Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the son of Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden and Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr., and the first of four children. When Joe was 10, the Biden family moved to Claymont, Delaware, to look for better work. It became the state Joe would call home. He enrolled at the University of Delaware, where he double majored in history and political science. He went on to Syracuse University, where he earned his law degree.
Joe married Neilia Hunter at St. Mary’s of the Lake in Skaneateles, New York. In the years to come, they have three children together—Joseph R. “Beau” Biden, III, Robert Hunter, and Naomi Christina. He practiced law at a firm in Wilmington while also working part-time as a public defender. Later that year, he launched his first-ever campaign for the New Castle County Council, which he won by 2,000 votes.
At age 29, Joe became one of the youngest people ever elected to the United States Senate. Weeks later, tragedy struck the Biden family when Neilia and Naomi were killed and Hunter and Beau critically injured in an auto accident.
Joe was sworn into the U.S. Senate at his sons’ hospital bedsides, and began commuting from Wilmington to Washington every day, first by car and then by train, in order to tuck his sons in bed at night and see them get up in the morning. He continued to do so throughout his time in the Senate. For five years, Joe raised Beau and Hunter as a single father, with the help of his sister Valerie and his family.
Joe first called for the public financing of campaigns in the early 1970s. He also led a delegation of senators to meet with Kremlin officials in Moscow to present U.S. conditions for the ratification of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks–SALT II, beginning his decades-long leadership on nuclear arms control. He also called for action to address climate change and protect the environment before it was a mainstream issue, introducing the Global Climate Protection Act.
As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 16 years, Joe was widely recognized for his work writing and spearheading the Violence Against Women Act and blocking Jeff Sessions’ and Robert Bork’s nominations to the bench. He took on the National Rifle Association and won twice: in 1993, securing the passage of the Brady background check bill, and in 1994, championing the passage of bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
At a 2008 speech in Springfield, Illinois, Barack Obama announced Joe as his vice-presidential running mate. As Vice President, Joe continued his leadership on important issues facing the nation, working with Congress in his fight to raise the living standards of middle-class Americans, reduce gun violence, address violence against women, and end cancer as we know it. He also represented our country abroad, traveling over 1.2 million miles to more than 50 countries.
After leaving the White House, the Bidens took their first Amtrak ride as private citizens in eight years back to their home in Delaware. In the months to come, they continued their efforts to expand opportunity for every American with the creation of the Biden Foundation, the Biden Cancer Initiative, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, and the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware.