Last night, Sen. Edward Kennedy passed away after a yearlong struggle with brain cancer. Any newswire reveals this much, but only the obituary pages offer a comprehensive look at Senator Kennedy’s life and national importance. Technically an announcement of death, an obituary can also serve as an authoritative biography, and it is often written while its subject is still alive and continuously updated until its fatal debut. Before you tire of the phrase “lion in the Senate,” read the following thoughtful and detailed looks at Senator Kennedy’s life, and bookmark those newspapers’ obituary sections for some excellent biographical resources.
Declaring Sen. Kennedy “a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life,” the six-page New York Times obituary delves scrupulously behind the senator’s public image, offering a detailed, chronological account that balances the discipline of his public career with his private excesses and troubles. After an overview of the circumstances of Kennedy’s death and his recent role in the health care debate, reporter John M. Broder breaks down the phases of the senator’s life, from a youth overshadowed by more powerful brothers to his role as influential statesman. The Times supplements its written obituary with multimedia resources, including a 13-minute video tribute.
Focusing more on his legislative accomplishments and priorities, The Washington Post obituary provides a slightly different emphasis in its extensive coverage of Kennedy, but still wraps up with a thorough and interactive biographical timeline. Reporter Joe Holley also offers his personal reflection on the senator on the Post’s “Post Mortem” blog, which goes behind the day’s obituaries in regular features like “The Daily Goodbye.”
For an international perspective, including details on how he “annoyed several British administrations,” read Kennedy’s obituary in The Daily Telegraph. Interspersing its obit with illuminating quotes and anecdotes, The Telegraph offers a more personal and visceral account of the senator—and of its other obituary subjects—than the American papers do.
Finally, if you would like to research an older or more obscure death than Senator Kennedy’s, the Internet Public Library has written a helpful guide to finding obituaries.