Born in Maryland in 1915, Sargent Shriver married Eunice Kennedy, the daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy, in 1953. Shriver served as a political administrator and diplomat for many years, but is perhaps best known for designing the U.S. Peace Corps, which was established in 1961, following a proposal for a federal volunteer corps by President John F. Kennedy. From its Shriver served as first director of the organization from its inception until 1966. After President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, he worked for Lyndon B. Johnson's administration. In 1994, Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton. He died in 2011.
Early Life and Career
Born Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. on November 9, 1915, in Westminster, Maryland, Sargent Shriver is best known for his association with the Kennedy political dynasty, but also had his own impressive record of public service. He was the founding director of the U.S. Peace Corps in 1961, and worked with a number of organizations to help those in need.
The son of a banker, Shriver spent his early years in the Baltimore area. He was an excellent student, winning a scholarship to a New Milford, Connecticut Catholic boarding school. In 1934, he continued his studies at Yale University, where he became senior editor of the school's newspaper. After completing his bachelor's degree in 1938, Shriver enrolled at Yale Law School. Earning his law degree in 1941, he decided to join the U.S. Navy, and went on to distinguish himself during World War II. He received the Purple Heart after he was wounded at Guadalcanal.
After five years of duty, Shriver returned to civilian life. He was working as an editor for Newsweek when he met Eunice Kennedy, the daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy and sister of John F. Kennedy. Soon, Shriver went to work for Joseph Kennedy, managing a commercial enterprise in Chicago. He married Eunice in 1953. The couple would have five children together: Robert Sargent III, Maria, Timothy, Mark and Anthony.
Active in civil affairs in Chicago, Sargent Shriver moved to the national stage when his brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy, ran for the U.S. presidency in 1960. He helped out on the campaign and, following JFK's election victory, worked within the Kennedy administration. Shriver became the driving vision behind President Kennedy's proposal for a government-supported international volunteer agency, which was established in 1961 as the U.S. Peace Corps.
After President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Shriver worked within Lyndon B. Johnson's administration, tackling social and economic issues through a strategic plan called the "war on poverty"; this plan led to the creation of programs such as Head Start, Job Corps and Foster Grandparents. Entering the world of international politics, Shriver served as the U.S. ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970. In 1972, he made his only bid for national office, running as the Democratic vice presidential candidate alongside presidential hopeful George McGovern.
In the late 1970s, Shriver focused on improving understanding between different faiths, and brought together Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to meet and discuss religious issues. Shriver also strove to help those with disabilities. In 1984, he became president of the Special Olympics, an organization founded by his wife, Eunice Kennedy. Shriver helped the organization expand internationally during his tenure.
In honor of his many years of public service, Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1994. He stepped back from his activism in his later years for health reasons. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003, Shriver lived at a special-care facility near the end of his life. He died on January 18, 2011, at the age of 95, in Bethesda, Maryland.
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