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Remembering Ted Kennedy

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy was the second most senior member of the Senate, after Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and the third longest-serving senator of all time.

Ted Kennedy

Sen. Edward Kennedy, the longtime Massachusetts lawmaker whose personal tragedies along with his professional triumphs and losses unfolded in the public eye, has died at his home in Hyannis Port after battling a brain tumor. He was 77.

His family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday.

"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," the statement said. "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."

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The Massachusetts Democrat was seen by many as an American version of a Greek tragedy. Born into political royalty, Kennedy's triumphs were often overshadowed by those of his brothers, John and Bobby Kennedy. But nonetheless, the younger Kennedy carved his own political legacy as one of the longest serving senators in U.S. history.

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John F. Kennedy was elected to the presidency in 1960. He named his brother Robert attorney general. Teddy, as he was affectionately known, benefited from a placeholder filling his brother John's seat in the U.S. Senate, which he won in 1962.

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TOPIC:  Full Coverage on Ted Kennedy
INTERACTIVE: Timeline of Ted Kennedy's Life
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Early Kennedy

The youngest of the nine-sibling Kennedy clan, Teddy had much of his path paved by his famous older brothers and father.

PHOTOS:  A Look at Kennedy, Early Years | KENNEDY FAMILY TREE

Kennedy's father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was a prominent Boston-area businessman, as well as inaugural chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He also served as the ambassador to Great Britain from 1938 until 1940.

Ted Kennedy's famous family created problems as well as opportunities for him. He moved around a lot in his youth and attended Harvard, where he was a popular member of the freshman football team.

However, he was caught cheating on a Spanish language exam and was expelled. He entered the Army and after almost two years was re-admitted to Harvard for demonstrating good behavior.

He went on to get a law degree, marry twice, have children and serve as an assistant D.A. in Suffolk County, N.Y.


INTERACTIVE: Timeline of Ted Kennedy's Life

TOPIC:  Full Coverage on Ted Kennedy

Campaigner Kennedy

Kennedy carved his own political legacy as one of the longest serving senators in U.S. history. 

He earned his spot in the Senate after his brother John became president, a feat achieved in part because of Ted's managing his campaign.

PHOTOS:  From Kennedy's 1980 Presidential Bid to Campaigning for Obama
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He was too young to become the senator when his brother was elected president so a placeholder was appointed until Ted was old enough to run in 1962. Teddy was elected every year since 1962. He also helped his brother Robert campaign for president in 1968 before Robert's assassination.

Kennedy, however, was less ambitious about his own political fortunes, having been loath to run for the presidency in 1968 after his brother's death, in 1972 after the Chappaquiddick incident or in 1976, when he appeared the heir apparent. Kennedy even was reluctant to assume the role of Senate majority leader, which he became in 1969, the youngest senator ever elected to that position.

However, he did finally run in 1980 in a primary challenge to incumbent President Jimmy Carter, with whom Kennedy feuded over nationalized health care. After a tough-fought primary campaign, Kennedy went to the Democratic National Convention in hopes of overturning the rules to allow delegates to switch their pledge. He lost, and his half-hearted support for Carter undermined the Democrat's re-election.

Throughout his political career, Kennedy has been an A-list backer of Democratic candidates, and in his last election season helped catapult Barack Obama when he was among the first in the U.S. Senate to endorse the freshman senator's historic and successful presidential campaign.


INTERACTIVE: Timeline of Ted Kennedy's Life

TOPIC:  Full Coverage on Ted Kennedy

Controversy Kennedy

Like other members of his family, Ted Kennedy was no stranger to controversy. Starting from being tossed out of Harvard to being charged with reckless, unlicensed driving at law school, Kennedy was plagued with what many have described as the "Kennedy curse." 

PHOTOS:  The Chappaquiddick Scandal

In 1969, Kennedy's negligent driving resulted in the death of Robert Kennedy campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne, who was trapped in a car that Kennedy drove off a bridge into a pond after leaving a party in Chappaquiddick on Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Kennedy did not report the accident until the car was discovered the next day. He vowed that he had not been drinking and made a televised address to the nation.

He got two months suspended jail time for leaving the scene but was not indicted by a grand jury in relation to Kopechne's death. Like his first wife, Joan, Kennedy also struggled with alcohol and rumors of his womanizing made for capital fodder for years. Through much of the 1980s he was viewed as a playboy with a bottle. That image culminated with the arrest of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith, who was later acquitted on charges of raping a woman he met at a bar while out with his uncle. 

At the time, the incident hurt Kennedy's ability to fight the concurrent Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas over allegations of harassment by former Thomas aide Anita Hill. Hobbled by bad PR and low approval ratings, Kennedy had to rethink his life plan. 

He credited his second wife Victoria Anne Reggie with turning him around and redirecting him back to his political career and liberal agenda. The two married in 1992, and she is said to have lifted him to success during his most difficult re-election campaign -- against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.


INTERACTIVE: Timeline of Ted Kennedy's Life

TOPIC:  Full Coverage on Ted Kennedy

Legacy Kennedy

At times, it seemed Kennedy and his abundant energy would last for years. But last May, he suffered a seizure at his Cape Cod home and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. 

By August 2009, he was too ill to appear in public and missed the funeral for his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and his being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

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Kennedy is credited with several legislative efforts, most notably in the fields of civil rights, welfare and education. He was key to passing Head Start as part of the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act, the centerpiece of the War on Poverty. Kennedy fought for Title IX equal access for women and more student aid for GIs . 

He proposed increases in minimum wage, championed the Family and Medical Leave Act, shepherded the No Child Left Behind Act, led the fight for passage of hate crimes legislation and sought protections against discrimination for gays and women.

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EULOGY: Ted Kennedy's Tribute to Brother Robert F. Kennedy

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RAW DATA: Excerpt From Ted Kennedy's Health Care Reform Op-Ed

INTERACTIVE: Timeline of Ted Kennedy's Life

Remembering Ted Kennedy

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy was the second most senior member of the Senate, after Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and the third longest-serving senator of all time.

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