Senator Obama for president.
Mr. Kennedy is survived by his wife, known as Vicki; two sons, Edward M. Kennedy Jr. of Branford, Conn., and United States Representative Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island; a daughter, Kara Kennedy Allen, of Bethesda, Md.; two stepchildren, Curran Raclin and Caroline Raclin; and four grandchildren. His former wife, Joan Kennedy, lives in Boston. Mr. Kennedy is also survived by a sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, of New York. On August 11, his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver of Potomac, Md., died at age 88. Another sister, Patricia Lawford Kennedy, died in 2006. His sister Rosemary died in 2005, and his sister Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948. Senator Kennedy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.
This obituary includes excerpts from the obituary written by John M. Broder published in The New York Times on August 26.