Joseph Robinette Biden, known as Joe Biden, was born Nov. 20, 1942 to a working-class Catholic family in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

When Biden was 10, the family relocated to Delaware.

Biden attended the University of Delaware, where he earnt a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in history and political science and a minor in English. In his younger years, Biden struggled with a stutter and was mocked by other students. He overcame the speech impediment by memorizing and reciting long passages of poetry into the mirror.

In his junior year, Biden met Neilia Hunter on a spring break trip in the Bahamas, and said he: “fell ass over tin cup in love — at first sight.”

Encouraged by Hunter, Biden focused on his studies and was accepted to Syracuse University Law School in 1965. In 1966, the pair wed. Biden and Hunter had three children, Joseph “Beau” Biden III, Robert Hunter Biden and Naomi Christina Biden.

Entry to politics

Biden first practiced as a public defender and then at a firm headed by Democrats, where he became involved with local Democratic politics and trying to reform the party.

He was elected to New Castle County Council in 1970, and in 1972 he defeated the Republican incumbent senator to become the sixth youngest senator elected to the U.S. Senate in American history. He was 29 at the time.

A young Joe Biden. Photo: Biden Campaign.

As his stars were starting to align, Biden was struck by tragedy. A week before Christmas, 1972, Biden’s wife and three children were in a fatal car accident that killed his wife and one-year-old daughter, and severely injured both of his sons.

Biden was distraught, saying at the time: “I began to understand how despair led people to just cash in; how suicide wasn’t just an option but a rational option … I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry.”

Biden considered resigning to care for his sons, but was encouraged by the Senate Majority Leader and others to stay in his role. He took the oath of office from his sons’ hospital room, and remained committed to being there for his sons throughout his time in office.

Each day during his 36-year stint in the Senate, Biden took the 90-minute train ride to and from Washington D.C. to be at home with his sons.

Senate career

In 1975, Biden was introduced to teacher Jill Jacobs on a blind date, and two years later they were married. Biden credits Jill with his renewed interest in life and politics.

From 1973-2009 Biden, served in the U.S. Senate and became an expert in foreign policy as the chairman and long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he worked on drug policy, crime prevention and civil liberties issues.

Controversially, Biden spoke up against busing during the 1970s and has come under fire for working with segregationist senators during his early years in the Senate. He has also faced criticism over his efforts to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, that added thousands of police officers to the force and strengthened sentencing laws, which has been blamed for mass incarceration disproportionately impacting Black Americans.

As part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, Biden’s Violence Against Women Act was passed – one of his top legislative achievements.

In 1988, Biden unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, and later that year had two life-threatening brain aneurysms requiring emergency surgery. He returned to the Senate after a seven-month recovery.

Vice President Biden

Biden had been elected to the Senate six times when he resigned to serve as vice president to President Barack Obama in 2008.

As vice president, Biden oversaw infrastructure spending to counteract the recession, worked with Republicans to get resolve taxation deadlocks, the debt ceiling and other taxation measures. He also helped to formulate policy toward Iraq with the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

President Barack Obama and then Vice President Joe Biden. Photo:  janeb13/Pixabay.

Following the 2008 victory, Biden said: “This is an historic moment. I started my career fighting for civil rights, and to be a part of what is both a moment in American history where the best people, the best ideas, the how can I say it?—the single best reflection of the American people can be called upon—to be at that moment, with a guy who has such incredible talent and who is also a breakthrough figure in multiple ways—I genuinely find that exciting. It’s a new America. It’s the reflection of a new America.”

In 2015, Biden was struck again with personal tragedy when his son Beau Biden, an Army Judge Advocate in Iraq and later Delaware Attorney General, died of brain cancer.

“Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known,” Biden said at the time.

The death of Biden’s son Beau was a deciding factor in his decision not to run for president in the 2016 election.

In 2017, Biden was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, who called Biden “the best vice president America’s ever had” and said he was being honored for ‘‘faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations.’’

President Biden

In April 2019, Biden announced his run for president and later became the Democratic nominee.

Biden, who is known for his personable politics and one-on-one interactions, came under fire when a number of women came forward saying he touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable.

Despite that, and allegations his son Hunter was involved with the Ukraine, Biden and his running mate then-Senator Kamala Harris defeated President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, 48 years after he first arrived in D.C. as of the nation’s youngest senators. That day, he became the country’s oldest president at the age of 78.

Biden tweeted: “America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country. The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not. I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.”

*Sources: New York Times, Biography.com, Washington Post, Wikipedia

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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