KENNEDY…. Sen. Edward Kennedy died late last night at the age of 77. The greatest legislator of his generation, and one of the giants of Senate history, Kennedy will be remembered for an unrivaled legacy that has touched the lives of the nation and the world.

The White House issued a statement from President Obama this morning.

“Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

“For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

“I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I’ve profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

“An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.”

In the New York Times report on Kennedy’s passing, John Broder wrote, “[H]e was more than a legislator. He was a living legend.”

Exactly one year ago yesterday, Kennedy delivered one last national address, making a surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Despite his ailments, Kennedy’s voice still boomed: “There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama, and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”

A leader, a statesman, and a hero, the irreplaceable Ted Kennedy will be missed.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.