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Posted at 5:00 PM ET, 01/18/2011

R. Sargent Shriver dies; public servant was first Peace Corps director

By Emma Brown

R. Sargent Shriver, an influential public servant who served as the founding director of the Peace Corps, and whose work as head of the 1960s War on Poverty resulted in the creation of Head Start, VISTA and Job Corps has died. He was 95 and had Alzheimer's disease.


A full obituary on Mr. Shriver has been posted.

Mr. Shriver had a long career in Washington, and we would love to hear your memories of his work and life. Please leave them in the comments section below.

President Obama issued a statement calling Mr. Shriver "one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation," and other tributes from public figures have been pouring in. Many highlight Mr. Shriver's long commitment to public service.

Mr. Shriver's nephew, former congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), said he appreciated his uncle's resume. But even more than those public accomplishments, Kennedy said, he admired Mr. Shriver's commitment to his wife, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and their five children.

"What impressed me the most about Sarge was he was always my aunt's greatest champion," Kennedy said in an interview with The Post. "There's that saying, you know -- the woman behind the man, and all the rest. But in this case, Sarge was the man behind the woman. He always wanted the light to shine on Eunice."

By Emma Brown  | January 18, 2011; 5:00 PM ET
Tags:  peace corps, sargent shriver, special olympics  
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He was our commencement speaker at Walt Whitman HS in Bethesda in 1964 and has consistently provided great leadership for many good causes.

Posted by: kirk2 | January 18, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Shriver's name was a constant backdrop in my life as a youth and young adult. I do hope his family fully understands that the ripple effects and sometimes the social tsunami effects of his work run through all our lives and that is a wonderful thing! Long live, Sargeant Shriver!

Posted by: BHorton2 | January 18, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

My condolences to the family of Sargent Shriver. Growing up in the 1960s, I remember hearing his name in the background of everything else the Kennedy family attempted to accomplish, yet he created one of the most enduring, selfless organizations the world has ever seen. For that, he will always have my utmost respect.

Posted by: mac111 | January 18, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I remember him from the law firm of Fried, Frank, Shriver, Civilletti and Jacobson, LLP -- back in the day.,

Posted by: alligator10 | January 18, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I remember him from the law firm of Fried, Frank, Shriver, Civilletti and Jacobson, LLP -- back in the day.,

Posted by: alligator10 | January 18, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Mr. and Mrs. Shriver leave behind such great and wonderful legacies, and such a sweet fragrance travels up to heaven. I imagine the Lord smiles and comments "well done my good and faithful servants, in you I'm well pleased". God bless to the Shriver and Kennedy families on your loss. Be encouraged!

Posted by: chatterbox3 | January 18, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Mr. and Mrs. Shriver leave behind such great and wonderful legacies, with a sweet fragrance that travels up to heaven. I imagine the Lord smiles and comments "well done my good and faithful servants, in you I'm well pleased". God bless to the Shriver and Kennedy families on your loss. Be encouraged!

Posted by: chatterbox3 | January 18, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

The Shrivers truly embodied public service, and we are all richer for their having lived. God bless him on this finally journey, and grant the Shriver and Kennedy families peace and comfort on their loss.

Posted by: kdbrown | January 18, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Sargent Shriver took the earliest idea of the Peace Corps and turned it into an organization that ultimately rewarded its American volunteers nearly as much as the communities and people they served the world over. The Peace Corps celebrates 50 years of existence in 2011, and we celebrate Mr. Shriver's life and record of public service as well. Sincere sympathy to his family from the mother of recently returned Peace Corps Panama volunteer.

Posted by: madams712 | January 18, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

R Sargent Shriver was a man of tremendous moral courage who championed civil and moral rights on behalf of the underprivilged and lowly despite his own relationships with the rich and famous. He was a true American hero in so many ways and we are truly a better nation thanks to his presence in our lives and in the history of our nation and that of the world. God bless and keep him.

Posted by: tonyretartha | January 18, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Sargent Shriver's mark lives on in every aspect of the Peace Corps culture today and thus through American Peace Corps volunteers working in countless countries around the world even as I type this. He helped to shape one of the best faces we present to the world, and an institution that has fostered thousands of young Americans devoted to public service in their post-Peace-Corps careers, some of whom became Senators, Congressmen, reporters, and pundits whose names we all know.

I hope that Sargent Shriver's passing brings with it not only a much-merited eulogy of the man himself, but also a celebration of the vast, sprawling legacy of this wonderful American institution, the Peace Corps.

Even in the details, he was ingenious and powerful in his leadership. For example, Sargent Shriver established the rule that nobody could work for the Peace Corps more than five years (some got a one-year extension), and with that simple stroke created a forever-young, forever-reinventing-itself agency that attracted civil servants eager for challenges and changes in their work. And that's just the professional government-worker side. Think about what he did to shape the experience and work of the far more important side -- the Peace Corps volunteers.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter1 | January 18, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

God bless Sargeant Shriver. I was a Peace Corps volunteer, and my dear father, who was also a great man, died of Alzheimers disease. My condolences to all the family. Here's a wonderful quote from Mr. Shriver:

In a speech to a Peace Corps audience in the 1960s, Shriver described his take on life and death.

"The politics of death is bureaucracy, routine, rules, status quo," he said. "The politics of life is personal initiative, creativity, flair, dash, a little daring. The politics of death is calculation, prudence, measured gestures.

Posted by: johndoe21 | January 18, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

From a former Peace Corps volunteer whose life was changed by the experience, thank you Sargent Shriver. We celebrate Peace Corps' 50th anniversary this year, and remember Sargent Shriver!

Posted by: bszelag | January 18, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Our sincere condolences to the family of Sargent Shriver. The Essilor Vision Foundation was pleased to have partially funded "The American Idealist" the story of Sargent Shriver that aired on PBS June 21st 2008. Copies of the DVD can still be purchased and for anyone who would like to truly understand what a difference this one person made in US history - I strongly recommend you purchase or see if it is available at your local library. You will not grow tired of watching it over and over again. Truly someone who did so much for our country in a time when charity was just a word and not a passion, as it was for Mr. Shriver.

Posted by: audreyreed1 | January 18, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

When I met Sargent Shriver at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University during a chance meeting when I worked there, I was struck by his gentle kindness, his self-effacing intelligence, and his humor. He was part of what made the United Staes and world better back in the 1960's.
May his memory be eternal.

Posted by: PraxisDD | January 18, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, his name was connected with everything good, which was associated with Kennedy family. And now, after out current president needed to use the name and support of late senator Edward Kennedy to abolish his (senator Kennedy's) achievement in Medicare, this death seems to be symbolic to show the complete degradation of liberalism and democratic causes. Is Obama with his administration going to get away with what they have done? I still have a very slim hope that - not!

Posted by: aepelbaum | January 18, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Sargent Shriver was a great American.

Posted by: bbbbmer1 | January 18, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I vividly recall Sarge's 1976 campaign for President, as I was friends with his campaign director the late Ed O'Donnell. We all had a good laugh when Lucinda Franks of The New York Times followed Sarge to Mississippi; her front page report gushed about the supposed magic still associated with the Peace Corps, because-- she wrote-- black preachers would introduce him as "our Sargent Shriver." She apparently didn't understand they were reading his formal name: R. Sargent Shriver! What a hoot.

Posted by: ttradup | January 18, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

My late mother was a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960's, and was at the time, the oldest volunteer. Posted to The Ivory Coast, she served there for two years and left a large stack of letters that detail her experiences there. A teacher, and widow of a Navy flight surgeon, she maintained close ties for years with many of her co-volunteers and considered her Peace Corps work a highlight of her life.
On behalf of my mother, I extend my, and our family's, deepest condolences to the Shriver family, with the deepest appreciation for all that Sargent Shriver gave to our family, our nation, and the entire world. He personified what we can be as a nation, if we choose to follow his legacy.

Posted by: scott3464 | January 18, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The world lost a good man today. A review of his many humanitarian efforts shows there are few people in this country who embody the definition of "Servant Leader" more closely. Besides Jesus Christ, Florence Nightingale,Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Pope John XXIII and Ghandi, one would be hard pressed to submit the names of five -- check that, three -- other people who did more to fight for the oppressed, the underserved, and the underrepresented than Sargent Shriver. It's a damn shame such folks are so few and far between.

Posted by: Publicrelationsguy | January 18, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Never met the man, but I have dealt with the Peace Corps and Special Olympics. He had the talent and brains to either be as rich as Joseph P. or as powerful as the Bush clan. Much of his public service he was literally dragged out of the private sector. Instead, he and his wife decided to change the world for the better. Great mind, a giant of the greatest generation. Alzheimer's always attacks the brilliant. Be generous with your time, checks only go so far. That is the legacy of the Shriver family.

Posted by: GriffBennett | January 18, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon from 1965 to 1968, and Sargent Shriver will always be the face and soul of that magnificent organization in my mind. He devoted his life to making others' lives better, and inspired thousands of young people to do likewise. What better legacy might a person leave? Rest in Peace, Sarge!

Posted by: Tony83703 | January 18, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

WOW!!! He was truly a public servant. Unfortunately, there aren't people like him anymore. RIP Mr. Shriver.

Posted by: skinfreak | January 18, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

As an early Peace Corps Volunteer, I always admired Sargent Shriver, both as a person & for the admirable deeds he accomplished.

Posted by: yesitsme | January 18, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Rest in Peace Sir. You've lived a life that is extraordinary and the world is a little darker in your absence. But I'd like to think the streets of Heaven have gotten just a little brighter

Posted by: bhatnagarnikhil84 | January 18, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I did hotel advance for Mr. Shriver in the 1972 McGovern campaign. What a gentleman ! One Autumn day in Oakland, California during the campaign we were trying to find him. His Secret Service detail informed us that Mr. Shriver was resting in the rear seat of his limo in the hotel parking lot ! 16 year old Maria was there with 14 year old Timmy. Mr. Shriver invited me to watch the election returns at his Maryland home on Election Night. Good memories of a wise, dedicated and very decent man who gave his life to public service.

Posted by: jamesherlihy | January 18, 2011 6:44 PM | Report abuse

In 1970, Sargent Shriver visited the University of Maryland and inspired the young students to do more for America's children, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances. He was my inspiration and over the last 40 years I have felt indebted to him for his encouragement, and his genuine love for those less fortunate. Thank you Sarge for leading so many of us to do the right thing for kids. And thank you to the Shriver family for sharing him with all of us.

Posted by: robbiec | January 18, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

A man of intelligence, compassion, committement and conscience...he will be missed.

Posted by: Postreader681 | January 18, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

I sincerely hope that the US Postal Service will issue a First Class stamp honoring Mr. Shriver, who actually did something for the needy of this world. If they can do it for a pious old fraud like Agnes Bojaxhiu, who did nothing for the "poorest of the poor" that she always yattered about, they should do it for a real hero whose legacy of helping people to help themselves is ongoing.

Posted by: exhoicat | January 18, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

My condolences to the Shriver Family. I was extremely touched when Maria spoke to her fathers' Alzheimer's Disease in that he knew every word of the Hail Mary but not Maria. My Mother has Alzheimer's Disease and I too see that Mom gets to Mass as often as possible. It is a place of peace and familiarity for her. Sargent Shriver leaves a great legacy to his family,our country and the world. My prayers are with him and his family. Sheila K Smith

Posted by: cybersks | January 19, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I still have my Peace Corps acceptance letter from 1965, signed by Sargent Shriver. I treasured that experience, and thank Mr. Shriver for providing it. I served in Africa as a teacher. Condolences to his family.

Posted by: ZARAPEPITA620 | January 19, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

My condolences to the Shriver Family. I will always remember Mr. Sargent Shriver as a great/giant, yet gentle public servant. He left a undeniable powerful impression on me to also serve my country and fellow countrymen proudly and with honor.

Posted by: ahavti | January 21, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

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