New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was on the presidential campaign trail as a Democratic candidate when he was fatally shot on this day in history, June 5, 1968, by an assassin at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.
The New York legislator, better known as Bobby, was 42 at the time of his death.
Moments before he was shot, Kennedy delivered a victory speech in front of supporters in the hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom, according to the Los Angeles Almanac. He had just won the California primary race.
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The final words of Kennedy’s speech, given shortly after midnight on June 5 to a raucous crowd, were, “My thanks to all of you,” says the same source.
He added, “And now it’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there.”
As Kennedy worked his way through the crowd, shaking hands and greeting well-wishers and hotel staff on his way to another room for a press conference, he was shot several times by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant from Jordan, recounts the Los Angeles Almanac.
Robert Kennedy was pronounced dead a day later, on June 6, 1968, notes History.com.
“Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey.”
On April 23, 1969, Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to the death penalty after being convicted in Kennedy’s assassination.
In 1972, Sirhan’s sentence was commuted to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty, according to History.com.
The summer of 1968 was a tense time in America. The Vietnam War had created a restless populace at home as well as an outspoken anti-war movement.
“In the face of this unrest, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to seek a second term in the upcoming presidential election, and Robert Kennedy, John [Kennedy’s] younger brother and former U.S. attorney general, stepped into this breach and experienced a groundswell of support,” History.com says.
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“At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country,” Kennedy said in announcing his candidacy for the presidency on March 16, 1968, according to the University of Virginia. “It is our right to moral leadership of this planet.”
Robert Kennedy was born on Nov. 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, a son of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Kennedy. He interrupted his studies at Harvard University in Massachusetts to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but returned to the university and graduated in 1948, says Brittanica.com.
Kennedy earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1951, that university notes.
On June 17, 1950, Robert Kennedy married Ethel Skakel of Greenwich, Connecticut.
The couple had eleven children: Kathleen, Joseph, Robert Jr., David, Courtney, Michael, Kerry, Christopher, Max, Doug and Rory, according to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization.
After earning his law degree, Kennedy started his political career in Massachusetts the next year by managing his brother John F. Kennedy’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate, notes the same source.
On March 16, 1968, Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
After JFK won the election in 1961, Robert Kennedy was appointed attorney general in his cabinet, says History.com.
On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Robert Kennedy continued to serve as attorney general until he resigned in September 1964.
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Following President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, Robert Kennedy briefly served as attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson, History.com says.
A passionate communicator, Kennedy, in Poland in 1964 during the Cold War as attorney general, said, “Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey,” according to the University of Virginia’s website.
“In August of 1964, Bobby resigned and then ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate representing the State of New York. This was his first time running for public office in his own right,” the National Park Service says.
On March 16, 1968, Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was, in the words of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “an uproarious campaign, filled with enthusiasm and fun … It was also a campaign moving in its sweep and passion,” as the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum reports.
“His 1968 campaign brought hope to an American people troubled by discontent and violence at home and war in Vietnam,” the library also says.
“He won critical primaries in Indiana and Nebraska and spoke to enthusiastic crowds across the nation.”
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While giving a presidential campaign speech at a rally in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 4, 1968, Kennedy learned of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, California’s Stanford University reports.
Kennedy informed the largely Black audience of King’s death, cautioning them not to be “filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all White people,” for “Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort,” says the university’s website.
Kennedy’s legacy devoted to social activism and human rights continues today through the nonprofit “Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights,” says the National Park Service.
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In January 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California rejected releasing assassin Sirhan Sirhan from prison and back into society on a parole grant — more than a half-century after the 1968 slaying, according to the governor’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times explaining his decision.
“Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Sen. Kennedy is among the most notorious crimes in American history,” Newsom wrote in his decision.
The political aspirations of the Kennedy family continue even today. On April 19 of this year, Kennedy’s son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 69, an environmental lawyer, activist and vaccine critic, announced he was launching a Democrat challenge against Joe Biden, as Fox News Digital previously reported.
Source: Fox News