Vice President Joe Biden's son Beau dies of brain cancer
WASHINGTON — Beau Biden, who followed his father, Vice President Joe Biden, into politics and was twice elected attorney general of Delaware, died Saturday of brain cancer less than two years after he was diagnosed. Beau Biden was 46.
The younger Biden, who suffered a series of health problems in recent years, was hospitalized this month at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington for then-undisclosed reasons. He suffered a mild stroke in 2010 and three years later underwent surgery at a Texas cancer center to remove what was describe as a small lesion.
He announced last year that he would not seek a third term as attorney general and planned to run for governor in 2016.
"It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life," the vice president said late Saturday in announcing the death of his second child. An infant daughter was killed in a car accident more than four decades ago.
"The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau's spirit will live on in all of us — especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children," he said.
President Barack Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, were grieving alongside the Biden family.
"Michelle and I humbly pray for the good Lord to watch over Beau Biden, and to protect and comfort his family here on Earth," Obama said in a separate statement.
The vice president said his son had dedicated his life to serving others during stints as a lawyer, a major in the Delaware National Guard and as state attorney general. Beau Biden served a yearlong deployment in Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star.
He most recently was with the Wilmington, Delaware, law firm Grant & Eisenhofer, where he focused on securities litigation and whistleblower cases.
"More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother," said Joe Biden, who was at his son's side at the time of his death, along with the rest of the Biden family. "His absolute honor made him a role model for our family. Beau embodied my father's saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did."
"In the words of the Biden family: Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known," the vice president added.
Beau Biden was first diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2013. He underwent surgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to remove a lesion and was treated with radiation and chemotherapy before doctors gave him a clean bill of health three months later.
He suffered a recurrence of cancer this spring and was admitted to Walter Reed in May, officials said.
Beau Biden gained national prominence after he introduced his father at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on the night in 2008 when Joe Biden accepted the vice presidential nomination. Months later, he returned home from Iraq to see his father sworn into office.
A University of Pennsylvania graduate, Biden earned a law degree from Syracuse University. He was a law clerk for a federal judge in New Hampshire before joining the U.S. Justice Department from 1995 until 2002, including five years as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia.
In 2001, he volunteered for an interim assignment training judges and prosecutors in postwar Kosovo.
With his father, then Delaware's senior U.S. senator, at his side in 2006, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III launched his campaign for attorney general. He promised to reorganize the state Department of Justice to better combat identity theft, Internet stalking by pedophiles, street crime and abuse of the elderly.
During the campaign, Biden sidestepped questions about his ultimate political ambitions.
"Sometimes, it's not good to look too far down the road," said Biden, who was critically injured along with his brother in a 1972 car crash that killed their mother and infant sister. The accident happened just weeks after his father was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Beau Biden remained cautious about discussing his long-range plans after suffering the stroke in 2010.
"Having long-term dreams is a good thing ... but having a plan has never worked for me, because life always intervenes," he told The Associated Press. For Biden, that initial health scare was a reminder to balance his job with family time — advice he encouraged others to follow.
Politically astute, photogenic and backed by his father's political machine, Biden was elected attorney general in 2006 with 52.6 percent of the vote.
"He's supped at this table since he's been 3 years old," Biden's beaming father said in celebrating the election of his son, who was a toddler when his father was elected to the Senate.
As attorney general, Biden established a child predator unit, joined other attorneys general in taking on mortgage lenders over foreclosure abuses, proposed tougher bail restrictions for criminal defendants, and put himself at odds with some fellow Democrats by defending the death penalty.
But a spate of shootings in Biden's hometown of Wilmington went largely unabated during his tenure, and his office stumbled in some high-profile murder prosecutions. Biden also faced scrutiny over his office's handling of the case of Earl Bradley, a pediatrician who sexually assaulted scores of patients over more than a decade before his arrest in December 2009.
Biden cited his focus on the Bradley case in announcing in January 2010 that he would not run for the Senate seat his father vacated after being elected vice president in 2008.
The younger Biden's decision stunned political observers and many fellow Democrats who thought Joe Biden's former chief of staff, Ted Kaufman, had been appointed to the Senate on an interim basis to keep the seat warm for the son.
A fellow Democrat, New Castle County executive Chris Coons, won the seat after former Republican governor and longtime congressman Mike Castle was upset by tea party-backed Christine O'Donnell in the GOP primary.
"I have no regrets," Biden said afterward.
He coasted to re-election in 2010 after Republicans declined to field a candidate against him.
Beau Biden is survived by his wife, Hallie, and children Natalie, 11, and Hunter, 9, along with his parents, a brother and sister, a sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and three nieces.
Funeral arrangements were not announced. Beau Biden is entitled to military funeral honors, said Lt. Col. Len Gratteri, a spokesman for the Delaware National Guard.
Chase reported from Dover, Delaware. Associated Press reporter Jackie Quinn contributed to this report.
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Here are some reactions to Beau Biden's death:
The Associated Press
"Michelle and I humbly pray for the good Lord to watch over Beau Biden, and to protect and comfort his family here on Earth." — President Barack Obama.
"He was extraordinarily in tune with people. He was passionate about serving. ... I think it's important that people know what a real, genuine, decent guy he was." — Democratic Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.
"Throughout his life, Beau never shied away from doing the right thing, even when it meant doing the hard thing. Beau served his country and community with honor, and that's how he will be remembered." — U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).
"I first met Beau when he was six years old. ... It's been a privilege to watch him grow up and become a leader in our state and in the Delaware National Guard. My last memory of Beau was during the Return Day Parade in Georgetown, Delaware, two days after last November's election. I was walking along the parade route shaking hands with people just as Beau passed by, standing in a National Guard vehicle, waving at the crowd. For a moment, our eyes met, he waved to me and I to him. Then, he mouthed these words to me, 'I love you.' I smiled and returned them to him. And, he was gone." — U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)
"Beau had a warm and generous spirit. He was a truly giving person, and he appreciated the good in others in the way we all should. He leaves a legacy of service, and also a great personal legacy that calls on each of us to be more gentle in our judgments and more gracious with our thanks. He was one of the best of the good guys." — U.S. Rep. John Carney (D-Del.)
"Beau's dedication to public service was deep, broad and profound. He embodied the best and most noble traits that his parents sought to instill in him. I know Joe is very proud and he should be proud because Beau was simply a joy to know." — Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
"Tonight, our country lost a committed public servant, someone who devoted his own life to making the lives of others better. Beau was steadfast in his defense of our principles, whether as a member of the Delaware National Guard or as the state's Attorney General. ... I had the privilege of knowing Beau personally. He was a 'mensch' in the truest sense of the word." — DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
"My God, he's just a young man. ... It's just so difficult. ... I never heard a disparaging word about him as a person." — Former Delaware governor and Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, who many political observers expected to square off against Biden in the 2010 U.S. Senate race before Biden opted not to run and Castle suffered a stunning defeat in the GOP primary.
"As a dedicated Attorney General and soldier, Beau devoted his career to proudly serving his country and home state. It was an honor to serve alongside him as he worked tirelessly to fight for the powerless and protect the most vulnerable, our children." — Dennis P. Williams, Democratic mayor of Beau Biden's hometown of Wilmington.
"The good die young. ... He was a rock star. ... He had a great image, great character. He was just a friendly, approachable individual." — New Castle County (Delaware) Executive Tom Gordon, a longtime friend and political ally of Joe Biden.