A man of history

Timeline: How Teddy Kennedy's life of triumph and tragedy defined America

Published August 26, 2009 12:27PM (EDT)

Edward "Teddy" Moore Kennedy was the last of nine children born to Rose and John P. Kennedy, quite possibly this country's one true political dynasty. He served in the senate for nearly 47 years, and his life was defined -- and helped define -- American history.

The accomplishments (in bold) and tragedies that defined Teddy Kennedy:

1932: Kennedy is born in Boston on February 22.

1956: Graduates from Harvard.

1958: He marries Virginia Joan Bennett.

1959: Receives law degree from the University of Virginia.

1960: Kennedy's brother, John, is elected President of the United States. Kennedy becomes assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

1962: He is elected to the U.S. Senate.

1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated on November 22 in Dallas, Texas.

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1964: He gives his first speech in the Senate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that becomes law in July and bans segregation in public places. However, that year, Kennedy is in a plane crash that results in him breaking his back. His aide and the pilot die in the crash.

1965: Kennedy leads the charge to pass the Immigration Act of 1965 which outlaws immigration quotas that unfairly favored immigrants from Europe.

1968: Kennedy's brother, Robert, is assassinated on June 5 while running for president.

1969: The infamous Chappaquiddick incident. Kennedy veers off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts. He is able to get out of the car, but a woman traveling with him, Mary Jo Kopechne, can not and she drowns. Kennedy didn't alert police until after Kopechne's body is found and he apologizes in a nationally televised statement.

1970: He submits a bill in Congress that would create a national health insurance system that would cover every American. He is also at the forefront of getting the voting age dropped from 21 to 18 years.

1971: Kennedy assumes the role of Chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee.

1972: Champions Title IX Amendment of the Education Amendments of 1972, which greatly enhances women's ability to partake in college athletics.

1978: Heads a successful movement to deregulate the airline industry and increase competition between the major carriers.

1979: He becomes Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

1980: Kennedy squares off against incumbent President Jimmy Carter in a heated battle for the Democratic nomination. Kennedy eventually loses and gives a memorable concession speech.

1982: Kennedy divorces his first wife, Virginia Joan Bennett. He is also the main sponsor of the Voting Rights Act Amendments, which leads to more minority representatives in Congress and state legislatures across the country. He decides not to run for president in 1984.

1987: Is at the head of an unsuccessful filibuster that aims to block Ronald Reagan's nominee, William Rehnquist, from becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

1989: Is at the forefront of the fight to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act.

1991: His nephew, William Smith, is accused of rape, and a major media frenzy begins.

1992: He marries Victoria Reggie.

1995: His son, Patrick is elected as to the 104th Congress.

1996: Works to increase minimum wage and to provide workers with greater insurance coverage when changing jobs.

1999: Kennedy's nephew, John, along with John's wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, die in a plane crash near Martha's Vineyard.

2002: Works with President George W. Bush and co-sponsors "No Child Left Behind" legislation, which Bush signs into law. The law aims to improve student performance.

2008: He announces his support for then Sen. Barack Obama's presidential bid. In May, Kennedy announces that he has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

2008: He gives a final endorsement of Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, a speech now considered by many to be his "national goodbye."

2009: The Senator dies at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts on August 25.


Sources: MSNBC, NPR, Sen. Kennedy's Senate Page, and the Telegraph.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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