Joe Biden’s family tragedies are a key part of his biography; he lost a wife and a daughter before losing a son.
Biden, who is expected to throw his hat into the 2020 Democratic primary ring on April 25, 2019, is also surrounded by a loving family, including his second wife, Dr. Jill Biden, his remaining son, Hunter Biden, his daughter, and a slew of grandchildren.
Here’s what you need to know about the former vice president’s family:
1. Joe Biden’s First Wife Died in a Tragic Car Crash With Their Daughter
Joe Biden has weathered more tragedy than any person should have to endure. Biden’s first wife was named Neilia Hunter Biden, and she died at age 30 with their daughter, Naomi, 1, in a car crash in 1972. At the time of the crash, Biden had just been elected to the U.S. Senate in Delaware. Sons Hunter and Beau were in the car but survived the accident.
According to Politico, the Biden vehicle was struck by a truck carrying corncobs as they journeyed to pick out a Christmas tree. Over the years, Biden has discussed his love for Neilia, including to the author Kitty Kelley. “Neilia was my very best friend, my greatest ally, my sensuous lover,” he told her in 1974. “The longer we lived together the more we enjoyed everything from sex to sports. Most guys don’t really know what I lost because they never knew what I had.”
Biden spoke about the loss to a group of soldiers’ families, describing how the pain made him understand why some people contemplate suicide. His second wife, Jill, and the passage of time allowed him to endure.
In the 2012 talk, Biden said, according to ABC News: “For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, because they’d been to the top of the mountain and they just knew in their heart they’d never get there again, that it was … never going to be that way ever again.”
He explained that the grief was a “black hole,” but it’s possible to forge on, saying, according to ABC, “Keep thinking what your husband or wife would want you to do. Keep thinking what it is, and keep remembering those kids of yours, or him or her the rest of their life, blood of my blood, bone of my bone, because, folks, it can and will get better.”
In 2017, Biden spoke about his grief in his book, saying, “The pain had seemed unbearable in the beginning, and it took me a long time to heal, but I did survive the punishing ordeal. I made it through, with a lot support, and reconstructed my life and my family. When I talk to people in mourning, they know I speak from experience. They know I have a sense of the depth of their pain.”
2. Joe Biden’s Son, Beau, Died of Brain Cancer
By all accounts, Biden was utterly heartbroken by the death of his son Beau, from brain cancer. Beau was a rising political star who served as attorney general of Delaware. When he died, he was only 46-years-old.
According to his obituary, Beau died of brain cancer in 2015. “It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life,” Joe Biden said.
At the time of his death, Beau Biden was planning to run for governor. According to The Associated Press, he was a lawyer, a member of the Delaware National Guard and former Delaware attorney general. His full name was Joseph Biden III.
According to CNN, Joe Biden called his son “quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.” Beau Biden served in the Iraq War. He was survived by his wife, Hallie, and the couple’s two children, Natalie and Hunter.
3. Biden Remarried an English Professor Named Jill Biden
Joe Biden was able to find love again, to Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden. At the time, she was an English teacher, and they met on a blind date in 1977, Politico reports. Americans know her as their former Second Lady.
According to Biography.com, Jill Biden was raised in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. She earned two master’s degrees in English and a doctorate in education, and she taught at community colleges, the site reports.
When Jill met Joe Biden, she was divorced from her first husband, Bill Stevenson. The site reports that she did some modeling, and Joe Biden saw an advertisement she was in hanging in a bus shelter and tracked her down. They married two years after meeting. Together, they had a daughter, and she helped raised his two sons with his first wife, Beau and Hunter.
Joe’s children with Neilia became very close to Jill. “My mom came along — I have two moms now — who came along in 1977 and rebuilt our family, and helped my dad rebuild our family,” Beau Biden told CNN in 2012 of Jill Biden. “She’s an incredible mother.”
4. Biden’s Son, Hunter, Has a Tangled Love Life
In a surprising twist, Biden’s surviving son, Hunter Biden, who was married, ended up romantically involved with Beau Biden’s widow, Hallie, after Beau Biden died from brain cancer.
Hunter Biden has weathered various troubles in his life. A 2019 Vanity Fair profile on him said his estranged wife claimed in divorce papers that Hunter had allegedly “blown money on prostitutes, strip clubs, and drugs,” but the magazine noted that “the split was settled without the allegations being litigated.”
In 2017, Joe Biden told Page Six, “We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness. They have [our] full and complete support and we are happy for them.”
Hunter Biden told Vanity Fair in a lengthy statement, “The important aspect of my complicated divorce (like all divorces) and an equally complicated life, marked by the tragic loss of my mother, sister and brother is this: My father has been a constant source of love and strength in my life. Even though my life has been played out in the media, because I am a Biden, my father never once suggested that the family’s public profile should be my priority. The priority has always been clear for my dad, as it is, now, for me: Never run from a struggle. Love people and find a way to love yourself. And remember that the two things are very much connected.”
Hunter Biden has three children with his first wife Kathleen. They are named Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy. Hunter told Page Six, “Hallie and I are incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time, and that’s been obvious to the people who love us most. We’ve been so lucky to have family and friends who have supported us every step of the way.”
Hunter Biden has worked as a lobbyist, and his business dealings have generated headlines. According to The New York Times, he was on the board “of one of Ukraine’s largest natural gas companies.”
5. Biden Has a Daughter Who Has Been in the News
Joe Biden’s surviving daughter is named Ashley Biden. She is his daughter with Jill Biden. In March 2019, she left her job at Delaware Center for Justice, sparking speculation that her father was about to enter the 2020 presidential race.
According to Delaware Online, Ashley supervised “direct-service programming and provided oversight to the agency’s victim-offender mediation programming, services for victims of crime and interventions for at-risk youth and adults as they left the prison system.”
“I was always a mediator, and couldn’t stand someone getting made fun of or being bullied as a young girl,” Ashley told Delaware Today. “My dad always taught me that silence is complicity, and that I must stand up for anyone who was being treated unfairly. That has stayed with me through adulthood, and is the guiding principle in my professional life.”
In 2009, Ashley ended up in the tabloids over drug accusations.