Senator Edward Kennedy dies at age 77

By Scott Malone

HYANNIS PORT, Massachusetts (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party who took the helm of one of America’s most fabled political families after two older brothers were assassinated, died at age 77, his family said.

Kennedy had brain cancer, which was diagnosed in May 2008. After a funeral Mass in Boston on Saturday, he will be buried later that day at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, near the graves of his brothers President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy.

He was one of the most influential and longest-serving senators in U.S. history, a liberal standard-bearer who recovered politically from a string of personal scandals to become known as a consummate congressional dealmaker.

Kennedy’s death marked the twilight of a political dynasty and dealt a blow to Democrats who lost their chief champion of President Barack Obama‘s call for an overhaul of the healthcare system.

“Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts),” the Kennedy family said in a statement early on Wednesday.

Kennedy was a longtime advocate of healthcare reform, a signature issue of Obama’s presidency. Obama said on Wednesday he was heartbroken to hear of the death of Kennedy, a crucial supporter of his presidential candidacy.

“I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the presidency,” Obama said. “And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I’ve profited as president from his encouragement and wisdom.”

Kennedy’s endorsement last year was seen as pivotal in Obama’s winning of the Democratic presidential nomination. Many saw it as the passing of the political torch to a new generation. A year to the day before his death, Kennedy made an electrifying speech to the Democratic convention that nominated Obama for president.

Kennedy had recently urged Massachusetts lawmakers to change state law so the Democratic governor, if necessary, could quickly fill a Senate vacancy.

Known as “Teddy,” he was the brother of John Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, Robert Kennedy, fatally shot while campaigning for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, and Joe Kennedy, a pilot killed in World War Two.

FROM LIGHTWEIGHT TO LION

When he first took the Senate seat previously held by John Kennedy in 1962, he was seen as something of a political lightweight who owed his ascent to his famous name.

Yet during his nearly half century in the chamber, Kennedy became known as one of Washington’s most effective senators, crafting legislation by working with lawmakers and presidents of both parties, and finding unlikely allies.

At the same time, he held fast to liberal causes and was a lightning rod for conservative ire.

“The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party, and at times Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks. But in the United States Senate I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection,” Obama said.

Kennedy helped enact measures to protect civil and labor rights, expand healthcare, upgrade schools, increase student aid and contain the spread of nuclear weapons.

“There’s a lot to do,” Kennedy told Reuters in 2006. “I think most of all it’s the injustice that I continue to see and the opportunity to have some impact on it.”

A Roman Catholic, Kennedy was nonetheless a staunch supporter of abortion rights, a fact noted by the Vatican’s official newspaper in an article about his death.

The newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, praised Kennedy for fighting for immigrant rights, gun control and higher minimum wages, but regretted his “unfortunate” support of abortion.

After Robert Kennedy’s death, Edward was expected to waste little time in vying for the presidency. But in 1969, a young woman drowned after a car Kennedy was driving plunged off a bridge on the Massachusetts resort island of Chappaquiddick after a night of partying.

Kennedy’s image was tarnished after it emerged he had failed to report the accident to authorities. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene and received a suspended sentence.

Kennedy eventually ran for his party’s presidential nomination in 1980 but lost to then-President Jimmy Carter.

His presidential ambitions thwarted, Kennedy devoted himself to his Senate career.

A 2009 survey by The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, found that Senate Republicans believed Kennedy was the chamber’s easiest Democrat to work with and most bipartisan.

Republican Senator John McCain called him “the single most effective member of the Senate if you want to get results.”

‘LION’ BATTLED ON

Kennedy had been largely sidelined in Congress since becoming ill. The “Lion of the Senate” began to use a cane and often looked drained as he mixed work with treatment.

Twelve Publishing said Kennedy “worked valiantly” to finish his 650-page autobiography, “True Compass,” which is scheduled to be released September 14.

Colleagues and staff said he remained determined to fulfill what he called “the cause of my life,” providing health insurance to all Americans. He helped draft legislation to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system, but was sidelined while it was discussed in Congress.

Kennedy’s interest in healthcare dated from his own back injury suffered during a 1964 plane crash that damaged his spine and left him with persistent pain, and later, his son’s bout with cancer in the 1970s.

“I’ve benefited from the best of medicine but I’ve also witnessed the frustration and outrage of patients and doctors alike as they face the challenges of a system that shortchanges millions of Americans,” he wrote in a May 28 issue of the Boston Globe.

Kennedy never fully escaped the cloud of the Chappaquiddick accident. A decades-long argument arose about whether the senator, who was married to Joan Kennedy at the time, tried to cover up his involvement by leaving the scene while Mary Jo Kopechne’s body remained submerged and whether police helped sweep such questions under the rug. All involved denied any cover-up.

Kennedy was divorced from Joan in 1983.

The 1991 Palm Beach rape trial of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith, caught a bloated Uncle Ted in a media glare. Reports of heavy drinking and womanizing led to a public apology for “the faults in the conduct of my private life.”

Kennedy was remarried soon after that to Victoria Reggie, a 38-year-old lawyer with two young children from her first marriage. He poured renewed energy into the Senate, where he would become the third-longest serving senator in history.

Even his Republican foes recognized Kennedy’s dedication as he worked to protect civil rights, give federal help to the poor, contain the spread of nuclear weapons, raise the minimum wage, expand health coverage and improve America’s schools.

FAMILY STANDARDS

Born on February 22, 1932, Edward Moore Kennedy was the last of four sons and five daughters born to millionaire businessman Joseph Kennedy, who would later be ambassador to Britain, and his wife, Rose. Jean Kennedy Smith, is the only surviving sibling.

The Boston Irish family combined the competitive spirit of nouveau riche immigrants with acquired polish and natural charm. The sons were expected to mature into presidential timber and were groomed for that starting with the oldest, Joseph Jr., a bomber pilot who died in World War Two.

“I think about my brothers every day,” Kennedy told Reuters. “They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don’t.”

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Bill Trott in Washington and Patricia Zengerle in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts; Editing by Alan Elsner and Jackie Frank)

All I have to say about the death of Ted Kennedy is……………..Mary Jo Kopeckne,

may she rest in peace………….

Mary Jo Kopechne

Mary Jo Kopechne

Mary Jo Kopechne (July 26, 1940 – July 18, 1969) was an American teachersecretary and political campaign specialist who died onChappaquiddick Island while a passenger in a car being driven by United States Senator Ted Kennedy.

Life

Kopechne, born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania,[1] was the only child of insurance salesman Joseph Kopechne and his wife, Gwen.[1] She was of Polish American heritage.[2] The family moved to New Jersey when she was an infant.[1] She attended parochial schools growing up.[3]

After being graduated with a degree in business administration from Caldwell College for Women in New Jersey in 1962,[1][4] Kopechne moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to teach for a year at the Mission of St. Jude[1] as part of the Civil Rights Movement.[5] In 1963, she moved to Washington, D.C., to work as secretary to Florida Senator George Smathers.[1] Kopechne joined New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy‘s secretarial staff, following his election in 1964.[1] There she worked as a secretary to the senator’s speechwriters and as a legal secretary to one of his legal advisers.[1] Kopechne was a loyal and tireless worker for Robert Kennedy, in March 1967 having stayed up all night at hisHickory Hill home to type a major speech against the Vietnam War as the senator and his aides such as Ted Sorenson made last-minute changes to it.[3][6][7]

During the 1968 U.S. presidential election, she helped with the wording of Robert Kennedy’s March 1968 speech announcing his candidacy.[3] During his campaign, she worked as one of the “Boiler Room Girls“, an affectionate name given to six young women who worked from a hot and loud, central windowless location in Kennedy’s Washington campaign headquarters.[3][6][8][2] They were vital in tracking and compiling data and intelligence on how Democratic delegates from various states were intending to vote; Kopechne’s responsibilities included Pennsylvania.[6][8] Kopechne and the other staffers were politically savvy,[8] and they were chosen for their clear heads and ability to work long hours under pressure on sensitive matters.[2] They talked daily with field managers and also served as conduits for policy statements being distributed to strategically-located newspapers.[8]

Kopechne was devastated by the June 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy, and after briefly working on the Kennedy proxy campaign ofGeorge McGovern, could not return to work on Capitol Hill, saying “I just feel Bobby’s presence everywhere. I can’t go back because it will never be the same again.”[6][2] However, as her father later said, “Politics was her life,”[6] and in December 1968 she used her expertise to gain a job with Matt Reese Associates, a Washington, D.C., firm that helped establish campaign headquarters and field offices for politicians and was one of the first political consulting firms.[1][5][9] By mid-1969 she had completed work for a mayoral campaign in Jersey City, New Jersey.[2] She was on her way to a successful professional career.[10]

She lived in the Georgetown neighborhood with three other women.[1] She was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and fellow Polish American Carl Yastrzemski.[2] She was a devout Roman Catholic with a demure, serious, “convent school” demeanor, rarely drank much, and had no reputation for extramarital activities with men.[9][2][10]

Death

Main article: Chappaquiddick incident

On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha’s VineyardMassachusetts, held in honor of the Boiler Room Girls. It was the fourth such reunion of the Robert Kennedy campaign workers.[11]

Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Robert’s brother Ted Kennedy, after he — according to his own account — offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back toEdgartown, where she was staying.[6] She did not tell her close friends at the party that she was leaving and she left her purse and keys behind.[6]

Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off a narrow, unlit bridge without guardrails that was not on the route to Edgartown and it overturned in the water.[6] Kennedy extricated himself from the vehicle and survived, but Kopechne remained in the vehicle and was found dead.

Kennedy failed to report the incident to the authorities until the car and Kopechne’s body were discovered the next morning.[6] Kopechne’s parents said that they learned of their daughter’s death from Ted Kennedy himself[1] before he reported his involvement to the authorities, but that they learned Kennedy had been the driver only from wire press releases some time later.[4]

A funeral for Kopechne was held on July 22, 1969, at St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, attended by Kennedy.[12] She is buried in the parish cemetery on the side of Larksville Mountain.

A week after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. He received a two month suspended sentence.[6] On a national television broadcast that night, Kennedy later said he was not driving under the influence of alcohol nor had he engaged in any immoral conduct with Kopechne.[6]

The Chappaquiddick incident and the death of Kopechne became grist for at least fifteen books, as well as a fictionalized treatment by Joyce Carol Oates. Questions remained about Kennedy’s timeline of events that night, about his actions after the incident, and the quality of the investigation and whether official deference was given to a powerful politician and family.[13]The events surrounding Kopechne’s death damaged Kennedy’s reputation and are regarded as a major reason that he was never able to mount a successful campaign for President of the United States.[14]

References

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k McFadden, Robert D. (July 20, 1969). “Victim Drawn to Politics“. The New York Times.
  2. a b c d e f g Canellos, Peter (2009). Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted KennedySimon and Schuster. pp. 148–150. ISBN 1439138176.
  3. a b c d Oppenheimer, Jerry (1995). The Other Mrs. Kennedy (4th ed.). Macmillan Books. p. 504. ISBN 0312956002.
  4. a b Damore, Leo (1988). Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up. Washington: Regnery Gateway. pp. 58–59. ISBN 0-89526-564-8.
  5. a b Kappel, Kenneth R. (1989). Chappaquiddick Revealed: What Really Happened. New York: Shapolsky Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 0-944007-64-3.
  6. a b c d e f g h i j k Russell, Jenna (February 17, 2009). “Chapter 3: Chappaquiddick: Conflicted ambitions, then, Chappaquiddick“. The Boston Globe.
  7. ^ Kappel, Chappaquiddick Revealed, p. 189.
  8. a b c d Damore, Senatorial Privilege, pp. 118–119.
  9. a b Clymer, Adam (1999). Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography. New York: Wm. Morrow & Company. pp. 144–145. ISBN 0-688-14285-0.
  10. a b Leamer, Laurence (2004). Sons of Camelot: The Fate of an American DynastyWm. Morrow & Company. pp. 124–125. ISBN 0-06-620965-X.
  11. ^ Damore, Senatorial Privilege, p. 154.
  12. ^ Clymer, Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography, p. 150.
  13. ^ Clymer, Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography, pp. 152–154.
  14. ^ Barone, MichaelCohen, Richard E. (2008). The Almanac of American Politics. Washington: National Journal Group. p. 792. ISBN 0-89234-116-0.
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