Victoria Reggie Kennedy
Victoria Anne Reggie “Vicki” Kennedy (born February 26, 1954) is an American lawyer and the second wife/widow of longtime U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who was 22 years her senior.
Early life and education
The second of six children, Victoria Anne Reggie was born in Crowley, Louisiana. Her father, Edmund Reggie, was a Louisiana judge and banker, and her mother, Doris Ann (née Boustany), was a Democratic national committeewoman. Reggie is of Lebanese descent, as all of her grandparents were Maronites from Lebanon, who immigrated to the United States and later settled to Louisiana. Reggie’s grandparents became important players in the local Roman Catholic church, and later their children became involved in business and politics.
Reggie’s immediate family was wealthy because of money from her maternal family’s interest in the Bunny Bread baking concern in New Orleans. She was raised in a family that was constantly involved in politics and campaigns. At the1956 Democratic National Convention, her father helped deliver his state for John F. Kennedy’s unsuccessful bid for the vice-presidential nomination. Over time, John Kennedy developed a close social relationship with the Reggies. Her mother cast the only Louisiana delegate vote for Ted Kennedy at the 1980 Democratic National Convention, although State Senator Tony Guarisco may have also been recruited to vote for Kennedy.
Reggie attended parochial schools growing up and was a straight-A student. She attended Newcomb College at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English, magna cum laude, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and was president of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. She then received her Juris Doctor degree, summa cum laude in 1979 from Tulane University Law School. There she was a member of Tulane Law Review. Her education at Tulane, along with twenty years of other Tulane tuition for her brothers and sisters, was paid for by scholarships awarded by a political ally of her father.
After law school, Reggie clerked for Judge Robert Arthur Sprecher at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago. As an attorney, she specialized in bank law. She met her first husband, Grier C. Raclin, a telecommunications attorney (who later became a senior executive at Charter Communications in St. Louis,Missouri), when they clerked together at the Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago. Their 1981 church wedding was in Crowley and “feted 400 guests with a week’s worth of parties.”
Following marriage, the couple moved to Washington, D.C., where she practiced banking and savings and loan law and restructuring and bankruptcy law for Keck, Mahin & Cate. She was made partner there, and was known to be “charismatic and hard-driving” and a tough negotiator in settlement talks and “as a real star” for her ability to work on complicated financial transactions.
Reggie and Raclin had two children, Curran (born 1982) and Caroline (born 1985). They were divorced in 1990. Upon her divorce, she was left to juggle her career as a lawyer with her role as a single mother of two young children.
Marriage to Ted Kennedy
While the Kennedy and Reggie families were friends for many years, Vicki remembers (but Senator Kennedy did not) their first meeting when Vicki was a summer intern in his Senate office’s mailroom the year following her college graduation. They began dating after meeting again in June 1991 at a party celebrating her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Ted Kennedy said of this meeting, “I had known Vicki before, but this was the first time I think I really saw her.” The relationship became serious in September 1991. They were engaged in March 1992, and married July 3, 1992, in a civil ceremony at his home in McLean, Virginia. His political career had suffered from a long period of womanizing, drinking, and adverse publicity, and she is credited with stabilizing his personal life and helping him resume a productive career in the Senate. Kennedy was devoted to her two children.
In Kennedy’s 1994 senatorial re-election campaign against Mitt Romney, she was credited by The New York Times with “giving him a political advantage in a difficult contest.” For a Boston, Massachusetts, reception she organized, 1,200 influential New England women met five of Kennedy’s Senate colleagues. In his campaigns and his senatorial work, she became his principal assistant and closest political advisor. By 1997, she no longer practiced law. She came to the aid of the greater Kennedy family following the 1999 plane crash that took the life of John F. Kennedy, Jr.
She is president and co-founder of Common Sense about Kids and Guns, an advocacy group begun in 1999 which seeks to reduce gun deaths and injuries to children in the U.S. She is a member of the board of trustees of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and has served on the board of Stop Handgun Violence in Boston.She is a board member of Catholic Democrats and authored the preface for their 2009 book, The Catholic Case for Obama. She was named a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on December 4, 2009.
Illness and death of Ted Kennedy
Following her husband’s May 2008 diagnosis of brain cancer, she became his primary caregiver, dealing with the Kennedy clan along with Ted’s political connections. She assisted him in planning his course of treatment.
Senator Kennedy died on August 25, 2009. Throughout four days of his lying in state, a funeral service and quiet burial, his widow maintained a public face of composure, dignity, and gratitude to staffers and citizens who lined the streets and waited at the U.S. Capitol to pay their respects.
Reports indicated that the Senator expressed the wish that his wife would succeed him in office, and speculation towards that possibility continued during his illness.
Upon his death, some thought that she would be appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to take the Senator’s seat until the special election could take place, but she declined and the governor instead appointed long-time Kennedy associate Paul G. Kirk. Some Democratic officials hoped she would agree to run for Senate to finish out her husband’s term, but she declined again and instead endorsed Martha Coakley for the special election to fill the vacant seat. Coakley was defeated by Scott Brown. A year later, speculation continued as some noted Democrats saw her as their best chance to take back Sen. Kennedy’s former seat from Brown and the Republicans in the 2012 election; however, she again declined, and the Democratic nomination was awarded to Elizabeth Warren, who went on to defeat Brown in November 2012.
Since the Senator’s death, Kennedy has spoken at graduation ceremonies and received honorary degrees from UMass Boston, Lesley University, and the University of Maryland in the Spring of 2010. She also surprised the 95 members of the graduating class of Harwich High School on Cape Cod by accepting their invitation to speak at their June 2010 graduation.
Kennedy was invited to speak at the spring commencement of the Catholic Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, but at the request of Bishop Robert McManus of the Diocese of Worcester, Kennedy was disinvited by the college. The bishop and other Catholic organizations had expressed reservations that a stalwart pro-choice advocate speak at a Catholic university.
On May 3, 2013, she received the “Woman of the 21st Century” award at the 2013 Annual Luncheon of the Women’s Guild of Cedars-Sinai, presented by actress Morgan Fairchild.
In February 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as a Governor of the United States Postal Service (a member of the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service), for a term expiring December 8, 2016. If confirmed, Kennedy would assume the board seat being vacated by Carolyn L. Gallagher. As of July 2014, her nomination was still pending in the U.S. Senate.