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US Senator Ted Kennedy Dies at 77

The last of the Kennedy brothers, who dominated US politics for decades, has died of brain cancer, his family said Wednesday.
 
 
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WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Senator Ted Kennedy, a lion of the American left and the last of the brothers who dominated US politics for years, has died of brain cancer, his family said Wednesday. He was 77.

Edward M. Kennedy, known as "Teddy," was a towering, controversial figure whose death late Tuesday night at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, ended an era when his family appeared born to rule.

"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," his family said in a 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, fairness and opportunity for all.

"He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it."

Editor's note: Below is a an excerpt from the New York Times' lengthy obituary of Sen. Kennedy:

Born Feb. 22, 1932, in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston, Edward Moore Kennedy grew up in a family of shrewd politicians. Both his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, and his mother, the former Rose Fitzgerald, came from prominent Irish-Catholic families with long involvement in the hurly-burly of Democratic politics in Boston and Massachusetts. His father, who made a fortune in real estate, movies and banking, served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and then as ambassador to Britain.

There were nine Kennedy children, four boys and five girls, with Edward the youngest. They grew up talking politics, power and influence because those were the things that preoccupied the mind of Joseph Kennedy. As Rose Kennedy, who took responsibility for the children’s Roman Catholic upbringing, once put it: “My babies were rocked to political lullabies.”

When Edward was born, President Herbert Hoover sent Rose a bouquet of flowers and a note of congratulations. The note came with 5 cents postage due; the framed envelope is a family heirloom.

It was understood among the children that Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the oldest boy, would someday run for Congress and, his father hoped, the White House. When Joseph Jr. was killed in World War II, it fell to the next oldest son, John F., to run. As John said at one point in 1959 while serving in the Senate: “Just as I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow, Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, our young brother, Ted, would take over for him.”

Although surrounded by the trappings of wealth — stately houses, servants and expensive cars — young Teddy did not enjoy a settled childhood. He bounced among the family homes in Boston, New York, London and Palm Beach, and by the time Edward was ready to enter college, he had attended 10 preparatory schools in the United States and England, finally finishing at Milton Academy, near Boston. He said that the constant moving had forced him to become more genial with strangers; indeed, he grew to be more of a natural politician than either John or Robert.

After graduating from Milton in 1950, where he showed a penchant for debating and sports but was otherwise an undistinguished student, Mr. Kennedy enrolled in Harvard, as had his father and brothers. It was at Harvard, in his freshman year, that he ran into the first of several personal troubles that were to dog him for the rest of his life: He persuaded another student to take his Spanish examination, got caught and was forced to leave the university.

 
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