By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Aug. 26, 2009 – Congressional condolences poured in from Black lawmakers when word Sen. Kennedy Edward (D-Mass.) had lost his battle with cancer and died Wednesday. Kennedy is being remembered for his life’s work in the Senate by his colleagues, friends and sometimes even adversaries.
But for Black lawmakers, “The Lion of the Senate” was always there for them when issues they cared deeply about needed a lions roar to be heard. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus reflected on their friendship, respect and admiration of a man Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) called, “One of the finest, most dedicated, and committed political leaders of our time. “
Lewis, a Civil Rights advocated who marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King in the 1960’s has known Kennedy for close to 50 years. “It has been my greatest pleasure to work with him in the Congress to try to tackle many human problems, but I am especially gratified by his contributions to the cause of civil rights and voting rights.” Lewis said in a statement.
“He was a wonderful, devoted friend—so caring, so sharing, so giving. I loved him like a brother,” Lewis said.
These sentiments along with condolences to Kennedy’s wife Vicki, his family, and their colleague Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) were found throughout their expressions of sympathy. Here are excerpts of statements from members of the Congressional Black Caucus:
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.)
“America mourns the loss of a legendary leader and public servant, Senator Edward M. Kennedy. His body of work spans a near half-century, but will live forever. He was the protector of the least of these and the champion of equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all Americans. Whether it’s civil rights, education, public health or a livable minimum wage, his work has improved American lives in a myriad of ways.
As we move forward with health reform legislation, his absence will be palpable. But let us use his inspirational words as our guide, to rise to our best ideals and finally provide decent quality health care to all Americans as a fundamental right, not a privilege.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus
“Today we mourn the loss of a man whose life has shown us the true meaning of ‘to whom much is given much is required.’ Ted Kennedy always showed great compassion for those less fortunate and dedicated his life to improving the lives of others throughout the world.
“His body of work spans a near half-century, but will live forever. He was the protector of the least of these and the champion of equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity for all Americans. Whether it’s civil rights, education, public health or a livable minimum wage, his work has improved American lives in a myriad of ways.”
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.)
“My father [Rep. William Lacy Clay, Sr.] and I revered Ted Kennedy as a friend and colleague. We send our thoughts and prayers to his wonderful family who must bear this terrible burden.
America has lost a magnificent public servant and I have lost a dear friend. “
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio)
“He was and will always be one of the single most important public figures in American history for his courage to unfailingly stand for what was right.
Sen. Kennedy was a champion for justice, advocate for the vulnerable, and proponent of equality. Our Nation is demonstrably better for his selfless contributions and commitment to the public good.”
Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D- Va.)
“Last year, in spite of his personal health challenges, Senator Kennedy worked tirelessly to elect Barack Obama our nation’s 44th President, because he felt President Obama embodied the same spirit, hopes and dreams that the Kennedys have represented for over a generation. His absence on Capitol Hill will be especially felt as Congress and President Obama work towards one of his most important life goals – providing affordable access to health care for all Americans.”
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
“I will miss Ted’s partnership, particularly on the most important District issues. Ted was always there with us and for us. No matter how deep the controversy – from public funds for public schools to our struggle for D.C. Statehood, and when statehood was not then possible, for the House and Senate vote, and today for the D.C. House Voting Rights Act of 2009 we are so close to achieving. Although ill in Massachusetts, he was the first to call to assure me of his continued work on D.C. voting rights, and he continued to help us during his absence from the Senate. “
Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-Fla.)
“Senator Kennedy did not simply live for the Senate – he was the heart of the Senate. Respected by all of his colleagues, Senator Kennedy’s thoughtfulness, conviction and passion were attached to signature pieces of legislation that have profoundly shaped our nation for the better. From strengthening the quality of education for our students, to improving the quality of health care for our seniors, to ensuring equality and civil rights for all Americans, Senator Kennedy was a leader unparalleled in our nation.”
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)
“Today, I join the world in mourning the loss of a man who will forever be a true American hero. For decades, Senator Kennedy has been a stalwart in our community, fighting for our children, for our seniors, and for the best interests of millions of families across the nation. Through his last day, we witnessed in him the same courage, determination, and selfless service that have characterized his constant efforts to lift up the lives of all Americans.”
Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.)
“The world mourns the enormous loss of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a giant among public servants, and the last of a generation of Kennedy brothers who leave a peerless legacy of public service. With his passing, Camelot’s flag furls at half-mast for the lion and closes an era of vast accomplishments.
Kennedy immersed himself into the cause of public service. In the U.S. Senate he found his passion, his voice, and his work. He committed himself to establishing a safety net that guarantees the protection and welfare of Americans.”