Robert Kennedy acted as attorney general during the administration of his brother, John F. Kennedy. He then served as a U.S. Senator before his assassination in the lead-up to his run for presidency.
Campaign Manager Robert Kennedy
Robert Kennedy managed JFK’s presidential campaign, and was subsequently appointed US attorney general in 1960. In this role, he started a dogged fight against organized crime. He was also a vocal supporter of the budding Civil Rights Movement.
In the aftermath of JFK’s assassination, Robert found himself elected to the U.S. Senate to represent the state of New York.
Just like his brother, RFK was assassinated. He was mortally wounded June 5, 1968, as the California Democratic presidential primary unfolded, dying the following day.
Early Life, Siblings
Robert Francis Kennedy was nicknamed Bobby. He was born on November 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts to parents Joseph, a wealthy businessman, and Rose, the daughter of Boston’s mayor.
Robert, along with his seven siblings, was raised as a devout Roman Catholic. They all enjoyed a life of wealth and pleasure.
Joseph P. Kennedy, Robert’s father, became the US ambassador to Great Britain, and the family relocated to England. Just like at home in America, the Kennedys were viewed as charismatic, powerful, and good looking. They were much feted in the press. The Kennedys returned to the US in 1939 with the threat of WWII looming on the horizon.
Robert graduated from Milton Academy prep school before enrolling at Harvard. His elder brother Joseph was killed in WWII. When Robert left Harvard,, he joined the Navy. He returned to Harvard in 1946 to pursue a law degree at the University of Virginia Law School. Here he met then married the roommate of his sister, a student called Ethel Skakel.
He graduated from law school in 1951, the same year he passed the Massachusetts bar exam.
Kennedy joined the US Department of Justice’s Criminal Division in 1951 when he was fresh out of law school.
By 1952, he resigned to lead his brother John’s senatorial campaign. Kennedy became an advisor to the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953 under Senator Joseph McCarthy. He left this position only six months later, opposing McCarthy’s underhand investigative tactics.
Robert Kennedy joined the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations In 1954. He was chief counsel for the Democratic minority.
Robert Kennedy summarized his approach to championing equal rights minorities in a speech he made to South African students: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, 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.”
Appointed chief counsel to Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor of Management Field in 1957, Kennedy worked under Senator McClellan. It was here that Kennedy unearthed the corruption involving Jimmy Hoffa, the Teamsters union leader.
In 1960, Robert Kennedy started managing brother John’s presidential campaign. Robert was appointed U.S. attorney general when JFK became President. He went on to become one of his brother’s closest cabinet advisors.
Robert resigned as attorney general the following September when JFK was assassinated. He then announced his intention to run for a senate seat. He successfully pursued this course of action. During his time as senator of New York, he was a vocal advocate for the poor. He also supported human rights and opposed racial discrimination along with the ramped-up involvement of the US in the Vietnam War.
His larger goal was to become a US presidential candidate.
In 1968, Kennedy opposed Eugene McCarthy in the presidential election primaries.
Following his victory speech at the California Democratic Primary in Los Angeles’s Ambassador Hotel, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy was shot repeatedly by Sirhan Sirhan. He days the next day.
Kennedy’s body was taken on June 6 to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC. There were mourners stretching 25 blocks away. Hundreds of thousands had gathered to pay their respects as the coffin passed on its way to Washington, DC.
Robert Kennedy was buried close to his brother, John, at the Arlington Cemetery.
Kennedy had 11 children with his wife, Ethel.