Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. became one of the youngest people ever to get elected into the U.S. Senate at age 29. He represented the state of Delaware from Jan. 3, 1973, until Jan. 15, 2009, when he resigned to become vice president to President Barack Obama.
Here, the then-Senator elect and his first wife Neilia cut his 30th birthday cake, with sons Hunter and Beau, at a party in Wilmington on Nov. 20, 1972. Biden turning 30 fulfilled the constitutional requirement of Senators being 30 years of age when they take office.
Enduring Family Tragedy
Just weeks after the election, Biden’s sons Beau and Hunter were injured in a car accident that killed their mother Neilia and 13-month-old sister, Naomi. Biden took his oath of office from Senate secretary Frank Valeo — with his former father-in-law Robert Hunter at his side — in Beau’s hospital room.
Biden took the oath there with permission from the Senate so that he could remain in Wilmington until both of his sons were well. He later began commuting to Washington every day by train, a practice he maintained throughout his career in the Senate, to be home with his kids at night.
Biden’s son Beau died in 2015 after battling brain cancer for two years. He was 46 years old.
Standout Senate Moments
Throughout his 36 years in the Senate, Biden had a pivotal role in shaping U.S. and foreign policy. His work centered on important issues facing the nation, including fighting domestic violence, criminal justice, terrorism, the opposition of chemical weapons and more.
Biden held two other roles while in Senate: Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Here, the then-Foreign Relations Committee Chairman shakes hands with 9-year-old Gao Shan, a boy Biden proclaimed the “future president of China,” during a visit to the village of Yanzikou, north of Beijing, on Aug. 10, 2001.
Man of the People
As Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Biden shares a laugh with Afghan students at Ariana High School during his visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, on Jan. 12, 2002.
First Presidential Bid
On June 9, 1987, Biden declared his candidacy for president. However, news that he’d plagiarized a law review article during his time as a student at Syracuse University brought down his campaign, and he dropped out of the race on Sept. 24, 1987.
Here, Biden stands with Hunter, Beau, wife Jill (whom he married in 1977) and their daughter Ashley, after announcing his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Warm Welcome Back
The then-Senator underwent operations for two near-fatal brain aneurysms and a pulmonary embolism in 1988. Upon recovery, Biden received a warm welcome back to his office as jumped into work.
Second Presidential Bid
Biden ran for president again in 2007 but lost the nomination to eventual President Barack Obama. Obama, however, picked Biden as his running mate, and he served as vice president from 2008 to 2016.
Here, Democratic presidential candidates Biden, Obama and Hillary Clinton are seen chatting ahead of the first 2008 Democratic Party presidential debate in April 2007.
Mr. Vice President
Vice President-elect Biden is sworn in by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens during the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President. The historic event took place on the West Front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009, in Washington, D.C.
In 2017, Biden was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in a surprise ceremony at the White House. A tearful Biden was overcome with emotion as Obama placed the medal around his neck and the two leaders embraced.
Obama told Biden he was bestowing the award on him for “your faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations.”
46th President of the United States
After a grueling 18 months following the launch of his third presidential campaign, Biden won the 2020 election and denied a second term to Donald Trump.
The President-elect is seen with wife Jill as they salute the crowd on stage after delivering remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Nov. 7, 2020.
History-Making Vice President Pick
During his third presidential campaign, Biden chose Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, making her not only the first female vice president but also the first Black person and first person of Asian descent to hold the office. Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff, a fellow attorney she married in 2014, is the first-ever “second gentleman.”
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