Theodore Chaikin Sorensen, 1928 - 2010

portrait of Ted Sorensen
Photo by Justin Hoch for Hudson Union Society (27 May 2009)

Born: 8 May 1928, Lincoln, Nebraska
Died: 31 October 2010, New York City

Sorensen's father Christian named his son after Teddy Roosevelt, ran and won the seat of Nebraska attorney general the year after Ted was born. Ted went to public school, then took his bachelors and law degrees at the University of Nebraska. In 1951 he went to Washington City looking for work as a low-level government lawyer. In early 1953 he was offered jobs by two newly-minted senators, Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (my old nemesis here in Washington state) and John F. Kennedy. Kennedy's job sounded more interesting, it might as well have been a marriage proposal. Sorenson was soon involved in writing Kennedy's speeches, and when Kennedy was recovering from a spinal surgery, they worked closely on Profiles in Courage. There has been much said about whether or not Sorensen actually wrote the book, to hear him tell of it, the relationship was so close it was hard to tell who deserved more credit, even to the two of them.

Kennedy spoke at the 1956 Democratic national convention, evaded being tagged as Adlai Stevensen's running mate, and Kennedy and Sorensen hit the road, with the senator speaking at least once in every state over the course of three years. Sorensen would write a speech, listen to it, rewrite it, listen to it again, rewrite. By the time the presidential race was underway the writer knew Kennedy's rhythms and thought patterns better than the candidate. He was hired as special counsel, and he was involved in everything except Kennedy's romances, of which Sorensen did not approve. Robert Kennedy said, "If it was difficult, Ted Sorensen was brought in." Sorensen has said that the one thing he was most proud of in his life, even more than the soaring inaugural address, was the letter he wrote to Khrushchev proposing the agreement that ended the Cuban missile crisis. After the assassination Sorensen practiced law, specializing in international issues, both Nelsen Mandela and Anwar Sadat were clients. He did run for the senate seat that Bobby Kennedy had held in New York in 1970, losing in the primary, an event he referred to recently as "hubris". Jimmy Carter offered him nomination as Director of Central Intelligence, soon dropped when it came out that Sorensen had registered as a conscientious objector. In addition to his law practice, Sorensen spoke about speaking until his 80th year. A stroke in 2001 cost him his eyesight, a second stroke led to his death a week later.

Biography from Wikipedia and New York Times obituary

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