A “heartbroken” President Barack Obama today paid moving tributes to veteran Congressman Edward M Kennedy, who died after a lengthy battle with brain cancer, describing him as “the greatest United States Senator of our time.”

“Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy,” Mr. Obama, currently vacationing with his family in the east coast resort of Martha’s Vineyard, said in a statement.

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, the President said, a day after the third longest-serving Senator in the U.S. history died at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, at the age of 77.

“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,” Mr. Obama said.

The President said he valued Kennedy’s “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,” Mr. Obama said.

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