Who Was Beau Biden?
Beau Biden was the first-born son of president-elect Joe Biden. After receiving a law degree from Syracuse University, the Delaware native served as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia. A Delaware National Guard Iraq War veteran, he went on to serve as the attorney general of Delaware for two terms, before announcing a 2016 bid for governor. However, he died in May 2015 at the age of 46, following a battle with brain cancer.
Early Life and Education
Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III was born on February 3, 1969, in Wilmington, Delaware, the first child of parents Joe and his first wife, Neilia. Three months before Beau’s fourth birthday, he was involved in a tragic car accident on December 18, 1972, that resulted in the deaths of his mother and 13-month-old sister, Naomi “Amy” Biden.
He suffered a badly broken leg, and his younger brother Hunter, who was also in the family station wagon when it was struck by the tractor-trailer, sustained a fractured skull. The brothers spent several months in a Delaware hospital, where Joe was sworn in for his first term as a United States Senator in January 1973.
He graduated from his father’s high school alma mater, Archmere Academy, a private Catholic School Claymont, Delaware, before also graduating from the former vice president’s other alma maters, the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, and, in 1995 from Syracuse University’s law school. While at the University of Pennsylvania, Beau was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity.
PHOTOS: The Biden Family Album
Early Law Career
Upon receiving his law degree, Beau clerked for the United States District Court of New Hampshire’s Judge Steven McAuliffe. A year later, he joined the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Policy Development as a counselor, working on such issues as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the Violence against Women Act.
After Kosovo’s 1998-99 war ended, he also helped train local prosecutors and judges for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as a rule-of-law adviser. In 2016, the Balkan nation named a street after him for his service.
From 1997 until 2002, Beau served as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, before later turning to private practice, working as a partner in Wilmington’s Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden & Black law firm.
Beau joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003, rising to the rank of major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Days after his father became the United States’ vice president-elect, he was deployed to Iraq from 2008 to 2009, and later received a Bronze Star for his service.
Delaware Attorney General
Following a successful political campaign, Beau, a Democrat, was elected as the attorney general of Delaware in 2006. Although he was expected to run to fill his father’s U.S. Senate seat, which was left vacant following his 2008 election as vice president under former President Barack Obama, he decided to remain attorney general. At the time, Beau reasoned that he, instead, wanted to see through his office’s work on a case involving Delaware pediatrician Earl Bradley, who had been charged with sexually assaulting several of his patients.
He was re-elected to a second term in 2010, but, four years later, declined another run in favor of a planned 2016 bid for governor.
2008 Democratic National Convention
Beau introduced Joe as the vice presidential nominee at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. During his emotional speech, Beau reflected on his close relationship with his father, and how the tragic 1972 car crash that killed his mother and sister affected the family.
“One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always at our side. We, not the Senate, were all he cared about,” Beau said. “He decided not to take the oath of office. He said, ‘Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can’t get another father.’ However, great men like Ted Kennedy, Mike Mansfield, Hubert Humphrey — men who had been tested themselves — convinced him to serve. So he was sworn in, in the hospital, at my bedside.”
A portion of his speech was replayed before his father accepted the Democratic nomination for President of the United States at the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention.
Brain Cancer Battle and Death
Beau suffered a mild stroke in 2010, and, three years later, he was admitted to the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for what White House officials described at the time as “an episode of disorientation and weakness,” per The New York Times. Officials said in 2013 that the doctors had removed a small lesion from his brain.
In May 2015, he was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and, after more than a week of treatment, he died due to complications from brain cancer on May 30. He was 46.
“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,” his father said in an official statement. “In the words of the Biden family: Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.”
He was interred at Greenville, Delaware’s St. Joseph on the Brandywine Cemetery, where his late mother and sister are also buried.
Wife and Children
Beau married Hallie Olivere in 2002, and the pair welcomed children Natalie Naomi Biden in 2004, and son Robert Hunter Biden II in 2006. Like his uncle, Robert generally goes by his middle name, which is also his late grandmother’s maiden name.
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