Senator Edward M Kennedy began his final journey, first past landmark after landmark bearing his family’s famous name and then to his slain brother’s presidential library where mourners lined up by the thousands to bid farewell to him and an American political dynasty.

Crowds assembled along the 12-kilometre route that snaked from the family’s compound in Hyannis Port to the John F Kennedy Library and Museum, where his body lay in repose.

More than 20,000 people waited in line to file past his closed casket and mark the end of a national political chapter that was equal parts triumph and tragedy.

Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, who greeted well-wishers filing past the casket, said the outpouring was deeply moving for the family.

“I just want to thank them so much for coming this evening and showing love and support for my husband,” she said.

“It’s a tremendous solace to all our family.”

For many, it was hard to untangle Kennedy’s larger-than-life role as statesman from his role as neighbour and local celebrity, whether he was taking a turn conducting the Boston Pops or throwing out the first pitch for the Red Sox.

“It was Teddy’s home team. It just seemed appropriate to leave him the cap,” said James Jenner, 28, placing a Sox cap he was wearing near the entrance to the library.

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