U.S. Senator & Football Letterwinner Edward Kennedy Passes

U.S. Senator & Football Letterwinner Edward Kennedy Passes

-Contributions from Scott Malone
Pictured: Edward Kennedy's touchdown catch against Yale in 1955

BOSTON, Mass. - U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, Harvard Class of 1954 ('56) and a football letterwinner, a towering figure in the Democratic Party who took the helm of one of America's most fabled political families after two older brothers were assassinated, died at age 77, his family said.

"Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts)," the Kennedy family said in a statement early on Wednesday.

One of the most influential and longest-serving senators in U.S. history -- a liberal standard-bearer who was also known as a consummate congressional dealmaker -- Kennedy had been battling brain cancer, which was diagnosed in May 2008.

Kennedy was listed at 6 foot 2 and 200 pounds as a senior wide receiver while playing football. He caught Harvard's only touchdown to cap a 92-yard drive in a steady snow during a 21-7 loss against Yale in "The Game" in 1955 in front of 56,000 fans at the Yale Bowl. He also caught a TD pass against Columbia in a 21-7 win that season. For the season, he caught six passes for 80 yards (13.3 yards per catch), ranking second on the team in receptions. 

Wednesday morning, the American flag hung at half-mast at Harvard Stadium and a uniform jersey with Kennedy's number 88 hung by itself in the football locker room.

After the Crimson's morning football practice at 11 a.m., Tim Murphy, the Thomas Stephenson Head Coach for Harvard Football, gathered the team and spoke about Kennedy before observing a moment of silence.  

Kennedy_Edward_Haughey_Phil_Daley_Leo_ (John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Boston)

Edward Kennedy (88) poses with Phil Haughey '56 and Leo Daley '57.
Courtesy: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston




As NESN's John Chandler reported, Kennedy was offered a tryout with the Green Bay Packers but politely declined, instead stating that he was going to pursue a career in "another full-contact sport - politics."

Known as "Teddy," he was the brother of President John Kennedy, assassinated in 1963, Senator Robert Kennedy, fatally shot while campaigning for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, and Joe Kennedy, a pilot killed in World War II.

Born on February 22, 1932, Edward Moore Kennedy was the last of four sons and five daughters born to millionaire businessman Joseph Kennedy, who would later be ambassador to Britain, and his wife, Rose.

The Boston Irish family combined the competitive spirit of nouveau riche immigrants with acquired polish and natural charm. The sons were expected to mature into presidential timber and were groomed for that starting with the oldest, Joseph Jr., a bomber pilot who died in World War Two.

"I think about my brothers every day," Kennedy told Reuters. "They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don't."

Like his brothers, Kennedy was known for his oratory, delivered in a booming voice at rallies, congressional hearings and in the Senate.

He drew praise from liberals, labor and civil rights groups and scorn from conservatives, big business and anti-abortion and pro-gun activists. His image was often used by Republicans in ads as a money-raising tool.