Part 1: Living History: Ted Kennedy, Remembered.
After beating Edward McCormack in the primary, Kennedy won the general election against Republican opponent George Cabot Lodge II with 53 percent of the vote. Mindful of his political inexperience—and the fact that his brothers would be judged by his actions—he waited more than a year before giving his first speech on the Senate floor. Instead, he won over his older colleagues by leveraging his formidable social skills.
Clymer: Before he was in the Senate, I think he just wanted to be in the Senate. I don’t think he had any particular plan. I mean, he didn’t want to be a senator in order to pass national health insurance or something like that. But once he got there, he took to the place. Possibly being the youngest of nine children helps when you’re dealing with a Senate run by people in their seventies and eighties, as the place was then.
Marty Nolan, former Boston Globe Washington bureau chief: I remember Teddy calling me the first time he met the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jim Eastland. He’s looking at Eastland and Eastland says, “You’re the kid brother of the president, huh?” He gets the bourbon out and pours a glass for him and says, “Let’s toast the president!” Teddy told me this and I said, “Well, what’s the big deal?” And he said, “Because it’s 10 o’clock in the morning!” I said, “What’d you do?” And he said, “What do you think I did?”
Abrams: Senator Eastland didn’t agree with some of Kennedy’s major positions, but he really liked Ted. Early on, we were looking for some approvals for our subcommittee. When Eastland saw Ted, he lit up…. We had a good time telling stories, and then Kennedy said, “Well, Jim, we’ve got a couple of authorizations we need from you here.” He said, “Oh, no problem, I’ll sign those.”
Jim Manley, spokesman: The smart senators always knew three things in dealing with Senator Kennedy. Number one: His word is good. Number two: You’re gonna get things done. And third: If you worked with Senator Kennedy, the TV cameras would show up.
Thomas Southwick, spokesman: I remember when he came back from a trip to China, I asked him, “What was it like?” And he said, “It was interesting for me, because I could walk down the street and nobody knew who I was.” I got the sense from him that that was almost a relief.
When JFK was killed in Dallas on November 22, 1963, Ted was working in Washington. He and his sister Eunice flew to Hyannisport to break the news to their father, who had suffered a stroke two years earlier. But Ted couldn’t bring himself to tell his father that night what had happened. “There’s been a bad accident,” he finally told Joe Sr. the next morning. “The president has been hurt very badly. In fact, he died.”
Gwirtzman: Ted had been presiding over the Senate when someone came up to him and gave him a piece of paper saying that Jack had been shot. He tried to reach Bobby on the phone, but he couldn’t get through. Then he tried Joan and he couldn’t get through. The phones all over Washington were overloaded. He began to worry that [his family] was a target. The two of us and Claude Hooton drove from Capitol Hill through downtown Washington to get to his home in Georgetown.
Hooton: The phones weren’t working at his house. We started ringing doorbells; about the fourth house answered. The phone was under some steps in the kitchen. He had to get down on his knees to get to it. The phone worked—it was a miracle. He got Bobby, and I saw him wince.