Continued from page 3

But the ailing senator was not able to help carry Mr. Obama’s dream. On Inauguration Day, Mr. Kennedy collapsed and had to be taken out of a Capitol Hill luncheon with Mr. Obama and Congress, and he returned only sporadically for votes in the Senate.

Recognizing his difficulties, Senate officials loaned him use of a room closer to the Senate floor to replace the storied hideaway that had been so important as a symbol of his power since the 1980s.

In that room, he had entertained junior senators, hosted informal discussions with reporters, and hammered out the tricky details of legislation with other committee chairmen and administration officials. It was reportedly the spot where Mr. Kennedy made an overture to Mr. McCain in 2001 to switch parties.

In 2006, when the cable network C-SPAN presented a three-part series on the history of the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Kennedy gave the cameras a brief look at his hideaway, and pointed out the fireplace, which is connected to the Republican Senate leader’s office a floor below. It was the fireplace, Mr. Kennedy said, used by British troops to light their torches to burn the city in 1814.

For decades, up-and-coming liberal activists knew that being in Mr. Kennedy’s employ was the way to make a name in Washington. His ex-staffers now populate a giant part of the Washington liberal activist world, from congressional offices to think tanks to the Obama administration.

His 15,236 votes on the Senate floor stand as the fourth highest total in the chamber’s history. His first vote in 1963 was a procedural measure to determine whether a quorum was present on the chamber’s opening day. He cast his final vote on April 27, to help advance a bill to crack down on mortgage fraud.

He secured spots on all of the key Senate committees for advancing his agenda, including the Judiciary Committee, the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, and the Armed Services Committee. He would serve as chairman of the first two committees.

His oratory skills were substantial, and were matched by a booming voice and an emotional charge that he put into delivering his floor speeches. Minutes into his speeches, he often would come to a subject that angered him. His face would redden, his voice would rise and he would thunder about the injustice of blocking aid for this or that group.

Many supporters can recite by heart passages from his most famous speech, given at the August 1980 Democratic convention just after Mr. Carter was formally nominated.

“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end,” Mr. Kennedy said. “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Despite his failure to win the White House, Mr. Kennedy compiles a legislative record not likely to be equaled soon. He sponsored about 2,500 bills and more than 300 of those became law, his office says. Not all of his major accomplishments bore his name - senators said he was gracious with sharing credit.

One of the earliest bills he sponsored in 1963 was to rewrite immigration laws to end national quotas - a goal he’d win within just a few years. But his interest in immigration would last throughout his time in the Senate, including fierce battles in 2006 and 2007 to try to legalize the status of millions of illegal immigrants.

He also played a major role in the Northern Ireland peace process. He was seen as a supporter of the Catholic side, but that went only so far. In 2005, he caused a stir when he refused to meet with Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army’s political arm, and instead met with the family and fiancee of a man fatally stabbed after a bar fight with IRA operatives.

He was given an honorary knighthood by Britain earlier this year.

Still, his biggest unfinished fight was for universal health care. As an early proponent of a government-run system, Mr. Kennedy battled to a stalemate with President Nixon, who favored employer-based coverage.

Story Continues →