Paul Kirk ’64 will be the interim United States Senator for Massachusetts, filling the vacancy created when Edward M. Kennedy died earlier this month, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick ’82 announced today.

Patrick gained the power to appoint a temporary successor to Kennedy yesterday. The Massachusetts House voted 95 to 59, and the Senate voted 24 to 16 to change the state’s election law, which previously said the seat would remain vacant until a special election could be held. When Kennedy died last month, the Democratic Party urged Massachusetts lawmakers to allow Patrick to fill the seat so there would be another Democratic vote in the Senate during the upcoming critical votes on healthcare reform. A special election will be held on January 19 to permanently fill the seat.

Kirk is a longtime friend of Kennedy and former staff member. An attorney who now lives on Cape Cod, Kirk worked as a special assistant to Kennedy from 1969 to 1977 and is currently chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Kirk has a long history with the Democratic Party, becoming treasurer in 1983, and two years later, he was named chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Kirk decided to resign his post after Michael Dukakis was defeated by George H.W. Bush in the 1988 election.

In addition to his J.D. degree from HLS, Kirk holds an A.B. from Harvard College.