Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr.
Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps founder and former Democratic vice presidential candidate who headed the 1960s War on Poverty, has died. He was 95.
Shriver, whose full name was Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., died Tuesday, his family said in a statement to CNN. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease — a cause his daughter, former first lady of California, Maria Shriver, has championed in recent years.
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"He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful, and compassionate place," the family's statement said. "He worked on stages both large and small but in the end, he will be best known for his love of others. No one ever came into his presence without feeling his passion and his enthusiasm for them."President Barack Obama called Shriver "one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation.""Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad," Obama said in a statement. "His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home."A graduate of Yale University, Shriver first became involved with the Kennedy family when patriarch Joseph Kennedy Sr. hired him to manage one of his businesses in Chicago. Shriver married Eunice Kennedy, sister of then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, in 1953.Shriver served as Kennedy's Midwest campaign manager for his 1960 presidential bid before heading the launch of the Peace Corps. The volunteer program was seen as an approach to ease tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
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After President Kennedy's assassination, Shriver served on President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration and continued his activism. He led Johnson's War on Poverty, and founded or worked on such organizations as Head Start, VISTA, Job Corps, Community Action, Legal Services, Upward Bound, Foster Grandparents and Special Olympics. The Special Olympics was founded by his wife. Eunice Kennedy Shriver died in 2009.Shriver was also the U.S. ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970. He came closest to holding political office in 1972 when George McGovern tapped him to replace Thomas Eagleton as his running mate on the Democratic ticket in their unsuccessful bid to unseat Richard Nixon.In the 1980s and 1990s, Shriver served as chairman of the board of Special Olympics International.He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003, Shriver inspired his daughter, Maria, to work on the HBO documentary The Alzheimer's Project
and write a children's book, What's Happening to Grandpa?
Maria Shriver told Good Morning America
in 2009 that her father no longer recognized her.Shriver is survived by five children and 19 grandchildren.