First Term 1962–1964

“The Senate is surely one of the most important bodies in the Free World.”
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Election to Senate
Edward M. Kennedy was first elected in a special election held on Nov. 6, 1962. Kennedy joined the United States Senate at the age of 30, replacing Benjamin Atwood Smith in the seat JFK had vacated in order to become president in 1960. Senator Kennedy served for nearly 47 years, becoming one of the longest-serving members in Senate history.


Committee Placements
The freshman Senator Kennedy received his first Senate assignments. He was placed on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Naturalization Subcommittee, plus the Labor and Public Welfare’s Migratory Labor Subcommittee. In 1979, he became Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In 2001 he became Chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee later renamed the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.


Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Senator gave his maiden speech addressing the full Senate on the historic Civil Rights Act in April of 1964. On June 19th 1964, Senator Kennedy voted in favor of the historic Act, which prohibited discrimination in public places and in employment practices. Hours later, he was seriously injured in a devastating plane crash. Protecting civil rights remained a major priority throughout Senator Kennedy’s career; he viewed this as essential to the nation’s progress.