Kennedy, Edward Moore ("Ted")
KENNEDY, Edward Moore ("Ted")
(b. 22 February 1932 in Brookline, Massachusetts), U.S. senator who opposed the Vietnam War and fought for civil rights and other liberal causes of the 1960s.
Kennedy, a liberal Democrat and Roman Catholic, was the fourth son and last of nine children of Joseph Patrick and Rose (Fitzgerald) Kennedy. A successful entrepreneur in shipbuilding, investment banking, motion picture distribution, and real estate, Kennedy's father also served briefly in the 1930s as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, head of the U.S. Maritime Commission, and ambassador to Great Britain. Kennedy served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1956 and his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1959. On 29 November 1958 he married Virginia Joan Bennet.
Kennedy became actively involved in politics at a relatively young age when, at the age of twenty-six, he served as the manager of his brother John F. Kennedy's 1958 senatorial campaign. Two years later he became the western states manager for his brother's successful 1960 presidential campaign, which was managed overall by Kennedy's other older brother, Robert Kennedy. Kennedy went on to serve as the assistant district attorney of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, from 1961 to 1962. Then, at the age of thirty, he won the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts to complete the term of the seat's previous holder, his brother John, who had vacated the office to assume the presidency. Although his brother was president, Kennedy behaved like the junior senator that he was, often deferring to more senior members of the Senate as he learned the ropes.
After President John Kennedy's assassination on 22 November 1963, Kennedy was reelected to a full six-year Senate term with nearly 75 percent of the vote. During the latter part of the 1964 campaign for his reelection, Kennedy was hobbled by a severe back injury that he had suffered in a small plane crash earlier in June that took the life of his aide Edward Moss. By then, Kennedy was becoming more assertive as a senator and led the fight for the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which was first proposed by President Kennedy in 1963. The bill's passage effectively ended the quota system based on nationality for immigration into the United States.
By 1967 the Vietnam War had become the preeminent issue in the United States. Rapid buildup of troops over the previous two years had led to growing unrest among both politicians and the public about U.S. involvement in the war. Expressions of antiwar sentiment on college campuses and other public dissent expanded rapidly from university sit-ins in 1965 to massive demonstrations and antiwar parades by 1967. Kennedy and his brother Robert, also at that time a U.S. senator, both spoke out against the war, especially criticizing the draft and America's neglect of civilian war victims. In early 1968 Kennedy's visit to South Vietnam only served to solidify his opposition. Although his resistance never reached the vehement protests of the Congress's leading dove, Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, Kennedy became increasingly vocal as the 1960s neared an end and the war continued.
Kennedy and his extended family, however, soon faced another more personal tragedy when Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968. Kennedy delivered the eulogy at his brother's funeral at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. During the eulogy, he said that his brother should be "remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it." In an interview conducted decades later with Terrence Samuel for U.S. News and World Report, Kennedy reflected on his brothers' deaths. "They were my heroes and my best friends," he said. "The happiest time for me in the Senate was when my brother Bobby was here, and we were working together."
Although devastated by the loss of two brothers by assassins' bullets within five years, Kennedy pushed forward. After Robert Kennedy's death, he became the acknowledged leader of Senate liberals, and he was elected the youngest Senate majority whip in American history in January 1969. The stage seemed to be set for another Kennedy to run for the presidency, but his chances for nomination suffered an irreparable blow when, on 19 July 1969, he drove off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts. Mary Jo Kopechne, a twenty-eight-year-old secretary, was also in the car and drowned. Although Kennedy denied any romance with Kopechne, he did plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received the standard two-month suspended sentence. At the time, Kennedy was viewed as the heir apparent to "Camelot," the name by which his brother John's presidential administration had come to be known through a 6 December 1963 article in Life magazine in which the author, Theodore H. White, pronounced, "Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot." The Chappaquiddick incident, however, led Kennedy to withdraw from seeking the Democratic nomination for the 1972 presidential race.
Many political observers point to Chappaquiddick as ending, for all intents and purposes, any chance of Kennedy's ever being elected president. Nevertheless, Kennedy continued his work in the Senate as a major advocate for liberal programs targeting the sick, the poor, and the disenfranchised, including issues such as national health insurance, minimum wage increases, tax reform, and civil rights. During his four decades in the Senate, Kennedy matured from being seen as the "kid brother" of two accomplished politicians who were idolized by the public to one of the most influential and powerful lawmakers of the times. Even his political foes have acknowledged his political savvy, his talent for debate, and his personal kindness. Kennedy and his first wife divorced in 1982, and Kennedy married Victoria Reggie in 1992. He has three children from his first marriage. Kennedy lives in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, with his second wife.
Comprehensive biographies of Kennedy include William H. Honan, Ted Kennedy: Profile of a Survivor: Edward M. Kennedy After Bobby, After Chappaquiddick, and After Three Years of Nixon (1972), and Adam Clymer, Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography (1999). Other informative books about Kennedy and his political life include Burton Hersh, The Education of Edward Kennedy: A Family Biography (1972) and The Shadow President: Ted Kennedy in Opposition (1997). A more recent brief, but informative, discussion of Kennedy's stature in politics is Terrence Samuel, "A Liberal in Winter," U.S. News and World Report (11 Mar. 2002).