To throw some words and links around the timeline...
Robert Francis Kennedy was born on November 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh child of the nine children in the Kennedy clan.
He attended Milton Academy and, after a brief stint in the Navy
during World War II
went on to receive his degree
from Harvard University
. He earned his law degree
from the University of Virginia
Law School three years later.
In 1950, he married Ethel Skakel of Greenwich, Connecticut. They went on to have eleven, that’s right folks, eleven children.
He got his first taste of politics in 1952 when he managed his older brother John's successful run for the United States Senate from Massachusetts. The following year, he served briefly on the staff of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy. His investigative work confirmed reports that countries allied with the United States against Communist China in the Korean War were also shipping goods to Communist China, but backed away from McCarthy’s stance that traitors were making American foreign policy.
Disillusioned by McCarthy's controversial antics, Kennedy resigned from the staff after six months. He later re-appeared on the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations as chief counsel for the Democratic minority and wrote a report condemning McCarthy's investigation of alleged Communists in the Army. He later worked as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee. Their mission was to investigate corruption and racketeering in the trade unions. It was in this role that he achieved national recognition for his investigation of the Teamsters Union’s questionable practices and Jimmy Hoffa’s role as union president.
In 1960 he managed John F. Kennedy’s successful bid for the presidency. He was rewarded by being appointed to the position as Attorney General in the Kennedy Cabinet. During his tenure as Attorney General he launched a successful drive against organized crime and the resulting convictions against organized crime members rose by 800%. It was also at this time that he became committed to the cause of African American in their quest for equal rights. His commitment can probably best be reflect in the following quote from a speech given at the University of Georgia Law School in 1961.
"We will not stand by or be aloof. We will move. I happen to believe that the 1954 Supreme Court school desegregation decision was right. But my belief does not matter. It is the law. Some of you may believe the decision was wrong. That does not matter. It is the law.
His commitment was further evidenced in September of 1962 when he sent members of the United States Marshals Service and troops to Oxford, Mississippi in order to enforce a Federal court order admitting the first African American student - James Meredith - to the University of Mississippi. The riot that had followed Meredith's registration at "Ole Miss" had left two dead and hundreds injured.
Robert Kennedy saw voting as the key to racial justice and collaborated with President Kennedy when he proposed the most far-reaching civil rights statute since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed after President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
Robert Kennedy was not only President Kennedy's Attorney General, he was also his closest advisor and played a key role in several critical foreign policy decisions. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis he helped develop the strategy to blockade Cuba instead of taking military action that could have led to nuclear war and then negotiated with the Soviet Union on removal of the weapons.
Soon after President Kennedy was assassinated, he resigned his position as Attorney General. In 1964 he waged a successful run for the United States Senate from New York despite being labeled a carpetbagger by his opponent during the campaign. He won in a landslide.
As Senator he initiated a number of projects in the state. The most notable of these were providing assistance to underprivileged children and students with disabilities. He also established the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation to improve living conditions and employment opportunities in depressed areas of Brooklyn. The Corporation served as a model for similar organizations across the country.
He also wanted these types of programs to address problems on a national scale and fought to inform the American public on the problems of the poor and disenfranchised. Another quote sums up his feelings.
"There are children in the Mississippi Delta whose bellies are swollen with hunger ... Many of them cannot go to school because they have no clothes or shoes. These conditions are not confined to rural Mississippi. They exist in dark tenements in Washington D.C within sight of the Capitol, in Harlem, in South Side Chicago, in Watts. There are children in each of these areas who have never been to school, never seen a doctor or a dentist. There are children who have never heard conversation in their homes, never read or even seen a book."
He was also committed to the advancement of human rights abroad and made trips to Eastern Europe, Latin America and South Africa. While delivering a speech in South Africa in 1966, he had this to say.
"Each time a man stands up for an ideal or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
It was also during this time that he reversed his stance on the Vietnam War. As a new Senator, he originally supported Lyndon Johnson’s policies in Vietnam. As the war continued to escalate and along with it, American involvement, he became disillusioned with the Johnson Administrations policies and publicly broke away from them in 1966. He called for President Johnson to cease the bombing and to reduce rather than escalate the war effort. His feelings were reflected in his last speech before the Senate
"Are we like the God of the Old Testament that we can decide, in Washington, D.C., what cities, what towns, what hamlets in Vietnam are going to be destroyed? Do we have to accept that? I do not think we have to. I think we can do something about it."
On March 18, 1968, he announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. His campaign challenged the complacency in American society and attempted to bridge the ever-widening gap that was forming between the rich and the poor, the black and the white and the young and the old. He won primaries in Indiana and Nebraska before heading to California and the crucial primary in that state.
Robert Francis Kennedy was slain on June 5, 1968 by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California shortly after claiming victory in the above mentioned primary. He was only 42 years old. He is buried near his brother in Arlington National Cemetery.
One wonders what might have been…..