For as long as Joe Biden has served in public office (his 48-year-long political career began in the Senate and, if all goes right this November, may end in the Oval Office), he has dealt with family tragedy. In December 1972, just a few weeks after Biden won the Delaware Senate election, his wife Neilia and their 1-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident. Their sons Beau and Hunter, who were just 3 and 2 years old at the time, survived, and their father took his oath of office at the hospital where they were recovering.
In 2015, Biden suffered another loss of a beloved family member: that of his eldest son Beau, who passed away from brain cancer at age 46. "Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known," Biden, then the Vice President, said in a statement.
It really is no secret that Beau was Biden's favorite son. He had most closely followed in his father's footsteps into a career in service, serving as the attorney general of Delaware, and, at the time of his death, preparing for a run for governor. And unlike his brother Hunter, Beau lived a fairly scandal-free life. He was a major presence on the campaign trails in 2008 and 2012, when his father ran as President Barack Obama's running mate.
Five years after his death, Beau's memory lives on, not least of all on the current campaign trail of Joe Biden's 2020 presidential run. The Democratic nominee has used his experiences with grief to connect more deeply with voters and often talks about Beau in speeches. He was also a big part of last month's Democratic National Convention. Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris spoke of her friendship with Beau (more on that below) and on the last night of the event, a video montage of Beau's life and career accomplishments featured prominently. "Beau is with me every single day. If he was here tonight, he would remind me 'just be who you are.' I'm a better person because of him." Biden tweeted after the tribute aired.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 21, 2020
Here is everything we know about the late Beau Biden.
He was Delaware's attorney general from 2006-2014.
After getting his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Beau got his law degree from Syracuse (just like his father). He then clerked for Judge Steven McAuliffe of the United States District Court of New Hampshire and worked at the U.S. Department of Justice in Philadelphia, eventually rising the ranks to become a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office. After a two year stint as a partner in a law firm, Beau was elected Delaware's attorney general in 2006.
During his two terms, Beau aggressively went after sexual predators, launching a Child Predator Task Force and enacting new laws for tougher prison sentences for offenders. He tallied 180 convictions. When his father became the Vice President in 2008, many expected Beau to run for his empty Senate seat. He chose not to, in part because he wanted to focus on prosecuting Earl Bradley, the former pediatrician and convicted child molester who, in 2010, was indicted on 471 charges of molesting and raping 103 child patients. "“I have a duty to fulfill as attorney general, and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence. And that is what I must do," Beau said of his decision not to run for senator.
At the end of his second term in 2014, Beau decided not to seek reelection in order to prepare for his gubernatorial campaign.
He was also in the military.
Beau joined the military in 2003 and earned the rank of Major in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, the legal arm of the U.S. Army made up of officers who are also lawyers who can provide legal services to all levels of the Army. He was deployed to Iraq for a year in the fall of 2008, returning briefly in January 2009 to attend the inauguration and his father's vice presidential swearing-in. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Iraq.
He was good friends with Kamala Harris.
Biden's vice presidential pick Kamala Harris has said that she got to know her running mate through Beau. The two were friends who worked closely together as attorneys general (Harris was California's AG from 2011-2017). On the fourth anniversary of his death, Harris posted a tribute on Twitter and Instagram: "Thinking of @JoeBiden, @DrBiden and the entire Biden family today. Beau Biden was my friend. We were AGs together, and you couldn’t find a person who cared more deeply for his family, the nation he served, and the state of Delaware. Four years after his passing, I still miss him," she wrote.
Thinking of @JoeBiden, @DrBiden and the entire Biden family today. Beau Biden was my friend. We were AGs together, and you couldn’t find a person who cared more deeply for his family, the nation he served, and the state of Delaware. Four years after his passing, I still miss him. pic.twitter.com/b7lP3TwxYq
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) May 30, 2019
Joe Biden also credited Beau and Harris's friendship with influencing his decision to choose her as his running mate. "I first met Kamala through my son Beau. They were both Attorneys General at the same time. He had enormous respect for her and her work. I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign," he wrote to his supporters.
He was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013.
In 2010, Beau suffered a mild stroke. Three years later, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, which helped put the cancer in remission but it returned in 2015 and Beau was hospitalized on May 20, 2015. He died ten days later. His funeral was held at the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware, where President Obama gave the eulogy. "He did in 46 years what most of us couldn’t do in 146," he said.
Joe Biden has made curing cancer one of the cornerstone promises of his campaign. "I promise you, if I'm elected president, you're going to see the single most important thing that changes America—we're going to cure cancer," he said at a campaign rally last year.
He was married to Hallie Olivere and they had two children together.
Beau married Hallie Olivere in 2002 and had two kids: daughter Natalie, born in 2004, and son Robert Hunter II, born in 2006.
His widow dated his brother after his death.
About a year after Beau's death, his widow Hallie and his brother Hunter began a relationship. Hunter's wife Kathleen had filed for divorce that year and when those records were leaked, so did the news that the pair were dating. ""Hallie and I are incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time, and that's been obvious to the people who love us most. We've been so lucky to have family and friends who have supported us every step of the way," Hunter said in a statement. Their relationship was short-lived. The pair split in 2017.
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