Abraham A. Ribicoff, a former U.S. senator and governor of Connecticut who served as secretary of health, education and welfare in the Kennedy administration, died Sunday. He was 87.

Ribicoff, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease, died at a New York city nursing home, said ABC's Barbara Walters, a family friend.Ribicoff, a Democrat, had a public service career that spanned more than four decades.

He began his career as a state legislator in the Connecticut General Assembly and went on to serve as a judge, a congressman, governor of Connecticut, a member of Kennedy's Cabinet, a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations and, for the last 18 years of his career, a U.S. senator.

As a senator, Ribicoff gained national prominence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when he made a blistering speech criticizing Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley for the strong-arm tactics used to control protesters.

"I don't think anyone involved in politics will forget his speech out in Chicago," Connecticut Democratic Party Chairman Ed Marcus said Sunday.

"Abe never hesitated to go out on a limb. If that's the place he thought he should be, that's where he went," former Connecticut Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who served with Ribicoff in the Senate, once said.