As voters shifted away from the traditional right and left of politics in Britain the Lib Dems under Kennedy offered a real alternative. That edge however was lost when Nick Clegg as party leader agreed to help form a Tory-led coalition in 2010. The glory days of the Libs Dems were squandered and they are back in the wilderness in 2015.
Charles Kennedy offered the electorate intelligent representation, compassion, a genuine warmth and good humour.
Without the use of spin-doctors and a huge and expensive propaganda machine Charles Kennedy was the real-deal in politics.
He looked set to take the party on to greater things but that was not to be.
In 2002 and 2003 cracks began to show.
He appeared at a Lib Dem conference looking gaunt and sweating profusely. He began to stumble when he tried to remember keynotes in debates and speeches. There were rumours of alcoholism which were always strongly denied but eventually he came clean.
Married in 2002 to Sarah Gurling the couple had their first child as the 2005 General Election campaign went into overdrive. He was temporarily replaced as leader by Sir Menzies Campbell. Kennedy blamed some of his memory lapses on lack of sleep due to the birth of his child but he never fully recovered his edge.
In December 2010 the couple divorced.
Doubts continued to linger about his health and well-being.
His cause of death is not known at this time but police say there are no suspicious circumstances. May he be allowed to rest in peace.
FromTwitter John Prescott @johnprescott "So sad to hear of Charles Kennedy's passing. He proved to be right on Iraq. History will be as kind to him as he was to others. A great loss."
Below are a couple of other tributes to Mr Kennedy courtesy of the Telegraph:
Rosa Prince recalls seeing Charles Kennedy at work: As a young Lobby reporter on the Daily Mirror, I well remember an event before the 2005 general election, where we invited a panel of readers to meet the leaders of the three main parties.