Edward M. Kennedy was the third longest-serving member of the United States Senate in American history. Voters of Massachusetts elected him to the Senate nine times—a record matched by only one other Senator.
The scholar Thomas Mann said his time in the Senate was “an amazing and endurable presence. You want to go back to the 19th century to find parallels, but you won’t find parallels.”
President Obama has described his breathtaking span of accomplishment: “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.”
He fought for and won so many great battles—on voting rights, education, immigration reform, the minimum wage, national service, the nation’s first major legislation to combat AIDS, and equality for minorities, women, the disabled and gay Americans.
He called health care “the cause of my life,” and succeeded in bringing quality and affordable health care for countless Americans, including children, seniors and Americans with disabilities. Until the end he was working tirelessly to achieve historic national health reform. He was an opponent of the Vietnam War and an early champion of the war’s refugees. He was a powerful yet lonely voice from the beginning against the invasion of Iraq. He stood for human rights abroad—from Chile to the former Soviet Union – and was a leader in the cause of poverty relief for the poorest nations of Africa and the world. He believed in a strong national defense and he also unceasingly pursued and advanced the work of nuclear arms control.
He was the conscience of his party, and also the Senate’s greatest master of forging compromise with the other party. Known as the “Lion of the Senate,” Senator Kennedy was widely respected on both sides of the aisle for his commitment to progress and his ability to legislate.
Senator Kennedy was Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Previously he was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and served on that committee for many years. He also served on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. He was a leader of the Congressional Friends of Ireland and helped lead the way toward peace on that island.
He was a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Virginia Law School. He lived in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, with his wife Vicki. He is survived by her and their five children Kara, Edward Jr., and Patrick Kennedy, and Curran and Caroline Raclin, and his sister Jean Kennedy Smith.