Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III, a vibrant supporter of marriage equality and transgender civil rights as the former state attorney general of Delaware, and the son of Vice President Biden, died Saturday after battling brain cancer for several years.
A month later, he urged state lawmakers to pass legislation that would establish legal protections based on gender identity.
“I support providing protections from violence and discrimination based on gender identity and expression under Delaware law,” Biden said in a video released by Equality Delaware.
“I will work with our General Assembly to pass legislation that will provide such protections this year.” Governor Markell signed that bill into law 15 days later.
A few short months later, in August 2013, Beau Biden’s battle to fight brain cancer began, when he checked into one of the world’s most renowned cancer treatment centers, Texas Medical Center, in Houston.
The Washington Post reported that Biden, 46, had been admitted recently to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington as he fought the cancer, a battle that his father largely kept private in the last weeks as his son clung to his life.
Biden is survived by his wife, Hallie, and two 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, Natalie and Hunter,” Vice President Biden said in a statement that was released Saturday night.
Beau Biden, the oldest son of the vice president and the rising star of a family dynasty, as well as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard’s Judge Advocate General Corps, became one of his state’s most popular public figures and according to the Post, had been considered the frontrunner for the 2016 race to become the state’s next governor.
He became a national political star in 2008 after delivering a stirring introduction of his father at the Democratic National Convention in Denver the night Joe Biden accepted the nomination as vice president, and a little more than a month later Beau Biden deployed to Iraq and served there for one year — except for a trip home in January 2009 to see his father take the oath of office as vice president.
In Denver seven years ago, Beau Biden told the tragic family story that became the emotional foundation for his father’s 36 years of service in the Senate and the past six-and-a-half years as vice president. As the Post reported, shortly after winning his Senate race, in December 1972, Joe Biden received a call while in Washington interviewing staff.
Joe Biden’s first wife, Neilla, and three children had been in a horrible car crash on the way home from purchasing the family Christmas tree. His wife and daughter had died, and his two sons, Beau and Hunter, were clinging to their life. Still a few days shy of turning 30, Biden raced home to Wilmington and considered never taking the oath of office.
Through the support of other senators, Biden agreed to be sworn in the next month, at the hospital bedside of Beau and Hunter. Eventually venturing to Washington, Biden decided that he would take the train every morning from Wilmington and return every night.
“As a single parent, he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he’d travel to and from Washington, four hours a day,” Beau Biden told the Denver crowd on Aug. 27, 2008, an emotional speech that introduced the world to a story that his father had told many times.
In recent weeks, the vice president’s public schedule had declined as he regularly visited his son. Two weeks ago, during Yale University’s graduation week, he delivered a deeply personal speech to thousands of students and parents who had no idea what the vice president was going through.
Close advisers told the Post they viewed it as the closest Joe Biden ever came to explaining how much his personal life and tragedy informed his own career. Of his venture home every night to see his two sons, he said it wasn’t for them.
“The real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me,” he said.
President Obama quoted Ireland’s most beloved poet in his statement paying tribute to both Beau and his father.
“‘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.”