`Lion of Senate` Edward Kennedy passes away
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Last Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2009, 00:28
  
Washington: Veteran Democratic Senator Edward M Kennedy, the patriarch of the first family of American politics whose two equally famous brothers fell to assassins' bullets, has died after a long battle with brain cancer.

He was 77.

Kennedy, known as the 'Lion of the Senate', died late last night at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

"We've lost the irreplaceable centre 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," his family said in a brief statement.

"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."

Nicknamed 'Ted', Kennedy, a Massachusetts Senator, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in May 2008. He was the only one of the four Kennedy brothers to have died of a natural cause.

Kennedy was the younger brother of President John F Kennedy, who was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, and New York Senator Robert Kennedy, who was shot dead while seeking Democratic Presidential nomination in 1968. The eldest of the Kennedy brothers, Joseph, an Air Force pilot, was killed in a plane crash in World War II.

Edward Kennedy, who was first elected to the Senate in 1962 when his brother John was President, was the third longest serving Senator in US history.

However, Edward Kennedy's own presidential aspirations were crushed by the controversy surrounding a 1969 car accident that left a woman dead, and a 1980 primary challenge to then-President Jimmy Carter that ended in defeat.

Kennedy's death last night came just a fortnight after that of his elder sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics.

The Massachusetts Senator, who was elected to eight full terms, had played major roles in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. He was an outspoken liberal standard-bearer during a conservative-dominated era from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

"Senator Ted Kennedy's legacy in the United States Senate is comparable and consistent with the legacy of his entire family for generations," Kennedy's biographer, Ted Sorensen, was quoted as saying by CNN.

Kennedy had recently urged Massachusetts officials to change a law to allow for a swift temporary replacement should a vacancy occur for one of his state's two Senate seats.

Under a 2004 Massachusetts law, a special election must be held 145 to 160 days after a Senate seat becomes vacant. The winner of the election would serve the remainder of a Senator's unexpired term.

Kennedy had predicted Barack Obama's victory in the November 2008 presidential polls. In January, when Obama assumed office, Kennedy was present for the inauguration, though he was hospitalised briefly after suffering a seizure during a luncheon that day.

Kennedy is survived by his second wife, Victoria Ann Reggie Kennedy, whom he married in 1992; his first wife, Joan Bennett; and five children -- Patrick, Kara and Edward Jr. from his first marriage, and Curran and Caroline Raclin from his second.

Harvard-educated Kennedy championed social causes and was the author of "In Critical Condition: The Crisis in America's Health Care."

He served as Chairman of the Judiciary and Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions committees and was the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary and Armed Services committees during periods when Republicans controlled the chamber.

Obama had named Kennedy as one of 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour.

Kennedy was the last of nine children of Joseph P Kennedy, a prominent businessman and Democrat, and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The family was plagued with other tragedies as well. One of the Kennedy sisters, Kathleen, was killed in a plane crash in 1948. Another sister, Rosemary, was born mildly retarded and died in 1986 after more than 50 years in mental asylums.

Edward Kennedy himself survived a 1964 plane crash that killed an aide, suffering a broken back in the mishap.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid said: "he was a friend, the model of public service and an American icon." "The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die," he said.

The New York Times wrote: Edward Kennedy was "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."

"For decades, Kennedy was at the center of the most important issues facing the nation, and he did much to help shape them," wrote The Washington Post.

"A defender of the poor and politically disadvantaged, he set the standard for his party on health care, education, civil rights, campaign-finance reform and labor law," the daily said.

"He also came to oppose the war in Vietnam and, from the beginning, was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq," The Post said.

In nearly five decades in the US Senate, said The Wall Street Journal, Kennedy fathered legislation that affected millions. "Yet he left one of his lifelong goals, universal health care, tantalizingly within reach but struggling on Capitol Hill," it said.

The funeral, reported Boston Globe, will take place in Massachusetts. Obama is expected to attend the funeral ceremony, it said.

Bureau Report


First Published: Thursday, August 27, 2009, 00:28


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