Edward Moore Kennedy, younger brother of the assassinated Robert and John F. Kennedy, was Joseph P. Kennedy’s youngest child.
Educated, in family tradition, at Harvard, he received a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1959. It later emerged that Kennedy's stint in the army was punishment for his expulsion from Harvard, in his sophomore year, for cheating.
Becoming an assistant district attorney in Suffolk Country, Massachusetts in 1960, he was elected to fill his Presidential brother's Senate seat in 1962.
He was re-elected in 1964, and began to establish a reputation for social welfare reports and legislation proposals. Elected Senate majority whip in 1969, after the deaths of his two brothers, he seemed unchallenged as Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency.
However, the tragic misfortune of Ted's life occurred on 18 July 1969, when the car he was driving left a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, off the Massachusetts coast, killing its sole passenger, a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne.
Kennedy was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, receiving a suspended sentence, the culmination of years of personal slurs, revolving around reports of womanising and heavy drinking, his reputation finally shattered.
He was re-elected to the Senate in 1970, but lost his re-election for majority whip. He returned to the Senate in 1976, but lost a hard-fought battle for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination, to incumbent president, Jimmy Carter.
Ted retained his Senate seat, and was a tireless liberal critic of the Reagan administration, maintaining a reputation as a hard-working liberal on issues such as education and health care.
Ted continued as one of the elder statesmen of the Democratic Party. In 1996, he was instrumental in increasing the minimum wage in the US, which had always been a favourite issue of his. The same year, his Mental Health Parity Act ensured that insurance companies treated mental health payments on a par with others. In 1997, he also increased tobacco taxes to fund the largest expansion of tax-funded health insurance cover for children.
He supported then-president Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal during 1998 and 1999, voting to clear him of all charges. On 16 July 1999, tragedy struck the Kennedy family again when the light aircraft containing John Kennedy Jr and his wife crashed, killing them both. At this point, he became the acting patriarch of the family.