Sargent Shriver - Early Life and Career

Early Life and Career

Shriver was born in Westminster, Maryland, to Robert Sargent Shriver, Sr. (1878-1942), and his wife, Hilda (1883-1977), who had also been born with the surname "Shriver". Of partial German ancestry, Shriver was a descendant of David Shriver, who signed the Maryland Constitution and Bill of Rights at Maryland's Constitutional Convention of 1776. He spent his high school years at Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut, which he attended on a full scholarship. He was on Canterbury's baseball, basketball, and football teams, became the editor of the school's newspaper, and participated in choral and debating clubs. After he graduated in 1934, Shriver spent the summer in Germany as part of the Experiment in International Living, returning in the fall of 1934 to enter Yale University. He received his bachelor's degree in 1938, having been a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi chapter) and the Scroll and Key Society. He was chairman of the Yale Daily News. Shriver then attended Yale Law School, earning an LL.B. degree in 1941.

An early opponent of American involvement in World War II, Shriver was a founding member of the America First Committee, an organization started in 1940 by a group of Yale law students, also including future U.S. President Gerald Ford and Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, that tried to keep the United States out of the European war. Nevertheless, Shriver volunteered for the United States Navy before the attack on Pearl Harbor, saying he had a duty to serve his country even if he disagreed with its policies. He spent five years on active duty, mostly in the South Pacific, serving aboard the USS South Dakota (BB-57), reaching the rank of lieutenant (O-3). He was awarded a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds he received during the bombardment of Guadalcanal.

Shriver's relationship with the Kennedys began shortly after his discharge, when the family patriarch Joseph Kennedy, Sr. hired him to manage the Merchandise Mart, part of Kennedy's business empire, in Chicago, Illinois.

After a seven-year courtship, Shriver married Eunice Kennedy, a sister of then-Senator John F. Kennedy, on May 23, 1953 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. They had five children: Robert Sargent Shriver III (born April 28, 1954), Maria Owings Shriver (born November 6, 1955), Timothy Perry Shriver (born August 29, 1959), Mark Kennedy Shriver (born February 17, 1964), and Anthony Paul Kennedy Shriver (born July 20, 1965).

Shriver was admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia, Illinois, and New York, and at the U.S. Supreme Court.

A devout Catholic, Shriver attended daily Mass and always carried a rosary of well-worn wooden beads. He was critical of abortion and was a signatory to "A New Compact of Care: Caring about Women, Caring for the Unborn", which appeared in the New York Times in July 1992 and stated that "To establish justice and to promote the general welfare, America does not need the abortion license. What America needs are policies that responsibly protect and advance the interest of mothers and their children, both before and after birth."

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