Announcing his plans to retire when his sixth term in Congress ends this year, Kennedy cited the Dec. 31 death of his younger brother Michael in a Colorado skiing accident.
But Michael's death is just the latest in a series of crises to plague the 45-year-old Kennedy, who was just 15 when his father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1968.
Born Sept. 24, 1952 in Brighton, Mass., where he now lives with his second wife, Beth Kelly Kennedy, the eldest son of Robert and Ethel Kennedy grew up in the family's sprawling Hickory Hill estate outside of Washington.
He spent his summers at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, Mass., which became famous as the summer White House of his late uncle, President John F. Kennedy. One month short of his 21st birthday, Kennedy was the driver of a sport utility vehicle that overturned on Cape Cod Aug. 13, 1973. One of his female passengers was paralyzed in the crash.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Kennedy managed the 1978 re-election campaign of his uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The following year, he founded Citizens Energy Corp., which helps provide low-cost heating oil for the poor.
Kennedy was first elected to Congress in 1996, taking over the seat held by his uncle, the late president, and by the late House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. He is a member of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee and serves as ranking Democrat on Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee. He also is a senior member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
In 1991, Kennedy divorced his first wife, Sheila Rauch Kennedy, and had their 12-year marriage annulled. The couple had twin sons in 1980.
Early in 1997, his ex-wife published a book accusing him of trying to force her into granting him an annulment of their marriage.
Soon after, his brother Michael was investigated for allegedly having sex with his family's teen-age baby sitter. In the midst of negative publicity from these two incidents, one of Kennedy's sons was burned as he and the congressman lit fireworks at the Hyannis family compound in July. Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts., but the fire department said it wouldn't pursue criminal charges.
A month later, his cousin John F. Kennedy Jr., son of the slain president, said Joe and Michael Kennedy had become "poster boys for bad behavior.'' He made the comment in a story published in his George magazine.
It was then that Joseph Kennedy apologized to delegates at a Massachusetts State convention for the actions of his family.
Even Michael Kennedy's death, during a football game on the ski slopes of Colorado, created some controversy wen the resort owner said the Kennedys had been warned to play such rough games.
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