Joe Biden‘s personal tragedies have shaped his career from politics to politics, learning to grieve as a public figure and drawing on his story of loss to reach out to voters, including during his successful presidential campaign of 2020.
In December 1972, the former vice president – then a 30-year-old senator-elect from Delaware, just weeks before taking office – lost his first wife Neilia and 13-month-old daughter Naomi in a car accident.
Joseph “Beau” Biden III, a Iraq War veteran and attorney general of Delaware, died after being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015. He was 46 years old.
In a statement following his death, his father wrote: “Handsome Biden was, quite simply, the most remarkable man we have ever known.
Beau suffered a stroke in 2010, but three years later he was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where doctors removed a lesion from his brain.
His cancer returned two years later when he received aggressive treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
He is survived by his wife Hallie and his two children Natalie and Hunter.
Beau was only 3 years old when his mother was killed in the accident that also claimed the life of his little sister. Beau and his brother Hunter, then 2, were also in the car. Their father was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on their hospital bed.
During his 2012 speech at the Democratic National Convention, he moved his father to tears as he nominated him for vice president.
“One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always by our side. … He decided not to take the oath. He said, “Delaware can have another senator, but my boys can’t have another father.” » However, great men like Ted Kennedy, Mike Mansfield, Hubert Humphrey – men who had been tested themselves – convinced him to serve. So he took the oath, at the hospital, at my bedside,” Beau said.
In 1977, Joe Biden married Jill Jacobs, who became the boys’ stepmother and helped “rebuild” the family, Beau said in 2012. “I have two moms now. »
Beau studied at the University of Pennsylvania and attended law school at Syracuse University, where his father also attended.
He served as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia before running for attorney general in 2006. He won by 13,000 votes. When he was re-elected in 2010, he won by more than 149,000 votes.
In 2008, as a captain in the Delaware National Guard, Beau was deployed to Iraq as part of a war effort that then-Senator Mr. Biden had previously voted to support. Beau briefly returned to the United States for his father’s vice-presidential inauguration ceremony in January 2009, then was shipped out to complete his year of service.
As Delaware’s top law enforcement official, Beau did not seek a third term because he planned to run for governor in 2016, before his health began to rapidly deteriorate.
In a statement following his death, then-President Barack Obama cited a poem by William Butler Yeats, adding: “Beau Biden believed the best in us all… For him and for his family, we raise our lanterns higher. »
During an appearance on MSNBC Morning Joe In the run-up to the 2020 election, then-candidate Mr. Biden said, “Beau should be the one running for president, not me.”
Mr. Biden recalled Beau’s support in previous election campaigns when his son told him: “Look at me, Dad.” Don’t forget: your home base. Just remember who you are.
“He was grabbing my lapel,” Mr. Biden said. “He always grabs me by the backhand.”
Mr Biden said: “Every morning I wake up, Joe, this is no joke, I say to myself, ‘Is he proud of me?’ Because he’s the one who wanted me to stay engaged… He’s walking with me. I know that sounds a little silly to some people, but he really does it, honestly to God. I know he’s inside me.
Beau was buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine in Wilmington, Delaware, where Mr. Biden’s late wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi are also buried.
This was originally published in 2020
Ariana Baio contributed to this report