Part 1: Living History: Ted Kennedy, Remembered.
Edward Kennedy, the last of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s nine children, was born in Dorchester in 1932. By then, the family was well on its way to becoming an American dynasty. Joe was a tycoon who, in 1938, became a U.S. ambassador, and young Ted enjoyed a world of privilege. He charmed the king and queen of England and received his first Communion from the Pope. But in a clan of athletes and scholars, Ted was neither: He was a chubby boy who often received poor marks from the prestigious boarding schools he attended. He didn’t give his family much reason to believe in him. “You can have a serious life or a nonserious life, Teddy,” his father famously warned him early on. “I’ll still love you whichever choice you make. But if you decide to have a nonserious life, I won’t have much time for you.”
Though Ted Kennedy would never forget those words, it would take years for him to decide which path he would take. He was temporarily expelled from Harvard for cheating on a Spanish exam. His first marriage collapsed amid rumors of infidelity. He was quick to take solace in alcohol. Most destructive of all was his decision, late on the night of July 18, 1969, to drive off from a party on Chappaquiddick Island with a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne.
And yet Kennedy survived all this by first asking for forgiveness—and then earning it. Over nearly half a century in the Senate, he authored some 2,500 bills, and his name was on more than 850 that became law. They improved the lives of the young and old, the well and the infirm, the soldiers who waged war and the students who protested it. “He led with his heart,” says John Kerry, now the senior senator from Massachusetts. “It was the biggest of hearts.”
After Kennedy’s death in August, thousands of people lined the roads along which his body traveled from Hyannisport to Boston; tens of thousands filed by his casket at the Kennedy Library. They came to pay their respects and to say goodbye, but also to do something more: to recognize that Kennedy was the one brother who lived long enough to reconcile his failings with his triumphs, and that his life, though outsize, was so very human.
To capture the depth and breadth of Ted Kennedy’s extraordinary career, we spoke to more than 65 of those who knew the man best, from his college years to his final days.
[sidebar]Reid Moore, University of Virginia law school classmate: He had independent wealth. He lived a more dramatic life than most of us. That translated to an Oldsmobile convertible, often with the top down and large dogs in the back seat.
Mortimer Caplin, law school professor: Jackie once said, “You were Teddy’s law professor! Could you imagine Teddy a lawyer?” He was the kid of the family. In a way, they didn’t take him seriously.
George Abrams, Harvard classmate and Kennedy aide: He served as assistant district attorney and tried a few cases, not major criminal trials. One was appealed; the defendant argued Ted Kennedy was too well known and mesmerized the jury.
Adam Clymer, Kennedy biographer: Joe initially was concentrated on planning for the oldest son—first Joe Jr., then after his death, Jack. He wasn’t as precise in his expectations for Ted. But they trained him up to enter politics by making him Jack’s titular campaign manager in 1958.
Dick Tuck, political adviser: It was a title we put on him—that was the extent of his participation.
Claude Hooton, Harvard classmate: We were [campaigning] in Miles City, Montana, and Ted had to go off and meet some people. This guy said to me, “You know, there’s a rodeo in town and 5,000 people will be there. You think he’d ride?” I said, “Heck, he can ride. Hell, he jumps horses—he’s one of the best riders I ever knew.” So Ted and I finally got together at the rodeo. He said, “What am I doing out here?” I said, “Ted, I’ll guarantee your picture in Life.” He said, “What do I have to do?” “To be honest with you, all you have to do is ride a bareback bronc.” “I have to do what?” He was almost speechless. He made six or seven jumps and off he went—he pulled about half the muscles in his crotch. Three weeks later, Life gave him the top half of the page. So, anyway, it had a happy ending.
Hooton: The night after Jack got the Democratic nomination, we were at Peter Lawford’s house in Hollywood for a big party. Everybody was half asleep from the red wine, and Jack told Ted he had to liven it up. Ted came over and said, “Jack said we need to get up and do our numbers,” which we had done for years: “Bill Bailey,” “Heart of My Heart,” and the old Irish songs. When we finished singing, we said, “Anybody in the room who thinks they can do better, come on up here.” So Frank Sinatra stood up and walked over to the band. Then, on the other side of the room, Nat King Cole got up. I said to Ted, “Maybe we should have just quit when we were ahead.” For the climax, Judy Garland sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”