WASHINGTON — Joseph R. Biden III, the former attorney general of Delaware and the eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, has died of brain cancer, his father announced Saturday. The younger Biden, known as Beau, was 46.
Biden had spent more than a week receiving treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington.
In a statement Saturday night, the vice president said: “It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life.”
“In the words of the Biden family: Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.”
In 2010, Biden had suffered what officials described as a mild stroke. Three years later, he was admitted to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after what White House officials described at the time as “an episode of disorientation and weakness.”
Officials said in 2013 that the doctors in Texas had removed a small lesion from his brain.
Biden’s death marks a second tragic loss for the vice president, whose first wife, Neilia, and 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident in 1972 when the station wagon they were driving in to go Christmas shopping was hit by a tractor-trailer. Beau Biden and his brother, Hunter, were also injured in the crash, but both survived.
A popular Democratic politician in his home state who was known to be very close to his father, Biden served two terms as Delaware’s top law enforcement official before announcing last year that he would not run for a third term so he could make a bid for governor in 2016.
“What started as a thought — a very persistent thought — has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue,” Biden wrote in an open letter to his constituents in April 2014.
As recently as late February, some Delaware politicians close to Biden told news organizations that they still believed Biden planned to run for governor in 2016.
But Biden’s health had apparently declined in recent weeks, and he was taken to Walter Reed on May 20.
A handsome, energetic politician whose broad smile mirrored that of his father, Biden appeared to be a natural to follow his father’s path toward national political success.
Joseph R. Biden III, known as Beau, was born Feb. 3, 1969. A lawyer by training, Biden joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003, serving as a major in the Judge Advocate General Corps. His unit was deployed to Iraq in 2008, while his father was running for vice president.
In a short, emotional speech introducing his father at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Biden recalled the tragedy that had touched his family, describing the moments after the crash.
“One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always at our side. We, not the Senate, were all he cared about,” Biden said. “He decided not to take the oath of office. He said, ‘Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can’t get another father.’ However, great men like Ted Kennedy, Mike Mansfield, Hubert Humphrey — men who had been tested themselves — convinced him to serve. So he was sworn in, in the hospital, at my bedside.”
Many in Delaware expected Biden to run for his father’s Senate seat after the 2008 election, but the younger Biden, who was elected attorney general in 2006, declined, saying he was still needed in his state as he pressed ahead on a major child molestation case his agency was pursuing against a pediatrician.
“I have a duty to fulfill as attorney general, and the immediate need to focus on a case of great consequence. And that is what I must do.”
Instead, he ran for re-election in 2010, serving a second term before deciding to seek higher office.
Biden is survived by his wife, Hallie, and two children.
President Barack Obama said in a statement that he was grieving for the vice president and his family.
“For all that Beau Biden achieved in his life, nothing made him prouder, nothing made him happier, nothing claimed a fuller focus of his love and devotion than his family,” Obama said. “Just like his dad.”