Neilia Hunter Biden

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Neilia Hunter Biden
Biden in 1966
Neilia Hunter

(1942-07-28)July 28, 1942
DiedDecember 18, 1972(1972-12-18) (aged 30)
Cause of deathTraffic collision
Resting placeGreenville, Delaware, U.S.
Alma materSyracuse University (MA)
(m. 1966)
FamilyBiden (by marriage)

Neilia Hunter Biden (July 28, 1942 – December 18, 1972) was an American teacher and the first wife of Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States. She died in a car crash in 1972 with their one-year-old daughter, Naomi. Their two sons, Beau and Hunter, were critically injured but survived the incident. Her death occurred six weeks after her husband's election to the U.S. Senate.

Early life and career[edit]

Neilia Hunter was born on July 28, 1942, in Skaneateles, New York, to Louise (née Basel; 1916–1992) and Robert Hunter (1914–1990) who were Presbyterians.[1][2] She attended Penn Hall, a secondary boarding school in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She was active in the school's French club, field hockey, swimming and student council.[3] After secondary school, she attended Syracuse University and was a school teacher in the Syracuse City School District.[2][4] She was an English teacher at the Bellevue School in Syracuse, New York.[4][5] She was related to former Auburn city councilman Robert Hunter.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Neilia Hunter, Joe, Hunter, Naomi Christina and Beau Biden, c. 1972

Neilia Hunter met Joe Biden in Nassau, Bahamas, while they were both on spring break.[7] Shortly after, Biden moved to Syracuse to be closer to her and attended law school.[4] The couple married on August 27, 1966.[3] After Biden graduated from law school, the Bidens moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden was on the New Castle County Council. The couple had three children: Joseph Robinette "Beau", Robert Hunter and Naomi Christina "Amy".[8] While Biden campaigned to unseat U.S. Delaware Senator J. Caleb Boggs, Neilia was described by The News Journal as the "brains" of his campaign.[3]


On December 18, 1972, shortly after Joe became U.S. senator-elect, Neilia was driving with her three children west along rural Valley Road in Hockessin, Delaware. At the intersection with Delaware Route 7 (Limestone Road), their vehicle pulled out in front of a tractor-trailer truck traveling north along Route 7 and was hit by the tractor-trailer. Police determined that Neilia drove into the path of the tractor-trailer.[9][10] The truck driver, identified as Curtis C. Dunn, 33, of Avondale, Pa., escaped without any major injury and died in 1999.[11][12] All four occupants were taken to Wilmington General Hospital, where Neilia and Naomi were pronounced dead on arrival, while Beau and Hunter were treated for multiple serious injuries.[9][13][14] Two weeks after the crash, Joe was sworn into the Senate at the hospital, where Beau and Hunter were being treated.[3] Neilia and Naomi were buried in St. Joseph on the Brandywine Cemetery in Greenville, Delaware.[15]


In a commencement speech at Yale University in 2015, Joe Biden, then serving as Vice President of the United States in the administration led by Barack Obama, spoke of his wife, saying, "The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I'm not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through [after the fatal crash]. But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption."[16]

Dedicated in her memory, Neilia Hunter Biden Park is in a suburban area of unincorporated New Castle County, Delaware.[17] Cayuga Community College in Auburn, New York, where Neilia's father ran the food service operation for many years, annually confers on two graduates the Neilia Hunter Biden Award—one for journalism and one for English literature.[18] Among the early winners was William "Bill" Fulton, who later served as mayor of Ventura, California.[19]

A memorial plaque was erected at Bellevue Elementary School in Syracuse in Neilia's memory.[5]


  1. ^ Uschan, Michael V. (April 9, 2010). Joe Biden. Greenhaven Publishing LLC. ISBN 9781420502602.
  2. ^ a b "Neilia Hunter to marry J. R. Biden". The News Journal. Wilmington, Del. March 29, 1966. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Joe Biden Was Married To His First Wife, Neilia Hunter, For Only 6 Years". Women's Health. May 13, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Weiss, Abby (February 24, 2022). "THE ONE: Joe Biden's 1st wife Neilia Biden shaped his life, career while at Syracuse". The Daily Orange. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Kirst, Sean (February 27, 2021). "Sean Kirst: As Biden takes oath, his first wife's students think back to 'Neilialand'". Buffalo News. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  6. ^ Rocheleau, Kelly (April 1, 2020). "'A good, caring person': Former Auburn city councilor Robert Hunter remembered". Auburn Citizen. Auburn, New York. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  7. ^ Osnos, Evan (July 28, 2014). "The Evolution of Joe Biden". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  8. ^ Sarika Jagtiani; Meredith Newman; Andrew Sharp (September 25, 2019). "Hunter Biden: A brief bio of former Vice President Joe Biden's son". The News Journal. Wilmington, Del. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Ott, Tim (September 28, 2020). "Joe Biden: The Heartbreaking Car Accident that Killed His Wife and Daughter". Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  10. ^ Hamilton, Carl (October 30, 2008). "Daughter of man in '72 Biden crash seeks apology from widowed Senator". Newark Post. Archived 2021-02-04 at the Wayback MachineOpen access icon
  11. ^ "Biden's Wife, Child Killed in Car Crash". The New York Times. December 19, 1972.
  12. ^ Orr, Bob (March 24, 2009). "Driver in Biden Crash Wanted Name Cleared". CBS News.
  13. ^ McBride, Jessica (April 25, 2019). "How Did Joe Biden's First Wife, Neilia Hunter, Die?". Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  14. ^ Macon, Alexandra (November 17, 2016). "Joe and Jill Biden's Love Story Will Pull at Your Heartstrings". Vogue. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  15. ^ Lewis, Sophia (December 18, 2020). "Joe Biden visits graves of first wife and baby daughter on 48th anniversary of car crash". CBS News. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  16. ^ Lauren Holter (October 7, 2015). "What Happened To Joe Biden's First Wife, Neilia, And Daughter Naomi? It's A Heartbreaking Story". Bustle. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  17. ^ "Neilia Hunter Biden Park". Foursquare City Guide. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  18. ^ "The Joe Biden Auburn met 48 years ago". Auburn Pub. August 23, 2020.
  19. ^ "Ormie King: Bill Fulton's achievements rooted in Auburn upbringing". auburnpub. September 21, 2014.

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