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The Kennedys: A legacy of tragedy, controversy

John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy   
January 1, 1998
Web posted at: 10:41 a.m. EST (1541 GMT)

(CNN) -- The accidental death of Michael Kennedy is a reminder of two seemingly constant clouds over America's most prominent political family: controversy and tragedy.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., the eldest son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, died in a plane crash during World War II. He was 29.

Rosemary Kennedy has been institutionalized since 1941 because of retardation and the effects of a failed lobotomy.

CNN's John King looks at the tragic legacy of the Kennedy family
icon 2 min., 30 sec. VXtreme streaming video

Kathleen Kennedy married William John Robert Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington, who was killed in World War II. She later died in a plane crash in 1948. She was 28.

Joseph and Rose Kennedy took solace in their three surviving sons -- John, Robert and Edward -- but the family's tragic legacy followed them, too:

President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. He was 46.

  • His son Patrick was born prematurely in 1963 and died two days later, three months before his father's assassination.

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968 as he campaigned for the Democratic party's presidential nomination. He was 42.

  • His son Robert Jr.. was found in possession of marijuana while a juvenile.

    David Kennedy
    David Kennedy died in 1984 of a drug overdose   
  • His son David died in 1984 of a drug overdose in a hotel after being ousted from the family vacation home at Palm Beach.

  • His son Joseph (Joe) was involved in a 1973 car accident that left a female passenger paralyzed for life. Now a Massachusetts congressman, Joe announced in 1997 he was dropping plans to run for governor. The same year, his ex-wife wrote a book criticizing him for asking the Roman Catholic church for an annulment.

  • His son Michael, who drew negative publicity for an alleged affair with his family's underage baby sitter, was killed on December 31, 1997, in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado. He was 39.
Chappaquiddick car
In 1969, aide Mary Jo Kopechne died when Edward Kennedy drove this car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, off Massachusetts   

Edward M. Kennedy: Drove a car off a bridge on Massachusetts' Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 after a party, killing aide Mary Jo Kopechne. Controversy over the incident effectively ended the Massachusetts senator's presidential aspirations.

  • His son Edward Jr. had his right leg amputated in 1973 because of cancer.

  • His son Patrick, now a congressman, sought treatment for cocaine addiction as a teen-ager in 1986.

  • His nephew William Kennedy Smith was accused of rape in 1991 at the family's Palm Beach, Florida, estate. He was acquitted.

Correspondent John King contributed to this report.


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