Last Link to JFK White House: Sargent Shriver Dies

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BETHESDA, Md. — For all his accomplishments — Peace Corps director, ambassador, leader of the war on poverty — R. Sargent Shriver ultimately became known first as an in-law.

The brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Edward Kennedy, and, late in life, father-in-law of actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, died Tuesday, after being hospitalized for several days in his native Maryland. He was 95 and had suffered from Alzheimer's disease since at least 2003.

One of the last links to President Kennedy's "Camelot," Shriver, a businessman and lawyer, helped his late wife and Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver — a sister of JFK and Edward Kennedy — run the organization that allows disabled people to participate in sports.

President Barack Obama called Shriver, "one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation."

"Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service," Obama said in a statement.

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Born in 1915 to a prominent old Maryland family, Shriver was the son of a stockbroker who would lose most of his money in the crash of 1929.

Shriver went on a scholarship to Yale, then went on to Yale Law School. After serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, he returned home and became an assistant editor at Newsweek magazine. About this time, he met Eunice Kennedy and was immediately taken with her. They married in 1953 in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Speaking outside Suburban Hospital in Maryland where his father died, Anthony Kennedy Shriver said his father was "with my mom now," and called his parents' marriage a great love story.

Eunice died on Aug. 11, 2009, at age 88. The Kennedy family suffered a second blow that same month when Sen. Edward Kennedy died after a long battle with brain cancer.

At her mother's memorial service, the Shrivers' daughter and former California first lady Maria Shriver said her father let her mother "rip and he let her roar, and he loved everything about her." The white-haired Shriver attended in a wheelchair.

Family patriarch, the powerful Joseph P. Kennedy, hired his son-in-law to manage his Merchandise Mart in Chicago. He was a big success on the job and in Chicago in general — and even was elected head of the school board in 1955.

Though the Kennedys granted Shriver power, they also withheld it. As he would throughout his life, he sought higher office and considered running for Illinois governor in 1960, only to be told the family needed his help for John Kennedy's presidential campaign.

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During the campaign, Shriver, who had fought for integration in Chicago, helped persuade JFK to make a crucial decision despite other staffers' fears of a white backlash. When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Georgia that fall, Kennedy, urged by Shriver and fellow aide Harris Wofford, phoned King's wife and offered support. His gesture was deeply appreciated by King's family and brought the candidate crucial support.

Soon after taking office, President Kennedy named Shriver to fulfill a campaign promise to start the Peace Corps. Although it was belittled by some as a "kiddie corps," Shriver quickly built the agency into an international institution that it remains today.

"Sarge has been a presence in our lives for decades," President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. "We went into public service because of the example of leaders like Sarge, who translated President Kennedy's call to service into action."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Shriver's work led to almost a quarter-million volunteers helping 139 countries around the world over the past 50 years.

"With tenacity and vision, Sargent Shriver built the promise of the Peace Corps into an American institution," Kerry said in a statement.

Within the family, Shriver was sometimes relied upon for the hardest tasks. When Jacqueline Kennedy needed the funeral arranged for her assassinated husband, she asked her brother-in-law.