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He was known as the “Lion of the Senate” and the patriarch of America’s most notable family of Democratic politics. Senator Edward Kennedy passed away in his Massachusetts home late Tuesday night after an ongoing battle with brain cancer. Kennedy was 77-years-old.

“We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,” a family statement said. “We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice.”

According to a senior administration official, President Obama learned of Kennedy’s passing around 2a.m. Wednesday and later called his widow to extend his condolences.

“An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time,” Obama said in a statement.

Edward, who was nicknamed “Ted,” was the younger brother of John F. Kennedy, the 1968 presidential hopeful who was assassinated during his campaign. Ted went on to seek the White House in 1980, however, his campaign was riddled with controversy behind a 1969 auto accident that left a young woman dead. He lost his bid to former president Jimmy Carter.

Although he lost his presidential race, Kennedy maintained a position as one of the most effective legislators in the U.S. The ” was extremely instrumental in the passage of the Civil RIghts of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, according to CNN.

“He was probably best known for the ability to work with Republicans,” said Adam Clymer, Kennedy’s biographer. “The Republican Party raised hundreds of millions of dollars with direct appeal to protect the country from Ted Kennedy, but there was never a piece of legislation that he ever got passed without a major Republican ally.”

In May 2008, Kennedy suffered a seizure in his Cape Cod home, and shortly after, doctors found a tumor in his brain – a malignant giloma in his left parietal lobe. The following month, doctors at Duke University Medical Center removed as much of the tumor as possible and considered the procedure a success. In the month to follow, Kennedy underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Kennedy is survived by his second wife, Victoria Ann Reggie Kennedy, his first wife, Joan Bennett and five children–Patrick, Kara, Edward Jr., Curran and Caroline.

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