- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. | R. Sargent Shriver, the exuberant public servant and Kennedy in-law whose career included directing the Peace Corps, helping wage President Johnson’s War on Poverty, serving as ambassador to France and, less successfully, running for president, died Tuesday. He was 95.

Mr. Shriver, who announced in 2003 that he had Alzheimer’s disease, had been hospitalized for several days. The family said he died surrounded by those he loved.

His death came less than two years after his wife, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died Aug. 11, 2009, at age 88. The Kennedy family suffered a second blow that same month when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died.

Speaking outside Suburban Hospital in Maryland, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, said his father was “with my mom now,” and called his parents’ marriage a great love story.

At Eunice Shriver’s memorial service, their daughter, Maria Shriver, said her father let her mother “rip and he let her roar, and he loved everything about her.” He attended in a wheelchair.

The handsome Mr. Shriver was often known first as an in-law — brother-in-law of President Kennedy and, late in life, father-in-law of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But his achievements were historic in their own right and changed millions of lives: the Peace Corps’ first director and the leader of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” out of which came such programs as Head Start and Legal Services.

President Obama called Mr. Shriver “one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation.”

“Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service,” Mr. Obama said.

Within the family, Mr. Shriver was sometimes relied upon for the hardest tasks. When Jacqueline Kennedy needed the funeral arranged for her assassinated husband, she asked her brother-in-law.

“He was a man of giant love, energy, enthusiasm, and commitment,” the Shriver family said in a statement. “He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful, and compassionate place. He centered everything on his faith and his family. He worked on stages both large and small but in the end, he will be best known for his love of others. “

In public, Shriver spoke warmly of his famous in-laws, but the private relationship was often tense. As noted in Scott Stossel’s “Sarge,” an authorized 2004 biography, he was a faithful man amid a clan of womanizers, a sometimes giddy idealist labeled “the house Communist” by the family. His willingness to work for Johnson was seen as betrayal by some family members.

The Kennedys granted him power, but also withheld it. Vice President Hubert Humphrey considered him for running mate in the 1968 election, but resistance from the Kennedys helped persuade Humphrey to change his mind.

When Mr. Shriver finally became a candidate, the results were disastrous: He was George McGovern’s running mate in the 1972 election, but the Democrats lost in a landslide to President Nixon.

He briefly entered the Democratic race for president in 1976, but was quickly surpassed by Jimmy Carter and became more and more involved with the Special Olympics and advocated an end to the nuclear arms race.

Sargent Shriver helped Special Olympics break down barriers around the world and with his knowledge and expertise in foreign affairs and different cultures, helped turn Special Olympics into the international movement it is today,” said Robert A. Johnson, president and CEO of the organization.

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

Mr. Shriver is survived by his daughter, Maria Shriver, who gained fame as an NBC newswoman and, later as the first lady of California; and his four sons Robert, Timothy, Mark and Paul Anthony. He also had 19 grandchildren.

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