1st Peace Corps head Sargent Shriver dies at 95

By Jessica Gresko

Assoicated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 18 2011 3:55 p.m. MST

Her father, Joseph P. Kennedy, hired him to manage the Kennedy-owned 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.

Shriver had fought for integration in Chicago and helped persuade John F. Kennedy to make a crucial decision in the 1960 campaign despite other staffers' fears of a white backlash: When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Georgia that fall, Kennedy 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, 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.

After Kennedy's assassination, in 1963, Johnson called upon Shriver to run another program which then existed only as a high-minded concept: the War on Poverty.

Shriver's efforts demonstrated both the reach and frustrations of government programs: Head Start remains respected for offering early education for poor children, and Legal Services gave the poor an opportunity for better representation in court.

But other Shriver initiatives suffered from bureaucracy, feuds with local officials and a struggle for funds as Johnson devoted more and more money to the Vietnam War.

In early 1968, with Shriver rumored to be on the verge of quitting, Johnson offered him the ambassadorship to France. He accepted it even though some family members wanted Shriver to support Sen. Robert Kennedy's presidential candidacy instead.

In Paris, Shriver won many French fans, but he left the post for a job in private business not long after Nixon took office in 1969.

He campaigned for congressional Democrats in 1970, and two years later McGovern drafted him to replace Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri as his running-mate. Eagleton dropped out because of questions about his medical history.

Shriver was good humored that he had been McGovern's seventh pick for the job — after brother-in-law Ted Kennedy, among others. He named his campaign plane "Lucky 7."

In September 1975, Shriver joined an already crowded race for the 1976 Democratic nomination. But he dropped out in March 1976 after poor showings in the early primaries and never again sought office. He instead worked with Special Olympics and other causes.

In 1994, Shriver received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, daughter Maria Shriver gained fame as an NBC newswoman and, since 2003, first lady of California. The Shrivers also had four sons — Robert, Timothy, Mark and Paul Anthony. Mark Shriver was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1995 and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002. They also had 19 grandchildren.

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