Edward Moore Kennedy
Private First Class, United States Army
United States Senator
Edward M. Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Is Dead
Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew acclaim and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.
The death of Mr. Kennedy, who had been battling brain cancer, was announced Wednesday morning in a statement by the Kennedy family, which was already mourning the death of the senator’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver two weeks earlier.
“Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port,” the statement said. “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.”
President Obama said Mr. Kennedy was one of the nation’s greatest senators.
“His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education’s promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just — including myself,” he said. Mr. Obama is scheduled to speak at a funeral Mass for Mr. Kennedy on Saturday morning in Boston.
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 carries a grim prognosis.
As he underwent cancer treatment, Mr. Kennedy was little seen in Washington, appearing most recently at the White House in April as Mr. Obama signed a national service bill that bears the Kennedy name. In a letter last week, Mr. Kennedy urged Massachusetts lawmakers to change state law and let Gov. Deval Patrick appoint a temporary successor upon his death, to assure that the state’s representation in Congress would not be interrupted.
While Mr. Kennedy was physically absent from the capital in recent months, his presence was deeply felt as Congress weighed the most sweeping revisions to America’s health care system in decades, an effort Mr. Kennedy called “the cause of my life.”
On July 15, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Mr. Kennedy headed, passed health care legislation, and the battle over the proposed overhaul is now consuming Capitol Hill.
Mr. Kennedy 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. The Kennedy mystique — some call it the Kennedy myth — has held the imagination of the world for decades, and it came to rest on the sometimes too-narrow shoulders of the brother known as Teddy.
Mr. Kennedy, who served 46 years as the most well-known Democrat in the Senate, longer than all but two other senators, was the only one of those brothers to reach old age. 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 1944 at the age of 29 while on a risky World War II bombing mission.
Mr. Kennedy spent much of the last year in treatment and recuperation, broken by occasional public appearances and a dramatic return to the Capitol last summer to cast a decisive vote on a Medicare bill.
He electrified the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August with an unscheduled appearance and a speech that had delegates on their feet. Many were in tears.
His gait was halting, but his voice was strong. “My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here, and nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.”
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. For much of his adult life, he veered from victory to catastrophe, winning every Senate election he entered but failing in his only bid for the presidency; living through the sudden deaths of his brothers and three of his nephews; being responsible for the drowning death on Chappaquiddick Island of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to his brother Robert. One of the nephews, John F. Kennedy Jr., who the family hoped would one day seek political office and keep the Kennedy tradition alive, died in a plane crash in 1999 at age 38.
Mr. Kennedy himself was almost killed in 1964, in a plane crash that left him with permanent back and neck problems.
He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy.
Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, one of the institution’s most devoted students, said of his longtime colleague, “Ted Kennedy would have been a leader, an outstanding senator, at any period in the nation’s history.”
Mr. Byrd is one of only two senators to have served longer in the chamber than Mr. Kennedy; the other was Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. In May 2008, on learning of Mr. Kennedy’s diagnosis of a lethal brain tumor, Mr. Byrd wept openly on the floor of the Senate.
More Than a Legislator
Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a playboy and a rake for many of his years. Dismissed early in his career as a lightweight and 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. A man of unbridled appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad landscape of social policy.
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. But he was more than a legislator. He was a living legend whose presence ensured a crowd and whose hovering figure haunted many a president.
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 G. Hatch, the Utah Republican.
Mr. Kennedy had less impact on foreign policy than on domestic concerns, but when he spoke, his voice was influential. He 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 Mr. Obama, then an Illinois senator, Obama for president, saying he offered the country a chance for racial reconciliation and an opportunity to turn the page on the polarizing politics of the past several decades.
“He will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past,” Mr. Kennedy said at an Obama rally in Washington on Jan. 28, 2008. “He is a leader who sees the world clearly, without being cynical. He is a fighter who cares passionately about the causes he believes in without demonizing those who hold a different view.”
This month, Mr. Obama awarded Mr. Kennedy the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which his daughter, Kara, accepted on his behalf.
Mr. Kennedy struggled for much of his life with his weight, with alcohol and with persistent tales of womanizing. In an Easter break episode in 1991 in Palm Beach, Fla., he went out drinking with his son Patrick and a nephew, William Kennedy Smith, on the night that Mr. Smith was accused of raping a woman. Mr. Smith was prosecuted in a lurid trial that fall but was acquitted.
Mr. Kennedy’s personal life stabilized in 1992 with his marriage to Victoria Anne Reggie, a Washington lawyer. His first marriage, to Joan Bennett Kennedy, ended in divorce in 1982 after 24 years.
Senator Kennedy served as a surrogate father to his brothers’ children and worked to keep the Kennedy flame alive through the Kennedy Library in Boston, the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he helped establish the Institute of Politics.
In December, Harvard granted Mr. Kennedy a special honorary degree. He referred to Mr. Obama’s election as “not just a culmination, but a new beginning.”
He then spoke of his own life, and perhaps his legacy.
“We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make,” he said. “I have lived a blessed time.”
Kennedy family courtiers and many other Democrats believed he would eventually win the White House and redeem the promise of his older brothers. In 1980, he took on the president of his own party, Jimmy Carter, but fell short because of Chappaquiddick, a divided party and his own weaknesses as a candidate, including an inability to articulate why he sought the office.
But as that race ended in August at the Democratic National Convention in New York, Mr. Kennedy delivered his most memorable words, wrapping his dedication to party principles in the gauzy cloak of Camelot.
“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end,” Mr. Kennedy said in the coda to a speech before a rapt audience at Madison Square Garden and on television. “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”
A Family Steeped in Politics
Born Feb. 22, 1932, in Boston, 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 the hurly-burly of 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.
There were nine Kennedy children, four boys and five girls, with Edward the youngest. They grew up talking politics, power and influence because those were the things that preoccupied the mind of Joseph Kennedy. As Rose Kennedy, who took responsibility for the children’s Roman Catholic upbringing, once put it, “My babies were rocked to political lullabies.”
When Edward was born, President Herbert Hoover sent Rose a bouquet of flowers and a note of congratulations. The note came with 5 cents postage due; the framed envelope is a family heirloom.
It was understood among the children that Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the oldest boy, would someday run for Congress and, his father hoped, the White House. When Joseph Jr. was killed in World War II, it fell to the next oldest son, John, to run. As John said at one point in 1959 while serving in the Senate: “Just as I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow, Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, our young brother, Ted, would take over for him.”
Although surrounded by the trappings of wealth — stately houses, servants and expensive cars — young Teddy did not enjoy a settled childhood. He bounced among the family homes in Boston, New York, London and Palm Beach, and by the time he was ready to enter college, he had attended 10 preparatory schools in the United States and England, finally finishing at Milton Academy, near Boston. He said that the constant moving had forced him to become more genial with strangers; indeed, he grew to be more of a natural politician than either John or Robert.
After graduating from Milton in 1950, where he showed a penchant for debating and sports but was otherwise an undistinguished student, Mr. Kennedy enrolled in Harvard, as had his father and brothers.
It was at Harvard, in his freshman year, that he ran into the first of several personal troubles that were to dog him for the rest of his life: He persuaded another student to take his Spanish examination, got caught and was forced to leave the university.
Suddenly draft-eligible during the Korean War, Mr. Kennedy enlisted in the Army and served two years, securing, with his father’s help, a post at NATO headquarters in Paris. In 1953, he was discharged with the rank of private first class.
Re-enrolling in Harvard, he became a more serious student, majoring in government, excelling in public speaking and playing first-string end on the football team. He graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, then enrolled in the University of Virginia School of Law, where Robert had studied. There, he won the moot court competition and took a degree in 1959. Later that year, he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar.
Mr. Kennedy’s first foray into politics came in 1958, while still a law student, when he managed John’s Senate re-election campaign. There was never any real doubt that Massachusetts voters would return John Kennedy to Washington, but it was a useful internship for his youngest brother.
That same year, Mr. Kennedy married Virginia Joan Bennett, a debutante from Bronxville, a New York suburb where the Kennedys had once lived. In 1960, when John Kennedy ran for president, Edward was assigned a relatively minor role, rustling up votes in Western states that usually voted Republican. He was so enthusiastic about his task that he rode a bronco at a Montana rodeo and daringly took a ski jump at a winter sports tournament in Wisconsin to impress a crowd. The episodes were evidence of a reckless streak that repeatedly threatened his life and career.
John Kennedy’s election to the White House left vacant a Senate seat that the family considered its property. Robert Kennedy was next in line, but chose the post of attorney general instead (an act of nepotism that has since been outlawed). Edward was only 28, two years shy of the minimum age for Senate service.
So the Kennedys installed Benjamin A. Smith II, a family friend, as a seat-warmer until 1962, when a special election would be held and Edward would have turned 30. Edward used the time to travel the world and work as an assistant district attorney in Boston, waiving the $5,000 salary and serving instead for $1 a year.
As James Sterling Young, the director of a Kennedy Oral History Project at the University of Virginia, said the catchphrase of that era was: “Most people grow up and go into politics. The Kennedys go into politics and then they grow up.”
Less than a month after turning 30 in 1962, Mr. Kennedy declared his candidacy for the remaining two years of his brother’s Senate term. He entered the race with a tailwind of family money and political prominence. Nevertheless, Edward J. McCormack Jr., the state’s attorney general and a nephew of John W. McCormack, then speaker of the United States House of Representatives, also decided to go after the seat.
It was a bitter fight, with a public rehash of the Harvard cheating episode and with Mr. McCormack charging in a televised “Teddy-Eddie” debate that Mr. Kennedy lacked maturity of judgment because he had “never worked for a living” and had never held elective office. “If your name was simply Edward Moore instead of Edward Moore Kennedy,” Mr. McCormack added, “your candidacy would be a joke.”
But the Kennedys had ushered in an era of celebrity politics, which trumped qualifications in this case. Mr. Kennedy won the primary by a two-to-one ratio, then went on to easy victory in November against the Republican candidate, George Cabot Lodge, a member of an old-line Boston family that had clashed politically with the Kennedys through the years.
When Mr. Kennedy entered the Senate in 1962, he was aware that he might be seen as an upstart, with one brother in the White House and another in the cabinet. He sought guidance on the very first day from one of the Senate’s most respected elders, Richard Russell of Georgia. “You go further if you go slow,” Senator Russell advised.
Mr. Kennedy took things slowly, especially that first year. He did his homework, was seen more than he was heard and was deferential to veteran legislators.
On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, he was presiding over the Senate when a wire service ticker in the lobby brought the news of John Kennedy’s shooting in Dallas. Violence had claimed the second of Joseph Kennedy’s sons.
Edward was sent to Hyannis Port to break the news to his father, who had been disabled by a stroke. He returned to Washington for the televised funeral and burial, the first many Americans had seen of him. He and Robert had planned to read excerpts from John’s speeches at the Arlington burial service. At the last moment they chose not to.
A friend described him as “shattered — calm but shattered.”
A Deadly Plane Crash
Robert moved into the breach and was immediately discussed as a presidential prospect. Edward became a more prominent family spokesman.
The next year, he was up for re-election. A heavy favorite from the start, he was on his way to the state convention that was to renominate him when his light plane crashed in a storm near Westfield, Mass. The pilot and a Kennedy aide were killed, and Mr. Kennedy’s back and several ribs were broken. Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana pulled Mr. Kennedy from the plane.
The senator was hospitalized for the next six months, suspended immobile in a frame that resembled a waffle iron. His wife, Joan, carried on his campaign, mainly by advising voters that he was steadily recovering. He won easily over a little-known Republican, Howard Whitmore Jr.
During his convalescence, Mr. Kennedy devoted himself to his legislative work. He was briefed by a parade of Harvard professors and began to develop his positions on immigration, health care and civil rights.
“I never thought the time was lost,” he said later. “I had a lot of hours to think about what was important and what was not and about what I wanted to do with my life.”
He returned to the Senate in 1965, joining his brother Robert, who had won a seat from New York. Edward promptly entered a major fight, his first. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Voting Rights Act was up for consideration, and Mr. Kennedy tried to strengthen it with an amendment that would have outlawed poll taxes. He lost by only four votes, serving lasting notice on his colleagues that he was a rapidly maturing legislator who could prepare a good case and argue it effectively.
Mr. Kennedy was slow to oppose the war in Vietnam, but in 1968, shortly after Robert decided to seek the presidency on an antiwar platform, Edward called the war a “monstrous outrage.”
Robert Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968, as he celebrated his victory in the California primary, becoming the third of Joseph Kennedy’s sons to die a violent death. Edward was in San Francisco at a victory celebration. He commandeered an Air Force plane and flew to Los Angeles.
Frank Mankiewicz, Robert’s press secretary, saw Edward “leaning over the sink with the most awful expression on his face.”
“Much more than agony, more than anguish — I don’t know if there’s a word for it,” Mr. Mankiewicz said, recalling the encounter in “Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography,” by Adam Clymer (William Morrow, 1999).
Robert’s death draped Edward in the Kennedy mantle long before he was ready for it and forced him to confront his own mortality. But he summoned himself to deliver an eloquent eulogy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it,” Mr. Kennedy said, his voice faltering. “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.”
A New Role as Patriarch
After the funeral, Edward Kennedy withdrew from public life and spent several months brooding, much of it while sailing off the New England coast.
Near the end of the summer of 1968, he emerged from seclusion, the sole survivor of Joseph Kennedy’s boys, ready to take over as family patriarch and substitute father to John’s and Robert’s 13 children, seemingly eager to get on with what he called his “public responsibilities.”
“There is no safety in hiding,” he declared in August in a speech at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “Like my brothers before me, I pick up a fallen standard. Sustained by the memory of our priceless years together, I shall try to carry forward that special commitment to justice, excellence and courage that distinguished their lives.”
There was some talk of his running for president at that point. But he ultimately endorsed Hubert H. Humphrey in his losing campaign to Richard M. Nixon.
Mr. Kennedy focused more on bringing the war in Vietnam to an end and on building his Senate career. Although only 36, he challenged Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana, one of the shrewdest, most powerful legislators on Capitol Hill, for the post of deputy majority leader. Fellow liberals sided with him, and he edged Mr. Long by five votes to become the youngest assistant majority leader, or whip, in Senate history.
He plunged into the new job with Kennedy enthusiasm. But fate, and the Kennedy recklessness, intervened on July 18, 1969. Mr. Kennedy was at a party with several women who had been aides to Robert. The party, a liquor-soaked barbecue, was held at a rented cottage on Chappaquiddick Island, off Martha’s Vineyard. He left around midnight with Mary Jo Kopechne, 28, took a turn away from the ferry landing and drove the car off a narrow bridge on an isolated beach road. The car sank in eight feet of water, but he managed to escape. Miss Kopechne, a former campaign worker for Robert, drowned.
Mr. Kennedy did not report the accident to the authorities for almost 10 hours, explaining later that he had been so banged about by the crash that he had suffered a concussion, and that he had become so exhausted while trying to rescue Miss Kopechne that he had gone immediately to bed. A week later, he pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident and was given a two-month suspended sentence.
But that was far from the end of the episode. Questions lingered in the minds of the Massachusetts authorities and of the general public. Why was the car on an isolated road? Had he been drinking? (Mr. Kennedy testified at an inquest that he had had two drinks.) What sort of relationship did Mr. Kennedy and Miss Kopechne have? Could she have been saved if he had sought help immediately? Why did the senator tell his political advisers about the accident before reporting it to the police?
The controversy became so intense that Mr. Kennedy went on television to ask Massachusetts voters whether he should resign from office. He conceded that his actions after the crash had been “indefensible.” But he steadfastly denied any intentional wrongdoing.
His constituents sent word that he should remain in the Senate. And little more than a year later, he easily won re-election to a second full term, defeating a little-known Republican, Josiah A. Spaulding, by a three-to-two ratio. But his heart did not seem to be in his work any longer. He was sometimes absent from Senate sessions and neglected his whip duties. Senator Byrd, of West Virginia, took the job away from him by putting together a coalition of Southern and border-state Democrats to vote him out.
That loss shook Mr. Kennedy out of his lethargy. He rededicated himself to his role as a legislator. “It hurts like hell to lose,” he said, “but now I can get around the country more. And it frees me to spend more time on issues I’m interested in.” Many years later, he became friends with Mr. Byrd and told him the defeat had been the best thing that could have happened in his Senate career.
Turmoil at Home
In the next decade, Mr. Kennedy expanded on his national reputation, first pushing to end the war in Vietnam, then concentrating on his favorite legislative issues, especially civil rights, health, taxes, criminal laws and deregulation of the airline and trucking industries. He traveled the country, making speeches that kept him in the public eye.
But when he was mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 1972, he demurred; and when the Democratic nominee, George McGovern, offered him the vice-presidential nomination, Mr. Kennedy again said no, not wanting to face the inevitable Chappaquiddick questions.
In 1973, his son Edward M. Kennedy Jr., then 12, developed a bone cancer that cost him a leg. The next year, Mr. Kennedy took himself out of the 1976 presidential race. Instead, he easily won a third full term in the Senate, and Jimmy Carter, a former one-term governor of Georgia, moved into the White House.
In early 1978, Mr. Kennedy’s wife, Joan, moved out of their sprawling contemporary house overlooking the Potomac River near McLean, Va., a Washington suburb. She took up residence in an apartment of her own in Boston, saying she wanted to “explore options other than being a housewife and mother.” But she also acknowledged a problem with alcohol, and conceded that she was increasingly uncomfortable with the pressure-cooker life that went with membership in the Kennedy clan. She began studying music and enrolled in a program for alcoholics.
The separation posed not only personal but also political problems for the senator. After Mrs. Kennedy left for Boston, there were rumors that linked the senator with other women. He maintained that he still loved his wife and indicated that the main reason for the separation was Mrs. Kennedy’s desire to work out her alcohol problem. She subsequently campaigned for him in the 1980 race, but there was never any real reconciliation, and they eventually entered divorce proceedings.
Although Mr. Kennedy supported Mr. Carter in 1976, by late 1978 he was disenchanted. Polls indicated that the senator was becoming popular while the president was losing support. In December, at a midterm Democratic convention in Memphis, Mr. Kennedy could hold back no longer. He gave a thundering speech that, in retrospect, was the opening shot in the 1980 campaign.
“Sometimes a party must sail against the wind,” he declared, referring to Mr. Carter’s economic belt-tightening and political caution. “We cannot heed the call of those who say it is time to furl the sail. The party that tore itself apart over Vietnam in the 1960s cannot afford to tear itself apart today over budget cuts in basic social programs.”
Mr. Kennedy did not then declare his candidacy. But draft-Kennedy groups began to form in early 1979, and some Democrats up for re-election in 1980 began to cast about for coattails that were longer than Mr. Carter’s.
After consulting advisers and family members over the summer of 1979, Mr. Kennedy began speaking openly of challenging the president, and on Nov. 7, 1979, he announced officially that he would run. “Our leaders have resigned themselves to defeat,” he said.
The campaign was a disaster, badly organized and appearing to lack a political or policy premise. His speeches were clumsy, and his delivery was frequently stumbling and bombastic. And in the background, Chappaquiddick always loomed. He won the New York and California primaries, but the victories were too little and came too late to unseat Mr. Carter. At the party’s nominating convention in New York, however, he stole the show with his “dream shall never die” speech.
With the approach of the 1984 election, there was the inevitable speculation that Mr. Kennedy, who had easily won re-election to the Senate in 1982, would again seek the presidency. He prepared and planned a campaign. But in the end he chose not to run, saying he wanted to spare his family a repeat of the ordeal they went through in 1980. Skeptics said he also knew he could not fight the undertow of Chappaquiddick.
A Full-On Senate Focus
Freed at last of the expectation that he should and would seek the White House, Mr. Kennedy devoted himself fully to his day job in the Senate, where he had already led the fight for the 18-year-old vote, the abolition of the draft, deregulation of the airline and trucking industries, and the post-Watergate campaign finance legislation. He was deeply involved in renewals of the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing law of 1968. He helped establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He built federal support for community health care centers, increased cancer research financing and helped create the Meals on Wheels program. He was a major proponent of a health and nutrition program for pregnant women and infants.
When Republicans took over the Senate in 1981, Mr. Kennedy requested the ranking minority position on the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, asserting that the issues before the labor and welfare panel would be more important during the Reagan years.
In the years after his failed White House bid, Mr. Kennedy also established himself as someone who made “lawmaker” mean more than a word used in headlines to describe any member of Congress. Though his personal life was a mess until his remarriage in the early 1990s, he never failed to show up prepared for a committee hearing or a floor debate.
His most notable focus was civil rights, “still the unfinished business of America,” he often said. In 1982, he led a successful fight to defeat the Reagan administration’s effort to weaken the Voting Rights Act.
In one of those bipartisan alliances that were hallmarks of his legislative successes, Mr. Kennedy worked with Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, to secure passage of the voting rights measure, and Mr. Dole got most of the credit.
Perhaps his greatest success on civil rights came in 1990 with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which required employers and public facilities to make “reasonable accommodation” for the disabled.
When the bill was finally passed, Mr. Kennedy and others told how their views on the bill had been shaped by having relatives with disabilities. Mr. Kennedy cited his mentally disabled sister, Rosemary, and his son who had lost a leg to cancer.
Mr. Kennedy was one of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s strongest allies in their failed 1994 effort to enact national health insurance, a measure the senator had been pushing, in one form or another, since 1969.
But he kept pushing incremental reforms, and in 1997, teaming with Senator Hatch, Mr. Kennedy helped enact a landmark health care program for children in low-income families, a program now known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-Chip.
He led efforts to increase aid for higher education and win passage of Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. He pushed for increases in the federal minimum wage. He helped win enactment of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, one of the largest expansions of government health aid.
He was a forceful and successful opponent of the confirmation of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court. In a speech delivered within minutes of President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Mr. Bork in 1987, Mr. Kennedy made an attack that even friendly commentators called demagogic.
Mr. Bork’s “extremist view of the Constitution,” Mr. Kennedy said, meant that “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of Americans.”Some of Mr. Kennedy’s success as a legislator can be traced to the quality and loyalty of his staff, considered by his colleagues and outsiders alike to be the best on Capitol Hill.
“He has one of the most distinguished alumni associations of any U.S. senator,” said Ross K. Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University who has worked in Congress. “To have served in even a minor capacity in the Kennedy office or on one of his committees is a major entry in anyone’s résumé.”
Those who have worked for Mr. Kennedy include Stephen G. Breyer, appointed to the Supreme Court by President Clinton; Gregory B. Craig, now the White House counsel; and Kenneth R. Feinberg, the Obama administration’s top official for compensation.
A Place in History
Mr. Kennedy “deserves recognition not just as the leading senator of his time, but as one of the greats in its history, wise in the workings of this singular institution, especially its demand to be more than partisan to accomplish much,” Mr. Clymer wrote in his biography.
“The deaths and tragedies around him would have led others to withdraw. He never quits, but sails against the wind.”
Mr. Kennedy is survived by his wife, known as Vicki; two sons, Edward M. Kennedy Jr. of Branford, Conn., and 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 Aug. 11, his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver of Potomac, Md., died at age 88. Another sister, Patricia Kennedy Lawford, died in 2006. His sister Rosemary died in 2005, and his sister Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948.
Their little brother Teddy was the youngest, the little bear whom everyone cuddled, whom no one took seriously and from whom little was expected.
He reluctantly and at times awkwardly carried the Kennedy standard, with all it implied and all it required. And yet, some scholars contend, he may have proved himself the most worthy.
“He was a quintessential Kennedy, in the sense that he had all the warts as well as all the charisma and a lot of the strengths,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute.
“If his father, Joe, had surveyed, from an early age up to the time of his death, all of his children, his sons in particular, and asked to rank them on talents, effectiveness, likelihood to have an impact on the world, Ted would have been a very poor fourth. Joe, John, Bobby ... Ted.
“He was the survivor,” Mr. Ornstein continued.
“He was not a shining star that burned brightly and faded away. He had
a long, steady glow. When you survey the impact of the Kennedys on American
life and politics and policy, he will end up by far being the most significant.”
The death of Edward Moore Kennedy, scion of a privileged, charismatic and often tragic family, has closed a historic epoch in the United States and opened a void in the political spectrum.
As flags were lowered to half-staff over the U.S. Capitol, where the Massachusetts Democrat served 46 years as a senator, devoted supporters, political opponents and leaders from around the world mourned his death, which came late Tuesday. President Obama, whose White House campaign 18 months ago was lifted by Sen. Kennedy's endorsement, placed his benefactor in the political pantheon, saying that "virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts."
The essence of Sen. Kennedy's political power was crystallized by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of many Republicans who worked with the late senator to forge compromises on bills. Alexander called Sen. Kennedy "at once the most partisan and the most constructive United States senator. He could preach the party line as well as bridge differences better than any Democrat."
Sen. Kennedy's vast liberal legislative record was his own, but his legacy was his family's: a lineage of power, triumph and adversity that produced a president but saw his three elder brothers die in service to their country, two by assassins' bullets.
Sen. Kennedy, who died at 77 from brain cancer at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., will be buried Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery, close to the grave sites of his slain brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.). The private burial that evening will conclude a three-day memorial that will begin in Massachusetts on Cape Cod.
Sen. Kennedy's sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, died two weeks ago, also in Hyannis Port. One sibling, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, survives.
As heir, through tragedy, to his accomplished brothers, Edward Kennedy became the patriarch of his clan and a towering figure in the U.S. Senate to a degree that neither John nor Robert Kennedy had achieved.
He served in the Senate through five of the most dramatic decades in the nation's history, becoming a lawmaker whose achievements, authority and collegiality invited comparisons to Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and other titans. But he was also beset by personal frailties and family misfortunes that became the stuff of tabloid headlines.
For years, many Democrats considered Sen. Kennedy's presidency a virtual inevitability. In 1968, a "Draft Ted" campaign emerged only a few months after Robert Kennedy's death, but Sen. Kennedy demurred, realizing that he was not prepared. His future prospects were diminished one night in 1969, when his car went off a bridge and a young woman drowned.
His reputation besmirched, he failed in his 1980 primary challenge to President Jimmy Carter. But for its rhetoric and drama, his exit from the presidential stage was a high point in U.S. politics. At the Democratic convention that year, he invoked his brothers and asserted: "The cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."
A Path Unlike His Brothers
Instead of president, Edward Kennedy became a major presence in the Senate, to which he was elected largely on the basis of his name in 1962 and where he wore proudly the label of liberal.
For decades, Sen. Kennedy helped to shape the national debate. Defending the poor and politically disadvantaged, he staked out his party's positions on health care, education, civil rights, campaign finance reform and labor law. He also came to oppose the war in Vietnam, and, from the beginning, was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq.
Leaders on nearly every continent noted Sen. Kennedy's impact on resolving political conflicts over race, religion and sect, whether in Northern Ireland or in South Africa under apartheid. He pushed for economic sanctions against South Africa's all-white regime and joined protests outside the prison that held Nelson Mandela. He "made his voice heard in the struggle against apartheid at a time when the freedom struggle was not widely supported in the West," the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement yesterday.
Congressional scholar Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, described Edward Kennedy's mark on the Senate as "an amazing and endurable presence. You want to go back to the 19th century to find parallels, but you won't find parallels. It was the completeness of his involvement in the work of the Senate that explains his career."
Opponents caricatured him as a symbol of liberal excess. Yet he was perhaps the most popular of senators, with many friends across the aisle. Through compromise, he could attract their votes.
He collaborated with a Republican president, George W. Bush, on education reform; with a Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), on immigration reform; and with an arch-conservative senator, J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, on major crime legislation. Only Thurmond, who died in 2003 at age 100, and Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) served longer than Sen. Kennedy.
"We have passed so much legislation together," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah) whose friendship with Sen. Kennedy went back decades.
Champion of Health Care
Sen. Kennedy called health care "the cause of my life." His measures gave access to care for millions and funded treatment around the world. He was a longtime advocate for universal health care and promoted biomedical research, as well as AIDS research and treatment. He championed the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the 1996 Kennedy-Kassebaum bill -- with Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) -- which allowed employees to keep health insurance after leaving their job.
"Do we really care about our fellow citizens?" he asked countless times, in one form or another, during his long Senate career. He faced opposition from most Republicans -- and more than a few Democrats -- who said his proposals for universal health care amounted to socialized medicine that would lead to bureaucratic sclerosis and budget-breaking costs and inefficiencies.
Only weeks after his brain tumor was diagnosed in May 2008, he rose from his hospital bed to vote for legislation blocking deep cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. Several Republicans were so moved that they switched votes, assuring passage.
Cancer had touched his family before. His son Edward Kennedy Jr. lost a leg to bone cancer at age 12 in 1973. His daughter, Kara Anne Kennedy, had lung cancer diagnosed in 2003.
Beyond health care, the list of major laws bearing his imprint fills pages. In 1965, he led the Senate in passing the most significant immigration reform in decades. The Hart-Celler Act abolished old quotas and lifted a ban on immigration from Asia.
As the Senate's leading voice on civil rights, he worked for the 1982 Voting Rights Act extension and extension of workplace protections to women and the disabled.
He resisted Republican efforts in the 1980s to roll back programs he had championed, and even in the minority, he sought a greater government role in gaining health care for children, loans to college students and civil rights for the disabled, among other initiatives.
Known as Teddy, the youngest son in a powerful family, he was first elected to the Senate at age 30. His oldest brother, Joseph, who was probably headed for a political career, died in World War II. Brothers John and Robert were killed in their 40s.
In creating a career of achievement, Sen. Kennedy was required to deal with these family tragedies, with the expectations imposed on him and with an early reputation as a vacuous young man of privilege.
Edward Moore Kennedy was born in Brookline, Mass., on Feb. 22, 1932, the ninth and last child of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. A grandfather, John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, was a mayor of Boston. His other grandfather, Patrick J. Kennedy, served in the Massachusetts legislature.
His father made millions in real estate, banking, movies and on Wall Street, as well as in liquor during Prohibition. His mother, a devout Roman Catholic, was exposed to politics early, campaigning as a young girl with her father, the mayor. From his mother, Sen. Kennedy learned the core values of the family's Catholic faith; from his father, he learned to compete. "We don't want any losers around here," Joe Kennedy would say. "In this family, we want winners."
After asking a friend to take a Spanish examination for him, he was expelled from Harvard. Following Army service in Europe, he returned, playing football and receiving a history and government degree in 1956. He had a law degree from the University of Virginia.
In 1958, he managed John F. Kennedy's Senate reelection campaign. In 1960, he coordinated his brother's presidential primary campaign in 13 Western states.
Three weeks after turning 30, Edward Kennedy announced his candidacy for his brother's former Senate seat. In the primary, he faced Edward J. McCormack Jr., the state attorney general. McCormack suggested that his candidacy would have been laughable if he had been merely "Edward Moore," rather than "Edward Moore Kennedy." He won the nomination handily, defeated Republican George Cabot Lodge and took office in January 1963.
John Kennedy's assassination in November 1963 helped make his youngest brother's reelection almost inevitable, despite his relatively sparse Senate record, but Sen. Kennedy almost lost his life in the process. As he flew to Springfield, Mass., to accept the nomination from his party's convention, his plane crashed. The pilot and a Kennedy aide died, and Sen. Kennedy was severely injured. Despite long months lying on his back, he won the general election by more than a million votes.
A Leading Voice Against War
Learning in 1966 of the difficulties faced by low-income residents in getting medical care, he quickly won funds for community health centers. By 1995, there were more than 800 centers serving about 9 million people.
As a brother of a president on the front lines of the Cold War, he initially expressed "no reservations" about the American military commitment in Southeast Asia. That support began to wane after visits to Vietnam and as U.S. involvement escalated. He ultimately came to believe the war a "monstrous outrage."
On June 5, 1968, only weeks after his brother Robert Kennedy, an antiwar leader, was assassinated only weeks after announcing a primary challenge to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Sen. Kennedy temporarily withdrew from public life. He delivered the eulogy for his brother, then went sailing for weeks, often alone.
Resuming public life, he made ending the war his top priority, making scores of antiwar speeches and condemning President Richard M. Nixon's "Vietnamization" strategy as "war and more war."
In 1969, Sen. Kennedy wrested the post of Senate majority whip from Russell B. Long, a powerful Senate veteran from Louisiana, to become at 36 the Senate's youngest majority whip. He lost the post to Byrd in 1971, in part because of preoccupation with the scandal two years earlier that claimed the life of a young woman and changed forever the arc of his political career.
On July 18, 1969, Sen. Kennedy attended a small get-together of friends and former Robert Kennedy campaign workers on Chappaquiddick, an island off Martha's Vineyard. Late that night, his car ran off a narrow bridge and plunged into a tidal pool. His passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, one of the campaign workers, drowned.
Sen. Kennedy, who failed to report the incident for about nine hours, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident. He received a two-month suspended sentence and lost his driver's license for a year.
In a televised speech six days after Kopechne's death, he said that he had been overcome by such emotions as "fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion and shock." But speculation endured for years, altering his political fate.
His speech to the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York's Madison Square Garden suggested what might have been. In powerful, ringing tones, his "dream shall never die" speech called on the party to recommit itself to traditional Democratic values.
He congratulated Carter and then concluded his speech with the passion and defiance that had become vintage Kennedy: "For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."
Delegates leapt to their feet. Their uproarious demonstration lasted more than a half-hour.
Addressing Personal Problems
Turning back to the work of the Senate, in 1987 he led opposition to the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court. "In Robert Bork's America," Sen. Kennedy said, "there is no room at the inn for blacks and no place in the Constitution for women. And, in our America, there should be no seat on the Supreme Court for Robert Bork."
The senator and his first wife, Joan Bennett Kennedy, who struggled with alcoholism for many years, divorced in 1982 after 24 years of marriage. Although dogged by tales of misbehavior, he conscientiously carried out his role of patriarch: a father to his children and a surrogate father to a score of nieces and nephews.
In a 1991 speech at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Sen. Kennedy spoke of the problems of his personal life. "I recognize my own shortcomings," he said. "I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them."
'This Is What We Do'
Sen. Kennedy seemed to regain his footing, personally and politically, after his marriage in 1992 to Victoria Anne Reggie, a lawyer from a Louisiana political family. She survives, along with three children from his first marriage, Kara Anne Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy Jr. and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.); two stepchildren; and four grandchildren.
In 1994, Sen. Kennedy defeated a challenge by Republican businessman Mitt Romney and never faced another serious battle for his Senate seat.
Although his party lost the White House six years later, Sen. Kennedy remained in the thick of the legislative action, in 2001 helping to pass President Bush's No Child Left Behind bill, and rescuing it again six years later when it was up for renewal.
On most other issues, notably Iraq, Sen. Kennedy bitterly opposed the Bush administration. He once said his proudest Senate vote was cast in 2002 rejecting force against Iraq. "There was no imminent threat," he said later.
In January 2008, he endorsed the presidential candidacy of another early opponent of the war, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), calling for "a new generation of leadership" in America.
Three months later, he left his hospital bed and flew to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Slowly making his way to the lectern to the cheers, and tears, of 20,000 rapturous fellow Democrats, he proclaimed, in a voice still strong, "a season of hope."
Delegates of a certain age heard echoes of his brother's 1961 inaugural address and of his own impassioned speech at Madison Square Garden nearly three decades earlier.
"This is what we do," he proclaimed. "We reach
the moon. We scale the heights."
They buried Ted Kennedy on Saturday in an area of lush grass on the gentle slope beneath the mansion at Arlington National Cemetery. Brothers Bobby and Jack lie nearby. Here in this resting place for thousands of soldiers, astronauts, explorers and statesmen, the Kennedys have come together through triumph and tragedy in what amounts to a family plot, a piece of priceless real estate overlooking the nation's capital.
The country has seen in the past three days the equivalent of a royal funeral. Saturday's funeral Mass in Boston was attended by four U.S. presidents. The description of the Kennedys as political royalty might as well be a federal regulation.
Younger people might not understand why such a fuss has been made over a man who ran for president 30 years ago. It is hard to explain the Kennedy mystique to anyone who never experienced the tumult of the 1960s.
In the visitors center at Arlington is a blown-up photo from Nov. 25, 1963 -- a bullet point in the history of American grief -- with Jacqueline Kennedy, face twisted in pain, having just received the folded flag that had covered her husband's casket. Next to her is Bobby, stooped in anguish. Teddy appears to be at the margin of the shot, back to the camera. Only a few years later, before he was ready, the youngest son became the only son left.
Edward Kennedy was, as President Obama said with great understatement at the funeral Mass, "heir to a weighty legacy." For the citizens of the country, Kennedy's death concludes a narrative more than half a century in the telling. It's a familiar story by now: Joseph Kennedy Sr. had four sons and dreamed that one would someday be the first Catholic in the White House. That ambition bent American history for decades to come. The saga was often dazzling, and persistently tragic.
Now we know how the story ends. Quietly. Peacefully. The funeral Mass was somber and reverent, but it was preceded Friday night by a sometimes raucous, humorous celebration of the man's life. The last son died at home, among family, after sailing the Nantucket Sound almost to his final moments.
A vivid era in American history is rapidly fading. The Culture Wars that began in the '60s came to define the ideological battles of the next three decades, with Kennedy an all-purpose symbol of the values of the left and Ronald Reagan playing a similar role for the right. The issues defined in that era no longer throw off as many sparks. Obama, who came to power with a boost from the senator, has vowed to leave the divisions of the 1960s behind.
The baby boomers who pledged to bring about the Revolution now worry that health-care reform could undermine their Medicare. The space program is out of money. No one worries that Afghanistan will turn into another Vietnam; they worry it'll be another Iraq. The Beatles have become an interactive computer game. In Upstate New York, there was just a Woodstock anniversary -- the 40th -- but hardly anyone bothered to show up. Another page turned.
Kennedy's death was surely, as every pundit and headline writer has noted in recent days, the end of an era. But the events of the past few days have reminded the country that the icon was also a man, never ordinary to be sure, but with joy and suffering like any other mortal. For the Kennedy family, the farewell was intensely personal and prayerful.
The emotional pivot of Saturday's Mass came when Teddy Jr. delivered his eulogy. He spoke of trying, as a 12-year-old who'd just lost a leg to cancer, to climb a snow-covered hill so he could go sledding with his father. It was slick. He fell down. Cried. "I can't do this. I'll never be able to climb up that hill." His father picked him up in his arms and said: "I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can't do. We're going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day."
As much as the Kennedy saga has been lived in public, we learned things Saturday. Had we known that Ted dressed as Santa at Christmas? That he was a Civil War battlefield buff? That he'd been recruited out of college by the Green Bay Packers, as Teddy Jr. informed us?
His flaws and failings are part of the public
For the U.S. Senate, Kennedy's death means a dramatic drop in star power for a chamber that no longer is prowled by senators who cast a broad national profile and are brand names for their ideologies. The Senate today is largely populated by men and women who can walk the length of Pennsylvania Avenue without anyone doing a double take.
Kennedy relished his outsized role. He jumped with both feet into any battle, never reluctant to punctuate a bellowed point with a loud thump of the lectern. Obama told a classic anecdote Saturday about the senator: "A few years ago, his father-in-law told him that he and Daniel Webster just might be the two greatest senators of all time. Without missing a beat, Teddy replied, 'What did Webster do?' "
For conservatives, Kennedy's death removes from the field a favorite boogeyman. During Republican primaries, all a candidate had to do to impugn an opponent's credentials was to insinuate some commonality with Ted Kennedy. Some of that enmity might eventually die out of its own accord, as there can be little satisfaction in raging against the departed. Even before now, the ritualized attacks on Kennedy had an obsolescent element -- bitter stuff boiled down after too long on the hot plate.
The weight of the past grows lighter by the day. Go back to that Kennedy family plot, as it were, at Arlington: The quotes from President Kennedy, chiseled on a sweeping wall beneath the eternal flame, are those of a cold warrior, warning of the threats to freedom from a never-quite-defined enemy.
The quotes from Robert F. Kennedy are chiseled on a more modest wall along a fountain. One is from the night that the senator went into the inner city in Indianapolis and told a largely black audience that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. In a brave and moving speech, he said that his brother, like King, had been killed by a white man. Kennedy had quoted Aeschylus: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
In the hot sun of Arlington on Saturday afternoon, Kay Wilson, 57, a teacher from Dumfries, recalled how her father taught her as a child all about the Kennedys. "We were almost obsessed," she said. She hopes the Kennedy mystique has not evaporated over the years. "I hope that feeling is still alive. That the mystique is still here. Because it was such an important part of my upbringing."
Over at the Capitol, among thousands waiting for the Kennedy motorcade to pay a final visit to where the senator worked for 47 years, Barbara Keeling, 66, said what so many others have the past few days: "It seems like the end of something."
"The politicians we grew up with."
Teddy's sister Eunice died just two weeks earlier. There is now only one child surviving of Joe and Rose Kennedy's nine children -- Jean, looking fit and strong as she said goodbye Saturday to her brother.
But then there are all those other Kennedys who filed into the church Saturday. Just as the Kennedys famously had a "compound" at Hyannis Port, they also have the ultimate clan, and for some time to come they will remain the first family of American politics. The youngest of them took turns, with great poise, at the lectern. It will shock no one if the names of some of those young Kennedys one day pop up on a ballot.
They will tell stories about the Ted Kennedy they knew. The historians will chew on his record. And at Arlington, on that green hill with the exquisite view of the capital, the man's resting place will speak loudly for years to come. Visitors will know that these Kennedys really mattered to us.
But as they pass into history, it will be harder and harder to remember just how much they charmed us, how much they inspired us and how much they broke our hearts.
Posted: 26 August 2009 Updated: 27 August 2009