WASHINGTON - Senator Edward Kennedy, a scion of one of the most storied families in American politics, has died at his home in Hyannis, Massachusetts, after a long battle with brain cancer, his family said on Wednesday morning. He was 77. We have lost the irreplaceable centre of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever, the family said in a statement. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. Kennedy died just before midnight Tuesday night. His death comes just two weeks after the August 11 death of his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, at 88 and less than one month after President Barack Obama named Kennedy as a recipient of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Born on Feb 22, 1932, Edward Moore Kennedy was the youngest son of a former US ambassador to England and younger brother of President John F Kennedy and Sen Robert F Kennedy. He grew up in a large, wealthy Boston Catholic family driven by competition in endeavours ranging from touch American football to politics. A liberal Democrat, he shared his brothers White House aspirations but after both of them died at the hands of assassins and a personal disaster in effect ended his own presidential hopes, he settled in for a long career as a US Senator from Massachusetts. He was elected to the Senate in 1962, at age 30, and eventually came to be known by admirers and rivals alike as the liberal lion. BENAZIR BHUTTO Among Pakistani leaders, Kennedy was an admirer of former Pakistani Prime Minister and PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto, whom he called an extraordinary woman for her courageous struggle to restore democracy in Pakistan. In 1989, he honoured Ms Bhutto at his home when she paid an official visit to the United States at the invitation of President George HW Bush. The elder Bush, who served as US ambassador to the United Nations 1970-71, was a friend of her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Kennedy always supported her cause whether she was in the government or out of it. But Kennedy came in for some heavy criticism from the government of President Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan for his denunciation of the 1971 Pakistan Army action in East Pakistan. During the current debate on healthcare reform, Republicans in the Senate observed that Kennedys presence was missed, given his record of accomplishment on social issues. However, his reputation also included reports of womanising and drinking and problems at home. In 1981, he and wife Joan, who had been plagued by alcoholism, were divorced after a 22-year marriage. The haunting experience that had an indelible effect on his career occurred July 18, 1969, when he drove his car off a narrow bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., near Marthas Vineyard, landing upside down in a 10-foot deep channel. He survived but his only passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, an aide to his late brother Robert, was drowned. Unable to save her, he waited 10 hours before reporting the accident, bringing him some harsh criticism and forged another link in the Kennedy family chain of tragedies, one that was with him the rest of the way. During his time in the Senate, he was a major advocate for civil rights, voting rights, immigration reform, fair housing, consumer protection, national healthcare, AIDS, abortion rights and gun control. He was a leading opponent of former President George W Bushs war in Iraq, calling it Bushs Vietnam and telling CNN Bush had taken the United States to war under false pretences. He ran twice for president, opposing Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1979 before pulling out and losing the Democratic nomination in 1984 to former Vice President Walter Mondale. Reuters/AFP add: Senator Edward Kennedy will lie in state on Friday (tomorrow) and his funeral is set for Saturday, a US official said on Wednesday. The late Senator is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery along with his deceased brothers John F Kennedy and Robert F Kennedy, a US official said on Wednesday. According to the US official, he is eligible for an interment (ground burial) in Arlington because he served in the US army in the 1950s and held elective office with the US government.