Tuesday, 25 August 2009 23:42

Ted Kennedy: Towering Democratic icon is dead

The news began filtering on the wires shortly before midnight Tuesday - Sen. Ted Kennedy died at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass. He was 77.

Kennedy, known in some circles as "liberal lion of the Senate" had fought a more than

year-long battle with brain cancer, and according to his son had lived longer with the disease than his doctors expected him to.

AP Wires reported "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 Kennedy family said in a statement. "He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it."

As the years passed, many remembered Kennedy as the stoic brother who witnessed many family tragedies, including his brothers President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's assassinations and the death of his nephew John F. Kennedy Jr. in a plane crash.

Despite his well-publicized troubles - and they will be relentlessly rehashed in the media in the days to come - Kennedy, like his brothers, was a constant friend and defender of the poor, the minorities, the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

Kennedy, known as Ted or Teddy, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May 2008 and afterwards underwent a successful brain surgery. Still, he continued to deteriorate, and Kennedy suffered a seizure while attending the luncheon following President Barack Obama's inauguration.

Over the decades, Kennedy became known for his fights to push health care reform, working wages and equal rights in his storied career. In August, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation's highest civilian honor -- by President Obama. His daughter, Kara Kennedy, accepted the award on his behalf.

From ABC news:
For Kennedy, the ascension of Obama was an important step toward realizing his goal of health care reform.

At the Democratic National Convention in August 2008, the Massachusetts Democrat promised, "I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great test."

Sen. Kennedy made good on that pledge, but ultimately lost his battle with cancer.

Kennedy was first elected to the Senate in 1962, at the age of 30, and his tenure there would span four decades.

A hardworking, well-liked politician who became the standard-bearer of his brothers' liberal causes, his career was clouded by allegations of personal immorality and accusations that his family's clout helped him avoid the consequences of an accident that left a young woman dead.

But for the younger members of the Kennedy clan, from his own three children to those of his brothers JFK and RFK, Ted Kennedy -- once seen as the youngest and least talented in a family of glamorous overachievers -- was both a surrogate father and the center of the family.

Additional reporting from AP and other wire news reports.