Ted Kennedy Is Dead at 77

Influential senator and civil rights champion succumbs to cancer.

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Edward M. Kennedy, one of the most powerful and influential senators in American history and one of three brothers whose political triumphs and personal tragedies captivated the nation for decades, died at 77.

Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, was the last survivor of a privileged and charismatic family that in the 1960s dominated American politics and attracted worldwide attention. As heir through tragedy to his accomplished older brothers -- President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), both of whom were assassinated -- Edward Kennedy became the patriarch of his clan and a towering figure in the U.S. Senate to a degree neither of his siblings had been.

Kennedy served in the Senate through five of the most dramatic decades of the nation's history. He became a lawmaker whose legislative accomplishments, political authority and gift for friendship across the political spectrum invited favorable comparisons to Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and a handful of other leviathans of the country's most elite political body. But he was also beset by personal frailties and family misfortunes that were the stuff of tabloid headlines.