January 18, 2011 / 10:54 PM / 9 years ago

Sargent Shriver, former vice presidential nominee, dies

Sargent Shriver speaking with President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Oval Office, in April 1965. REUTERS/Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sargent Shriver, a member of the Kennedy family and a former U.S. vice presidential nominee who served as the first Peace Corps director, died on Tuesday. He was 95.

His family said in a statement that Shriver, known as Sarge, was surrounded by his five children and 19 grandchildren when he died in a Washington-area hospital.

Shriver, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in his final years, had been an advocate for the poor and powerless who helped launch President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and became the driving force behind social programs such as Head Start, Legal Services and VISTA.

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

His marriage in 1953 to Eunice Kennedy, daughter of diplomat and businessman Joseph Kennedy, inducted him into the legendary Kennedy family and its generations of politicians and activists. In 1968 he helped Eunice, who died in 2009, create the Special Olympics for the mentally disabled.

Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern chose Shriver as his running mate in 1972 after his first choice for the job, Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton, was revealed to have undergone electric shock therapy to treat depression.

McGovern and Shriver lost to incumbent President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew in a landslide.

Shriver coordinated the crucial Wisconsin and West Virginia presidential primary campaigns in 1960 for brother-in-law John Kennedy, who made him the first director of the Peace Corps, which came to symbolize the idealistic activism of the 1960s.

Writing by John Whitesides, Editing by Bill Trott

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