Senator Ted Kennedy dies at age 77

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy (1932-2009)
Image: United States Senate.

United States Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts died just before midnight on August 25, 2009, at his home in Hyannis Port at age 77. He was the brother of American President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

On May 20, 2008, Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and was released from Massachusetts General Hospital on May 21.

He was born Edward Moore Kennedy on February 22, 1932, in Boston. He had been a senator since 1962.

Kennedy is survived by his wife Victoria Reggie Kennedy, three children, two step-children, a sister — Jean Kennedy Smith, many nieces and nephews and several grandchildren.

The Kennedy family released a statement saying, "Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. 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. 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. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him."

Kennedy was the second-most-senior current member of the Senate, after Democratic President pro tempore Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and the third-longest-serving senator of all time, behind Byrd and Republican Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Kennedy was known as "The Lion of the Senate," for his long tenure and influence in the Senate. Throughout his career, Kennedy and his staff wrote more then 300 bills that were enacted into law.

Because of Kennedy's death, the Democratic Party has lost their sixty-seat supermajority in the Senate. His successor will be chosen in a special election within 160 days. Prior to his death, Kennedy appealed to Democratic Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts legislature to change state law regarding Senate vacancies, so that a temporary senator could be appointed pending a special election and a vote in favor of a health-care bill would not potentially be lost. This law had been changed in 2004 to prevent Republican then-Governor Mitt Romney from appointing a replacement for Democratic Senator John Kerry, had he won the 2004 presidential election.


President Barack Obama said of Kennedy in a press conference, "Over the past several years, I've had the honor to call Teddy a colleague, a counselor, and a friend." He also noted that, "The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party. And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks." However, he acknowledged his friendship that went across party lines saying, "But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle."

  I don't think we shall ever see his like again. I think the legacy he left is not just in the landmark legislation he passed, but in how he helped people look at themselves and look at one another.  

—Vice President Joe Biden

One of Kennedy's former Senate colleagues and current Vice President Joe Biden gave an emotional retrospective of Kennedy's life at a U.S. Department of Energy press conference. He, like Obama, remarked upon his cross-aisle friendships in the Senate saying, "Don't you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his — so many of his foes embracing him, because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself."

Biden also remarked that without Kennedy's help during Biden's 1972 Senate campaign, "I literally would not be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy — not figuratively, this is not hyperbole — literally." He also noted how Kennedy stood by his side when Biden lost his wife and daughter in a car accident.

Biden closed by paraphrasing Shakespeare, "I don't think we shall ever see his like again. I think the legacy he left is not just in the landmark legislation he passed, but in how he helped people look at themselves and look at one another."

John Kerry, the now senior Senator from Massachusetts issued a statement saying, "We have known for some time that this day was coming, but nothing makes it easier. We have lost a great light in our lives and our politics, and it will never be the same again." He added, "For almost 25 years, I was privileged to serve as his colleague and share his friendship for which I will always be grateful."

Kennedy's Senate colleague, Majority Leader Harry Reid, said it was "the thrill of my lifetime " to work with a man he called the "patriarch" of the Senate.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah — one of Kennedy's fiercest political opponents and closest friends in that chamber of the U.S. Congress — said the Democratic lawmaker will be remembered as "someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate, and the work completed within its chamber."

Nancy Reagan, the wife of the late President Ronald Reagan, called Kennedy "an ally and a dear friend". Despite the political differences between her husband — a hero of conservative Republicans — and Kennedy — the stalwart liberal Democrat — Mrs. Reagan said she and Kennedy found common ground on the issue of stem-cell research. Mrs. Reagan has become a strong advocate of stem-cell research, which many believe will lead to treatment for illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, which led to President Reagan's death in 2004.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to Kennedy's niece, Maria Shriver, called him "the rock of our family", and a champion of social justice.

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