President Barack Obama has praised Sen. Edward Kennedy as the guardian of his family and defender of the American dream.
Appearing outside a beach house where he's vacationing with his family on Martha's Vineyard, Obama called Kennedy "an extraordinary leader." The 77-year-old Kennedy died Tuesday night, losing his battle with brain cancer.
Obama said that while people knew Kennedy's time was short, "we've awaited it with no small amount of dread." He noted an outpouring of affection for the venerable Massachusetts Democrat, calling him a "singular figure in American history" who touched many lives.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, has died after battling a brain tumor. He was 77.
Kennedy's family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday.
For nearly a half-century in the Senate, Kennedy was a dominant voice on health care, civil rights, war and peace, and more. To the American public, though, he was best known as the last surviving brother of a storied political family.
Kennedy was elected to the Senate in 1962, when his brother John was president, and served longer than all but two senators in history.
Over the decades, Kennedy put his imprint on every major piece of social legislation to clear the Congress.
President Obama Calls Kennedy The "Greatest Senator Of Our Time"
President Barack Obama says the United States has lost "the greatest United States senator of our time" with the death Tuesday of Ted Kennedy.
Obama called Kennedy "a great leader" and praised his work to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of all Americans.
He also thanked Kennedy for "his wise counsel in the Senate," as well as his support in last year's presidential race. Kennedy's endorsement in the 2008 Democratic primary was seen as a huge boost to Obama's campaign.
Obama added that as president he benefited from Kennedy's "encouragement and wisdom," even as the senator battled brain cancer.
A Legacy Of Service, Scandal
Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate who lost a battle with brain cancer at the age of 77, leaves behind a legacy of trying to reverse what he saw as unfairness and injustice.
His long legislative accomplishments include the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Americans with Disabilities Act and creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Popular among Democrats, Kennedy also earned the admiration of Republicans.
Often mentioned as presidential timbre, Kennedy often said his main ambition was public service.
Scandal also touched his life. One of the most damaging was a 1969 car accident on a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Mass. Kennedy drove into a pond and Mary Jo Kopechne, who was in the car with him, died.
Kennedy later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
Only Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond have served longer than Kennedy.
Reid: Senate Has Lost Its Patriarch
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid says both the Kennedy family and the Senate have "lost our patriarch" with the death of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Reid promised that Congress, while mourning Kennedy's loss, would renew the push for the cause of Kennedy's life, health care reform.
"Ted Kennedy's dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought and for which his brothers sought to realize," Reid said in a statement. "The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die."
Schwarzenegger Mourns Loss Of `Uncle Teddy'
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he and his wife, Maria, are "immensely saddened" by the death of her "Uncle Teddy."
In a statement issued hours after the Massachusetts Democrat succumbed to brain cancer, the pair said he "was the rock of our family."
Kennedy's death came just two weeks after that of Maria Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy, one of the senator's siblings. He had attended her wake but was noticeably absent from her funeral, even though it was held near his Cape Cod home.
The governor said he has "personally benefited and grown" from Kennedy's experience and advice.
He also says the senator "taught us all that public service isn't a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life."
Nancy Reagan `Terribly Saddened' By Kennedy Death
Former first lady Nancy Reagan says she is "terribly saddened" by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
The widow of Republican President Ronald Reagan said in a statement early Wednesday that despite the differences between her husband and Democrat Kennedy, the two "could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another."
She noted that in recent years, she and the senator were united in their support for stem cell research -- a position that put her at odd with some in the GOP.
She says she considered the late senator "an ally and a dear friend."
Ronald Reagan died from complications related to Alzheimer's disease in June 2004.