Senator Edward Kennedy, scion of the one of America's most famous political families, passed away at home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts late last night. He was 77. His family 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... 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." (Full statement from the family after the jump.)
Kennedy is being remembered for his prowess as a legislator, after five decades in the Senate and his family's—and his own—tragedies and troubles: The Boston Globe's obituary says he "carried aloft the torch of a Massachusetts dynasty and a liberal ideology to the citadel of Senate power, but whose personal and political failings may have prevented him from realizing the ultimate prize of the presidency." The NY Times calls him a "man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate." And the Washington Post describes him as "one of the most powerful and influential senators in American history and one of three brothers whose political triumphs and personal tragedies captivated the nation for decades."
While Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor in May 2008, he managed to keep working and campaign for his colleague-turned-President Barack Obama. Politico reports, "There were bittersweet moments too as the senator’s illness took its toll... The senator couldn’t fully participate in the great health care debate, which had been his passion for decades and remains central to Obama’s legislative agenda. As moving about the Capitol became more difficult, Kennedy didn’t return after an appearance in April. And despite early hopes, he was never strong enough to be the player he wanted to be as a healthcare bill moved through the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which he chaired." Last month, Kennedy asked that a successor be found quickly for him.
President Obama called him the "greatest United States Senator of our time" in his statement:
Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy. For five decades, 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. I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
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. And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today—to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family."
Statement from the Kennedy family:
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.