Biden was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the elder son of former U.S. Senator and Vice President Joe Biden, and his first wife, Neilia (née Hunter). On December 18, 1972, Biden's mother, Neilia, and younger sister Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping. Beau was less than four years old, and his brother Hunter was less than three. Both of them were present in the car when the accident took place, but survived with critical injuries. Beau suffered multiple broken bones while Hunter sustained injuries to his scalp.
According to some accounts, Beau and Hunter encouraged their father to marry again, even going so far as to ask him "when were 'we' going to get married." In June 1977, eight-year-old Biden welcomed Jill Jacobs as a "second mother." His half-sister Ashley was born in 1981.
Biden graduated from Archmere Academy, his father's high school alma mater, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity. He was also a graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, as was his father. After graduating from law school he clerked for Judge Steven McAuliffe of the United States District Court of New Hampshire. From 1995 to 2004, he worked at the United States Department of Justice in Philadelphia, first as Counsel to the Office of Policy Development and later as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office. In 2004, he became a partner in the law firm of Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden & Balick, where he worked for two years before being elected Delaware attorney general.
He had two children with his wife Hallie: a daughter, Natalie, and a son, Hunter.
At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, after Joe Biden was nominated for Vice President of the United States, Beau introduced his father. He recounted the auto accident that killed his mother and sister and the subsequent parenting commitment his father made to his sons, a speech at which many delegates wept.
Biden joined the military in 2003 as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard and was a Major in the Judge Advocate General's Corps as part of the 261st Signal Brigade in Smyrna, Delaware.
Biden's unit was activated to deploy to Iraq on October 3, 2008, and sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, for pre-deployment training, the day after his father participated in the 2008 presidential campaign's only vice presidential debate. His father was on the record as saying, "I don't want him going. But I tell you what, I don't want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years, and so how we leave makes a big difference."
Biden traveled to Washington, D.C., from Iraq in January 2009 for the presidential inauguration and his father's swearing-in as Vice President, then returned to Iraq. Biden received a visit at Camp Victory from his father on July 4, 2009. Biden returned from Iraq in September 2009, his yearlong stint on active duty complete. Biden had announced that during his deployment he would continue to actively serve as Delaware's Attorney General by working in conjunction with his office's senior staff in Delaware, although a member of his unit related Biden saying he had turned over most of his attorney general work to his deputy so as to focus on his duties in Iraq. For his service in Iraq, Biden was awarded a Bronze Star. Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno presented Biden with the Legion of Merit for his service in the Delaware National Guard, stating "Beau Biden possessed the traits I have witnessed in only the greatest leaders." He was also posthumously presented with The Delaware Conspicuous Service Cross, which is "awarded for heroism, meritorious service and outstanding achievement."
In his first bid at political office, Biden ran for Attorney General of Delaware in 2006. Biden's opponent was a veteran state prosecutor and Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ferris Wharton. Major issues in the campaign included the candidates' experience and proposed efforts to address sex offenders, Internet predators, senior abuse and domestic abuse. Biden won the election by approximately five percentage points.
After being elected, he appointed former Delaware Attorney General and International Judge Richard S. Gebelein as Chief Deputy Attorney General, and former assistant U.S. Attorney Richard G. Andrews was appointed as State Prosecutor. As Attorney General, Biden supported and enforced stronger registration requirements for sex offenders.
Joe Biden resigned from the Senate following his 2008 election to the vice presidency. Governor Ruth Ann Minner named former Joe Biden aide Ted Kaufman to fill the vacant seat, but Kaufman made it clear that he would not be a candidate in the 2010 special election. This fueled speculation Beau would run at that time. Biden's father stated after the announcement of Kaufman's appointment, "It is no secret that I believe my son, Attorney General, would make a great United States Senator just as I believe he has been a great attorney general. But Beau has made it clear from the moment he entered public life that any office he sought he would earn on his own ... [I]f he chooses to run for the Senate in the future, he will have to run and win on his own. He wouldn't have it any other way."
In October 2009, Biden stated that he was considering a run for the Senate and that he would make a final decision in January. On January 25, Biden confirmed that he would forgo a Senate run so as to better focus on the prosecution of Earl Bradley, an infamous child-molestation suspect.
On November 2, 2010, he was easily re-elected to a second term as Delaware Attorney General, beating Independent Party of Delaware candidate Doug Campbell by a huge margin.
Biden did not seek election to a third term as Attorney General in 2014. In the spring of that year, he announced his intention to run for Governor of Delaware in the 2016 election to succeed term-limited Democratic Governor Jack Markell. At the time of this announcement, the cancer that would kill Biden in 2015 had been diagnosed but was in remission, although this information was not public at the time.
For the final few years of his life, Biden suffered from brain cancer. In May 2010, he was admitted to Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, after complaining of a headache, numbness, and paralysis; officials stated that he had suffered from a "mild stroke". Later that month, Biden was transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia and kept for observation for several days.
In August 2013, Biden was admitted to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and diagnosed with brain cancer, after experiencing what White House officials called "an episode of disorientation and weakness". A lesion was removed at that time. Biden had radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and the cancer remained stable. On May 20, 2015, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, because of a recurrence of brain cancer. He died there 10 days later, on May 30, 2015, at age 46. His funeral was held at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware, on June 6, 2015. The Vice President's son's death was widely mourned within the U.S. He was buried at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Cemetery in Greenville, Delaware. He is survived by his wife and two children, his father and stepmother, and two siblings (a brother and a half-sister, both younger).
His funeral was attended by a large number of people, including then President Barack Obama, then First Lady Michelle Obama, their daughters Malia and Sasha, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, former US Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. At his funeral, he was given the Legion of Merit Award by General Odierno, for his services in the Iraq War. President Obama described Biden as "an original. He was a good man. He did in 46 years what most of us couldn't do in 146." At his funeral service, a solo rendition of the song "Til Kingdom Come" was performed by Chris Martin, the lead singer of the band Coldplay, of which Beau had been a fan.
On November 4, 2015, Biden was posthumously awarded the Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award, the highest honor given by the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), for his service to mankind. A portion of the 21st Century Cures Act (2016) was named the "Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot" initiative after him.