Georgia Congressman John Lewis says it's because of Ted Kennedy that civil and human rights advanced in this country.
Senator Kennedy was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
At the time Congressman John Lewis was fighting for voting rights in the South. Once in Congress, Lewis and Kennedy worked together on human and civil rights legislation.
Lewis says Kennedy was strong and determined.
"Without his vision, his leadership, his dedication," Lewis says, "We would not be where we are as a nation."
While Kennedy was revered by many he was considered too liberal for many Southerners within his own party.
The biggest strain for southern Democrats came when Ted Kennedy unsuccessfully challenged the sitting president Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Mr. Carter issued a statement Wednesday calling Senator Kennedy a "passionate voice for the citizens of Massachusetts and an unwavering advocate for the millions of less fortunate in our country."
Former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat, says during his 24 years in the Senate he often disagreed with Kennedy on many issues; but Nunn says he had Kennedy's support on the Armed Services Committee, which Nunn chaired.
"Ted Kennedy understood where Southerners were coming from," Nunn says. "He didn't waver from his views and was personally close to a lot of southern senators."
Nunn says the majority of the people in southern states may not have agreed with Senator Kennedy, but he says 45% of Southerners would probably call him a hero.