Today marks the anniversary of the Chappaquiddick incident. Shortly before midnight on 18 July 1969, Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy left a party on the island of Chappaquiddick with a young colleague, Mary Jo Kopechne.
According to his own testimony, Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a bridge and into the channel, before swimming free and leaving the scene. He did not report the accident for over nine hours. Kopechne died in the car through either drowning or suffocation.
Doubt was cast on the Senator’s account of what actually happened but there was no clear evidence that he was guilty of any serious crime. However, he did plead guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and later received a two month suspended jail sentence. He remained in office but the incident became a national scandal and may have influenced his decision not to campaign for President of the United States in 1972 and 1976.
Senator Kennedy was the third longest serving member of the United States Senate in American history. Voters of Massachusetts elected him to the Senate nine times —a record matched by only one other Senator.