As a teenager, Biden was able to conquer a bad stutter through public speaking. Forced to give speeches at his Catholic high school, Archmere Academy in Delaware, Biden used the opportunity to work through his affliction.
But Biden's loquacious nature has gotten him into trouble.
Biden has twice run for president -- in 1988 and in 2008 against Obama, among others -- and both times encountered controversy.
Plagiarism charges helped end his 1988 presidential campaign when it became known that Biden had presented elements of a speech by a British politician as his own and without attribution.
Biden explained the scandal this way in an interview with ABC News' Charlie Gibson during the Democratic primaries: "Stupid. My mistake. Born out of ignorance, thinking I didn't have to prepare."
And during the Democratic primaries, Biden was forced to explain himself when he praised Obama as "clean" and "articulate."
"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man," Biden told the New York Observer last year.
During a firestorm of controversy in which his comments were criticized as racially divisive, Obama initially cut his primary rival some slack.
"I didn't take Sen. Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate," Obama's statement read.
Biden profusely apologized, and insisted his comments were misunderstood.
"Barack Obama is probably the most exciting candidate that either the Democratic or Republican party has produced, at least since I've been around," Biden said. "He's fresh, he's new, he's insightful."
Biden said he regretted that "some have taken totally out of context my use of the word 'clean.'"
Born Nov. 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pa., the first of four siblings, Biden and his family later moved to New Castle, Del., where the future senator has spent much of his life.
He received a B.A. from the University of Delaware in 1965 and a law degree from Syracuse University in 1968. His first job in politics was serving on the New Castle County Council. His next was a bit bigger.
In 1972, at only age 29, Biden defeated a long-serving Republican to earn a spot in the Senate. The senator-elect turned 30 shortly after the election, qualifying him under the Constitution to take the seat though he was then the fifth-youngest person ever elected to the U.S. Senate.
But the victory would quickly be tainted with tragedy.
Before he was sworn-in, Biden and his wife, Neilia Hunter, whom he married in law school, bought a house in Washington, D.C. They had three young children: two sons, Joseph R. Biden, III (nicknamed Beau), Hunter, and their youngest, a daughter, 13-month-old Naomi.
All of the children were in the car with their mother just outside Washington when a tractor-trailer struck their vehicle, killing Biden's wife and young daughter and seriously injuring his two sons.
Biden contemplated resigning from the Senate, but instead took his first oath of office at the bedside of his sons, who eventually recovered fully.