10 Things You Never Knew About Ted Kennedy

by Allie Gemmill
Nov 21, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. ET

"Ted Kennedy" is a name that will likely ring a bell somewhere deep in your mind, but you may not be able to put a face to the name right away. Likely, you'll immediately think of the other Kennedys: John F., Robert, Eunice and maybe even some Kennedy relations such as Maria Shriver. But Ted Kennedy? He might be a bit of a mystery, unless you're an avid politics watchdog or you are from a pre-millennial generation. 

Following the film Chappaquiddick, which turns one of Ted's most notable personal scandals into a feature-length film and an examination of those events, renewed interest into who Ted was and the kind of life he led is bound to come up. So, we're getting ahead of the curve and taking a peek into the very interesting life Ted led before the film is released. Plus, who doesn't love delving into a bit of Kennedy family history?

A man of politics and leisure in equal measure, fiercely dedicated to serving his constituents while growing up in a family as celebrated and venerated as they were the topic of rumors, scandals and tragedies, Ted's life is far from boring and anything but one-note. Let's take a look at the man behind the Kennedy name, shall we?

1 /10: A standout senator

1/10 :A standout senator

Ted was one of the longest-serving senators in our nation's history. He was a senator from Massachusetts from 1962 until his death in 2009. He is, notably, one of only six senators who have served a term of more than 40 years. Interestingly, it's unclear if Ted originally wanted to serve as a senator or, more specifically, a senator from Massachusetts, but he was elected to take over the role in 1962 after his brother John was elected president. 

2 /10: The baby of the Kennedy family

2/10 :The baby of the Kennedy family

It's easy to forget just how large the Kennedy family was. Born in 1932, Edward, or Ted, was the youngest of nine children and the youngest boy in the family. Ted followed one of two paths typical for a Kennedy child (politics, as opposed to living as a socialite), and of course, we know what a success that was. Ted and most of his siblings are survived by just one of their sisters, Jean.

3 /10: His first communion was special

3/10 :His first communion was special

Ted, like the rest of his family, was a devout Roman Catholic. His religious education and journey were markedly atypical (in a special way) in the sense that he actually received his first communion from Pope Pius XII. It is said that his mother, Rose, hoped her youngest would have gone into the priesthood rather than politics, but it seems that even an auspicious moment like a first communion with the Pope would not change the course of Ted's life.

4 /10: A most liberal man

4/10 :A most liberal man

Like his brothers, John and Robert, Ted adhered to notably liberal political views. He vehemently opposed George W. Bush's push into Afghanistan, noting it would be "[his] Vietnam." He was well liked in the Senate and known for his ability to go across the aisle and work not only with his own party but with the Republicans as well. According to The History Channel, Ted's "office wrote some 2,500 bills, over 300 of which became law. Additionally, over 550 bills that he co-sponsored became law."

Sometimes called "the lion of the Senate," Ted dedicated his life to improving the lives of his constituents in the state of Massachusetts — and some might say he'd do it ferociously. 

5 /10: He could have been a football star

5/10 :He could have been a football star

Ted was an avid sportsman, and it may come as no surprise that he was a fan of sports typically associated with the upper crust: sailing, tennis and golfing. However, in college, while he was studying law, he was also a strong football player. He was so skilled that he caught the attention of Green Bay Packers coach Lisle Blackbourn, who asked if he'd be interested in being recruited to the team. Ted reportedly declined, saying he'd "go into another contact sport: politics."

6 /10: He almost died in 1964

6/10 :He almost died in 1964

Eerily, Ted nearly died in 1964 in a plane crash — the same way in which his older sister, Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, died in 1948 and the way his nephew, John F. Kennedy Jr., would die in 1999. 

In July 1964, less than a year after his older brother was assassinated, Ted was in a private airplane flying from Washington to Massachusetts. The plane hit some very bad weather and was forced down, into an apple orchard. Ted had to be pulled from the wreckage and spent weeks recovering from a bad back injury, internal bleeding, a punctured leg and broken ribs. He suffered from chronic back pain the rest of his life because of the accident.

7 /10: He delivered the eulogy for Robert Kennedy

7/10 :He delivered the eulogy for Robert Kennedy

Presumably, the deaths of each of his respective family members hit Ted hard, but it was the death of his brother Robert that may have hit him the hardest. Robert was assassinated in 1968 while running for president. 

Ted, who was very close to Robert, delivered a sentimental eulogy that hit on the legacy of his brother as a noted progressive thinker: "My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.'"

8 /10: He's appeared on TV

8/10 :He's appeared on TV

Ted didn't limit himself to politics. He appeared on a number of popular TV shows, frequently playing himself. Notable appearances include Designing Women, Chicago Hope, Dinah!, The Regis Philbin Show and The Daily Show.

9 /10: Scandal followed him

9/10 :Scandal followed him

Ted, like many of his siblings, has been the subject of scandals and rumors throughout his life

Perhaps the most notable scandal is the Chappaquiddick incident. In short, in July 1969, Ted was driving during the evening with Mary Jo Kopechne, a member of the Boiler Room Girls (who were being celebrated at a party Ted was hosting that evening), on Chappaquiddick Island. It was unclear why Ted and Kopechne were together in the car, although there were various rumors created by the public to fill in that gap. The car went off the side of a bridge and into the river below. Kopechne died, but Ted was able to escape. There were serious questions about how Ted was able to escape and why he allegedly didn't help Kopechne, who appeared to have drowned in an amount of water that was easily escapable.

10 /10: He was a noted author

10/10 :He was a noted author

In addition to his thriving political career, Ted also authored a number of nonfiction books, mostly focused on his personal life and life in the political arena. Among the notable titles is his memoir, True Compass, which was published shortly after his death in 2009. The book spans decades and touches on the darker moments in Ted's life, including the assassinations of his brothers, his battle with brain cancer and his drinking issues, as well as the Chappaquiddick incident.