- Associated Press - Monday, January 17, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — A family spokeswoman on Monday said R. Sargent Shriver, a former Peace Corps director and vice-presidential nominee, is in critical condition in a Maryland hospital.

A Monday-morning e-mail statement attributed to Shriver family spokeswoman Kirsten Seckler said the 95-year-old Mr. Shriver is a patient at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

Mr. Shriver announced in 2003 that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

Mr. Shriver served as the first Peace Corps director in the administration of his brother-in-law, President John F. Kennedy. He also was Democrat George McGovern’s running mate in 1972.

Mr. Shriver‘s wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics program, died in 2009 at age 88. He is also the father-in-law of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to former NBC reporter Maria Shriver.

The handsome Mr. Shriver is often known first as an in-law, but his achievements are historic in their own right and changed millions of lives: the Peace Corps‘ first director and the leader of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, out of which came such programs as Head Start and Legal Services.

Within the Kennedy family, he sometimes was relied upon for the hardest tasks. When Jacqueline Kennedy needed the funeral arranged for her murdered husband, she asked Mr. Shriver.

Mr. Shriver fought for integration in Chicago and helped persuade Kennedy to make a crucial decision in the 1960 campaign despite other staffers’ fears of a white backlash: When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Georgia that fall, Kennedy phoned King’s wife and offered support. His gesture was deeply appreciated by King’s family and brought the candidate crucial support.

Soon after taking office, Kennedy named Mr. Shriver to fulfill a campaign promise to start the Peace Corps. Although it was belittled by some as a “kiddie corps,” Mr. Shriver quickly built the agency into an international institution.

In 1994, Mr. Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton.