Page 3 of 4   <       >

End of an Epoch: Kennedy to Be Buried Near Brothers at Arlington

Triumphs and Tragedies

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."

<          3        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company