WASHINGTON — Beau Biden, who followed his father, Vice President Joe Biden, into politics and was twice elected attorney general of Delaware, died Saturday of brain cancer nearly two years after he was first diagnosed. Beau Biden was 46.
The younger Biden, who suffered from various health problems in recent years, was hospitalized this month at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for then-undisclosed reasons. He suffered a mild stroke in 2010 and three years later underwent surgery at a Texas cancer center to remove what was describe as a small lesion.
He announced last year that he would not seek a third term as attorney general and instead planned to run for governor in 2016.
“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 vice president said late Saturday, announcing the death of the oldest of his three children.
“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,” he said.
President Barack Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, were grieving alongside the Biden family.
“Michelle and I humbly pray for the good Lord to watch over Beau Biden, and to protect and comfort his family here on Earth,” Obama said in a separate statement.
The vice president said his son dedicated his life to service during stints as a lawyer, major in the Delaware National Guard and as state attorney general.
“More than his professional accomplishments, Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother,” said Joe Biden, who was at his son’s side at the time of his death, along with the rest of the Biden family. “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,” the vice president added.
Beau Biden was first diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2013. He underwent surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston to remove a lesion. That was followed by radiation treatment and chemotherapy, and Beau Biden’s doctor gave him a clean bill of health three months later, in November, officials said.
He suffered a recurrence this spring and was admitted to Walter Reed in May, officials said.
A University of Pennsylvania graduate, Biden earned a law degree from Syracuse University. He was a law clerk for a federal judge in New Hampshire before joining the U.S. Justice Department from 1995 until 2002, including five years as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia.
In 2001, he volunteered for an interim assignment helping to train judges and prosecutors in postwar Kosovo.
With his father, then Delaware’s senior U.S. senator, at his side in 2006, Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III launched his campaign for attorney general. He promised to reorganize the state Department of Justice to better combat identity theft, Internet stalking by pedophiles, street crime and abuse of the elderly.
During the campaign, Biden sidestepped questions about his ultimate political ambitions.
“Sometimes, it’s not good to look too far down the road,” said Biden, who was critically injured along with his brother in a 1972 car crash that killed their mother and infant sister. The accident happened just weeks after his father was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Beau Biden remained cautious about discussing his long-range plans after suffering the stroke in 2010.
“Having long-term dreams is a good thing … but having a plan has never worked for me, because life always intervenes,” he told The Associated Press months later. For Biden, that initial health scare was a reminder to balance his job with family time — advice he encouraged others to follow.
“It’s kind of reinforced how I’ve operated my life,” he said at the time.
Politically astute, photogenic and backed by his father’s political machine, Biden was elected attorney general in 2006 with 52.6 percent of the vote.
“He’s supped at this table since he’s been 3 years old,” Biden’s beaming father said in celebrating the election of his son, who was a toddler when his father was elected to the Senate.
As attorney general, Biden established a child predator unit, joined other attorneys general in taking on mortgage lenders over foreclosure abuses, proposed tougher bail restrictions for criminal defendants, and defended the death penalty, putting him at odds with some fellow Democrats.
But a spate of shootings in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington went largely unabated during his tenure, and his office stumbled in some high-profile murder prosecutions. Biden also faced scrutiny over how his office handled the case of Earl Bradley, a pediatrician who sexually assaulted scores of young patients over more than a decade before being arrested in December 2009.
Biden cited his focus on the Bradley case in announcing in January 2010 that he would not run for the Senate seat that his father vacated after he was elected vice president in 2008.
The younger Biden’s decision stunned political observers, including many fellow Democrats, who thought Joe Biden’s former chief of staff, Ted Kaufman, had been appointed to the Senate on an interim basis to keep the seat warm for the son. A fellow Democrat, New Castle County executive Chris Coons, won the seat after former Republican governor and longtime congressman Mike Castle was upset by tea party-backed Christine O’Donnell in the GOP primary.
“I have no regrets,” Biden said after O’Donnell’s stunning primary victory scrambled the political calculus surrounding the Senate seat.
Biden coasted to re-election in 2010 after Republicans declined to field a candidate against him.