Ted Kennedy - Early Life, Education, and Military Service

Early Life, Education, and Military Service

Kennedy was born in St. Margaret's Hospital on February 22, 1932 in the Dorchester section of Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of nine children of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., who were members of prominent Irish-American families in Boston and who constituted one of the wealthiest families in the nation. His elder siblings included John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. John asked to be the newborn's godfather, a request his parents honored, though they did not agree to his request to name the baby George Washington Kennedy (he'd been born on the first president's 200th birthday); instead, they named him after Joseph Sr.'s assistant.

Frequently uprooted as a child as his family moved among Bronxville, New York, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, Palm Beach, Florida, and the Court of St. James's in London, Kennedy attended ten different schools by the age of eleven. At age seven, he received his First Communion from Pope Pius XII in the Vatican. He spent sixth and seventh grades in the Fessenden School, where he was a mediocre student, and eighth grade at Cranwell Preparatory School, both in Massachusetts. His parents were affectionate toward him as the youngest child but also compared him unfavorably with his older brothers. Between the ages of eight and sixteen he suffered the trauma of his sister Rosemary Kennedy's failed lobotomy and the deaths of his brother Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. in World War II and sister Kathleen Agnes Kennedy in an airplane crash. An early political and personal influence was his affable maternal grandfather, John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, a former mayor of Boston and U.S. Representative. Kennedy spent his four high school years at Milton Academy prep school, where his grades were ordinary and he did well at football. He also played on the tennis and hockey teams and was in the drama, debate, and glee clubs. He graduated from there in 1950.

Kennedy entered Harvard College, and in his spring semester was assigned to the athlete-oriented Winthrop House, where his brothers had also lived. He was as an offensive and defensive end on the freshman football team, with his play characterized by his large size and fearless style. In his first semester, Kennedy and his friends arranged to copy answers from another student during the final examination for a science class. At the end of his second semester, in May 1951, and anxious about maintaining his eligibility for athletics for the next year, he had a friend who was knowledgeable on the subject take his Spanish language examination for him. The two were quickly caught and expelled for cheating, but in a standard Harvard treatment for cases of this kind, they were told they could apply for readmission in a year or two after demonstrating good behavior.

Kennedy enlisted in the United States Army in June 1951 (signing up for an optional four-year term, which was shortened to the minimum two years after his father intervened). Following basic training at Fort Dix, he requested assignment to Fort Holabird for Army Intelligence training, but was dropped after a few weeks without explanation. He went to Camp Gordon for training in the Military Police Corps. In June 1952, Kennedy was assigned to the honor guard at SHAPE headquarters in Paris. His father's political connections ensured he was not deployed to the ongoing Korean War. While stationed in Europe he travelled extensively on weekends and climbed the Matterhorn. He was discharged in March 1953 as a private first class.

Kennedy re-entered Harvard in summer 1953 and improved his study habits. He joined The Owl final club in 1954; he was also chosen for the Hasty Pudding Club and the Pi Eta fraternity. On athletic probation during his sophomore year, Kennedy returned as a second-string two way end for Harvard Crimson football during his junior year and barely missed earning his varsity letter. Nevertheless, he received a recruiting feeler from Green Bay Packers head coach Lisle Blackbourn, asking about his interest in playing professionally. Kennedy demurred, saying he had plans to attend law school and to "go into another contact sport, politics." Kennedy became a starting end on the Harvard Crimson football team in his senior year, working hard to improve his blocking and tackling to complement his 6-foot 2-inch, 200-pound size. In the 1955 Harvard-Yale game, which Yale won 21–7, Kennedy caught Harvard's only touchdown pass. He graduated from Harvard in 1956 with an A.B. in history and government.

Kennedy enrolled in the University of Virginia School of Law in 1956, and also attended the Hague Academy of International Law during 1958. At Virginia he was in the middle of the class ranking but was the winner of the prestigious William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition. While there, his fast automotive habits were curtailed when he was charged with reckless driving and driving without a license. He was officially manager of his brother John's 1958 Senate re-election campaign, and Ted's ability to connect to ordinary voters on the street helped bring a record-setting victory margin that gave credibility to John's presidential aspirations. Kennedy graduated from law school in 1959.

Read more about this topic:  Ted Kennedy

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