WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joseph “Beau” Biden III, an Iraq war veteran who served as the attorney general of Delaware and was a son of Vice President Joe Biden, has died at the age 46, the White House said in a statement Saturday night.
He had battled brain cancer.
Beau Biden had been receiving treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, according to a statement released Tuesday by the vice president’s office. He had suffered known health problems dating back to 2010, when he experienced a stroke that did not affect his motor skills or speech.
In 2013, Beau Biden was treated at a hospital in Houston that specializes in cancer care after he became disoriented and weak while on vacation. He later underwent surgery to have a brain lesion removed.
Throughout those episodes Beau Biden continued serving as Delaware’s attorney general, a position to which he was first elected in 2006. A Democrat like his father, he served for two terms, and announced in 2014 he wouldn’t seek another four years in office as he prepared a run for governor.
Beau Biden is the second of Joe Biden’s children to precede their father in death; the vice president’s 1-year-old daughter Naomi was killed in a Christmastime car accident in 1972. The crash also took the life of Joe Biden’s first wife, Neilia, who was Beau’s mother.
Beau Biden was two years old when his mother was killed in the crash. He and his younger brother Hunter were injured but survived the accident, which occurred when a truck careened into the car the family was riding in.
Joe Biden was sworn in as senator at his sons’ hospital bedside a few weeks later, and according to the 1988 political biography “What It Takes,” by Richard Ben Cramer, the first-term lawmaker threw himself headlong into single parenthood.
“Joe was the parent. Period. No confusion,” Cramer wrote. “Joe didn’t want anybody else raising his kids, thanks. He was there every night, every weekend. They had stories at bedtime, games of catch on the lawn, outings, trips, places to go.”
Beau and Hunter encouraged their father to remarry, and in 1977 Jill Jacobs, now Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, became their stepmother.
“My mom came along — I have two moms now — who came along in 1977 and rebuilt our family, and helped my dad rebuild our family,” Beau Biden told CNN in 2012. “She’s an incredible mother.”
Beau Biden grew up in Delaware and attended the same Catholic high school his father had attended. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and attended law school at Syracuse University.
After serving as a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia for nine years, and briefly working in private practice, Biden won his first election for attorney general in 2006 by 13,000 votes. When he was re-elected in 2010, Beau Biden increased his winning margin to 149,000 votes over his Republican competitor.
During his time in office, Biden took aggressive tactics to tamp down on child sex crimes perpetrators, netting 180 convictions. He also went after banks and mortgage lenders for their roles in perpetrating crooked loans.
A captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, Beau Biden was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2008, serving in an administrative post with the 261st Signal Brigade.
As a campaign surrogate when Joe Biden was selected as Barack Obama’s running mate, Beau Biden acted as a fierce partisan, criticizing Republican opponents for lacking what he said was his father’s tell-it-like-it-is honesty. His 2012 speech at the Democratic National Convention brought his father to tears.
And while Beau Biden chose to pursue the same field as his father — from whom he inherited a square jaw and folksy patter — he claimed in 2010 the pair didn’t regularly talk politics.
“Most of the drama doesn’t come to our dinner table. We talk about what my kids are doing — his grandkids — my brother’s three kids, my sister, we talk about the family,” he told CNN. “Most of the time it’s not about politics.”
Aside from Vice President and Dr. Biden, Beau Biden is survived by a wife, Hallie; two children, Natalie and Hunter; a brother, also named Hunter; and a step-sister, Ashley.
“The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words,” the statement said. “We know that Beau’s spirit will live on in all of us—especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter.
Here is the full statement:
It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life.
The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau’s spirit will live on in all of us—especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter.
Beau’s life was defined by service to others. As a young lawyer, he worked to establish the rule of law in war-torn Kosovo. A major in the Delaware National Guard, he was an Iraq War veteran and was awarded the Bronze Star. As Delaware’s Attorney General, he fought for the powerless and made it his mission to protect children from abuse.
More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother. His absolute honor made him a role model for our family. Beau embodied my father’s saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.
In the words of the Biden family: Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.
President Obama also issued a statement late Saturday:
Michelle and I are grieving tonight. Beau Biden was a friend of ours. His beloved family – Hallie, Natalie, and Hunter – are friends of ours. And Joe and Jill Biden are as good as friends get.
Beau took after Joe. He studied the law, like his dad, even choosing the same law school. He chased a life of public service, like his dad, serving in Iraq and as Delaware’s Attorney General. Like his dad, Beau was a good, big-hearted, devoutly Catholic and deeply faithful man, who made a difference in the lives of all he touched – and he lives on in their hearts.
But for all that Beau Biden achieved in his life, nothing made him prouder; nothing made him happier; nothing claimed a fuller focus of his love and devotion than his family.
Just like his dad.
Joe is one of the strongest men we’ve ever known. He’s as strong as they come, and nothing matters to him more than family. It’s one of the things we love about him. And it is a testament to Joe and Jill – to who they are – that Beau lived a life that was full; a life that mattered; a life that reflected their reverence for family.
The Bidens have more family than they know. In the Delaware they love. In the Senate Joe reveres. Across this country that he has served for more than forty years. And they have a family right here in the White House, where hundreds of hearts ache tonight – for Hallie, Natalie, and Hunter; for Joe and for Jill; for Beau’s brother, Hunter; his sister, Ashley, and for the entire Biden clan.
“I have believed the best of every man,” wrote the poet William Butler Yeats, “And find that to believe it is enough to make a bad man show him at his best or even a good man swing his lantern higher.”
Beau Biden believed the best of us all. For him, and for his family, we swing our lanterns higher.
Michelle and I humbly pray for the good Lord to watch over Beau Biden, and to protect and comfort his family here on Earth.