Hunter Biden Lost His Mother, Joe Biden’s First Wife, More Than a Half Century Ago

“The darkness that I know my dad suffered afterwards was not something that we necessarily talked about until much later.”


Jun. 4 2024, Published 1:49 p.m. ET

Hunter Biden arrives for his federal trial at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building on June 4, 2024, in Wilmington, Del.
Source: Getty Images

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. president Joe Biden, spent her 73rd birthday on June 3, 2024, in a Delaware courthouse, supporting the president’s son Hunter, whose trial for federal gun charges started that day. But Jill isn’t Hunter Biden’s biological mom — that would be Neilia Hunter Biden, Joe’s first wife, who died more than 50 years ago.

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That tragic death had a major impact on Hunter, even leading him to turn to alcohol and crack cocaine, as he said in a 2021 interview with CBS This Morning. “I am more convinced now, that trauma is at the center of it,” he said of his addiction battle. “And I don’t know why I had such a hard time ever admitting that.”

Joe Biden and Neilia Hunter Biden celebrate his 30th birthday party with their children in Wilmington, Del.
Source: Getty Images

Joe Biden and Neilia Hunter Biden celebrate his 30th birthday party with their children in Wilmington, Del.

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Hunter Biden’s mom, Neilia Hunter Biden, died in 1972.

Upstate New York native Neilia worked as a teacher in the state's Syracuse district before she and Joe — whom she married in 1966 — moved to Delaware.

On Dec. 18, 1972, just weeks after Joe was elected the junior senator from Delaware, Neilia, 30, and the couple’s 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident while doing Christmas shopping, when a tractor-trailer broadsided their Chevrolet station wagon at a rural intersection in Hockessin, Del., per History.

The couple’s sons, Beau and Hunter, were also passengers in the car and were severely injured. Beau, 3 at the time, had broken bones, and Hunter, then 2, suffered a fractured skull. Joe was sworn in as senator at their hospital bedside, according to CBS News.

In his memoir, Beautiful Things, Hunter wrote that he and Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, “never really grieved” the loss of their mother or sister.

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“We talked about my mom all the time with my dad,” Hunter explained in the CBS This Morning interview. “But the actual accident, no. The darkness that I know my dad suffered afterwards was not something that we necessarily talked about until much later. … It’s hard. This is why I don’t want to admit that we probably should have. I think they were trying to protect us.”

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Joe Biden says he found “redemption” focusing on his sons after the accident.

Then–vice president Joe Biden opened up about the tragedy in a commencement speech at Yale University in 2015.

“Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever,” he said, recalling that chapter of his life.“Many people have gone through things like that. But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, grounded in love and loyalty, imbued with a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help — but by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption.”

The politician told the crowd that his mother, Catherine, assured him that “something good will come” from every terrible thing that happens, if you look hard enough. And she was right, Joe said.

“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,” he observed. “Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was.”

Joe explained that he resolved to commute from Washington, D.C., where his job was, to Wilmington, Del., where his children lived, just so he’d be there for his kids — and that he’d been doing that commute for 37 years.

“Looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me,” he said.

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