Joe Biden: A Biography

by Steven Needham

What's in the book?

Learn about the life and adventures of Joe Biden

    • The Life and Career of Joe Biden
    • Early Life
    • Major Accomplishments
    • Personal Life
    • Recent News
    • Quotes
    • Trivia
    • Conclusion
    • Resources
    • Further Reading



Joseph R. Biden is currently serving as the forty-seventh Vice President of the United States, in President Barack Obama's administration. Prior to this, he enjoyed a long career in the US Senate as a Democrat. He is known for his devotion to such issues as arms control, drug policy, crime prevention, and civil liberties. During his time in the senate, Biden served on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. By the time he became Vice President in 2008, Joe Biden was the fifteenth longest serving Senator in US history.

Joe Biden came from a family of modest means in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and has often been described as one of the poorest members of the senate. During his Senate career, Biden famously commuted to Washington, DC by train every day from his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He worked tirelessly for the people of Delaware, and continues to serve his country in the White House. His devotion to his family and to his job earned Biden the respect of many of his colleagues, both Democratic and Republican.

Joe Biden experienced some considerable tragedies, including the death of his first wife and young daughter. His resilience and tenacity enabled him to live through difficult times and continue his work in the public sector. President Obama has said that he made Joe Biden his Vice Presidential pick because of his long history in politics and because he was trusted by voters. Biden also had extensive foreign policy experience and a history of being able to work with colleagues across the political aisle. Biden's public life has encompassed some of the most important political events of the late twentieth century. As the Senator from Delaware and then as Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden has served his country faithfully for over three decades.

Joe Biden is known by many in politics to be a man who says what he is thinking. Although his verbal gaffes have occasionally gotten him in trouble, many also find his truthful nature refreshing. [Cut: see note]


Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Bidens were strong Roman Catholics of Irish, English, and French heritage. Biden's father, Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr., was a businessman who had suffered some financial reverses in the years before his first son's birth. Biden's mother, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan, was an Irish Catholic woman who went on to have three more children: two sons, James Brian and Francis W., and a daughter, Valerie (Biden) Owens.

Biden's paternal grandfather, Joseph H. Biden, had been a successful oil businessman in Baltimore, but Joseph Biden, Sr.'s business interests did not pay well enough for the young family to live on their own. During the early years of Biden's life, the family lived with Catherine Eugenia's parents, the Finnegans. Scranton, Pennsylvania experienced a further economic downturn in the 1950s, and Biden's father was unable to find enough work to support his family. So, the Biden family moved to Claymont, Delaware in 1953 and lived in a small apartment. Soon, Joe Biden Sr. found work as a used car salesman and the family moved again to a small house in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joseph Biden, Jr. attended high school at the Archmere Academy where he was an average student and a very good football player. He played halfback or wide receiver on his high school football team, and in his senior year the team went undefeated. Although he did not stand out academically during high school, Biden was already politically involved, and he attended an anti-segregation sit-in at a Wilmington theater. He also suffered from a stuttering problem throughout his childhood and as a young adult. Biden later said that he spent many hours practicing poetry in front of a mirror in order to overcome his speech problem. Foreshadowing his future career path, Biden was a popular student and natural leader. He graduated from Archmere Academy in 1961.

During college, Joe Biden double majored in history and political science at the University of Delaware in Newark. As he did in high school, Biden focused more of his energy on football than he did on his studies. As a freshman, he played halfback for the Blue Hens football team, but during his junior year he decided to play for the varsity team so that he could spend more time with his girlfriend. Biden never drank alcohol, because he had some alcoholics in his family and had gotten a negative impression of drinking during his young life. Biden graduated with his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Delaware in 1965.

Joe Biden then enrolled in law school at Syracuse University's College of Law. Although, by his own admission, he did not enjoy studying law, he did well at his studies. He did have a problem during his first year of law school when he was accused of plagiarizing part of a paper. Biden said that the plagiarism was an accident, because he did not understand how to properly cite his sources, and he was allowed to retake the class. After receiving his Juris Doctor in 1968, Biden was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1969. Between 1963 and 1968, Joe Biden received five student draft deferments for Vietnam, and due to asthma, in 1968 he was reclassified as not available for service. Although he was ideologically opposed to the Vietnam war, Biden was not an active anti-war protester. He later said that he was too busy with law school and his young family to be an active participant in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Biden began his fledgling law career as a public defender in Wilmington, Delaware in 1969.

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