Robert Kennedy

Robert Kennedy

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Robert Kennedy was the U.S. A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Virginia School of Law, Kennedy was appointed attorney general after his brother John Kennedy was elected president in 1960. In this role, Robert Kennedy fought organized crime and worked for civil rights for African Americans. In the Senate, he was a committed advocate of the poor and racial minorities, and opposed escalation of the Vietnam War. On June 5, 1968, while in Los Angeles campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kennedy was shot. He died early the next day at age 42.

Robert Kennedy: Early Years

Robert Francis Kennedy was born on November 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., a wealthy financier, and Rose Kennedy, the daughter of a Boston politician.

Kennedy spent his childhood between his family’s homes in New York; Hyannis Port, Massachusetts; Palm Beach, Florida; and London, where his father served as the American ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1938 to 1940.

During World War II, Kennedy served in the U.S. Navy. In 1946 he was an apprentice seaman on the shakedown cruise of a naval destroyer named for his eldest brother, Joseph Kennedy Jr., a Navy pilot killed during the war.

After completing his military service, in 1948 Kennedy graduated from Harvard University, the alma mater of his father and older brothers. He went on to attend law school at the University of Virginia, earning his degree in 1951.

That same year, Kennedy began working as a lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1952 he managed his brother John’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. The following year, Kennedy worked as an assistant counsel for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, headed by anticommunist crusader Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

In the late 1950s, as chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, Kennedy gained national attention for investigating corruption in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a powerful trade union led by Jimmy Hoffa. Kennedy left the committee in 1959 to manage his brother John’s successful presidential campaign.

Robert Kennedy’s Children

On June 17, 1950, Robert Kennedy married Ethel Skakel of Greenwich, Connecticut. The couple had 11 children: Kathleen, Joseph II, Robert Jr., David, Courtney, Michael, Kerry, Christopher, Max, Douglas and Rory, who was born six months after her father’s death. The family lived at an estate called Hickory Hill in McLean, Virginia.

Kennedy’s oldest son, Joseph, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts from 1987 to 1999, while his daughter Kathleen was lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003.

Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General

After John F. Kennedy was elected president in November 1960, he named his brother Robert Kennedy as America’s 64th attorney general. In this role, Kennedy continued to battle corruption in labor unions, as well as mobsters and organized crime. In 1964, Jimmy Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering and fraud.

As attorney general, Kennedy also supported the civil rights movement for African Americans. In the fall of 1962, he sent thousands of federal troops to Oxford, Mississippi, to enforce a U.S. Supreme Court order admitting the first black student, James Meredith, to the University of Mississippi.

The state’s segregationist governor, Ross Barnett, had attempted to bar Meredith, whose enrollment prompted riots and violence at the school.

Additionally, Kennedy worked with his brother, as well as his successor as president, Lyndon B. Johnson, on the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial discrimination in voting, employment and public facilities.

Kennedy also acted as one of his brother’s closest political advisors in the White House and was involved in important foreign policy decisions, including the administration’s handling of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. He later wrote a book about the crisis, titled Thirteen Days, which was published posthumously in 1969.

Senator Robert Kennedy

On November 22, 1963, 46-year-old President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Robert Kennedy stayed on as attorney general under President Johnson until September 1964, when he resigned to embark on a campaign to represent New York in the U.S. Senate.

Despite charges from some that he was a carpetbagger with little connection to the Empire State, Kennedy won the election and took office in January 1965.

As senator, Kennedy championed civil rights and social justice issues. He traveled to Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, migrant workers’ camps and urban ghettos to study the effects of poverty, and made trips abroad to such places as apartheid-ruled South Africa to advocate for the advancement of human rights.

Kennedy was also an outspoken critic of President Johnson’s plans to escalate U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Robert Kennedy’s Presidential Bid

In 1968, Kennedy was urged by his supporters to run for president as an antiwar and socially progressive Democrat.

Hesitant until he saw positive primary returns for fellow antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy, Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on March 16, 1968, declaring, “I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man, but to propose new policies. I run because I am convinced that this country is on a perilous course and because I have such strong feelings about what must be done, and I feel that I’m obliged to do all I can.”

On March 31, 1968, Johnson announced he would not seek reelection, and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey became the key Democratic party hopeful, with McCarthy and Kennedy trailing closely behind. Kennedy conducted an energetic campaign and on June 4, 1968, won a major victory in the California primary.

Robert Kennedy’s Assassination

In the early hours of June 5, 1968, shortly after delivering a speech to celebrate his win in the California primary, Kennedy was shot in a kitchen corridor outside the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He died the next day at age 42.

The following year, Sirhan Sirhan, an immigrant from Palestine, was convicted of Kennedy’s murder and sentenced to death. However, in 1972, after the California Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment, Sirhan’s sentence was commuted to life in prison, where he remains today.

On June 8, at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Edward “Ted” Kennedy, U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the youngest Kennedy sibling, delivered a now-famous eulogy for his brother, remembering him as “a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

After the funeral, Kennedy’s coffin was taken by train from New York to Washington, D.C., with hundreds of thousands of mourners lining the tracks along the route. The train arrived in the nation’s capital that night, and a motorcade transported Kennedy’s body to Arlington National Cemetery for a rare nighttime burial.

Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy

On June 5, 1968, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was mortally wounded shortly after midnight at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Earlier that evening, the 42-year-old junior senator from New York was declared the winner in the South Dakota and California 1968 Democratic Party presidential primaries during the 1968 United States presidential election. He was pronounced dead at 1:44 a.m. PDT on June 6, about 26 hours after he had been shot. [3]

Following dual victories in the California and South Dakota primary elections for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Senator Kennedy spoke to journalists and campaign workers at a live televised celebration from the stage of his headquarters at the Ambassador Hotel. Shortly after leaving the podium and exiting through a kitchen hallway, he was mortally wounded by multiple shots fired from a handgun. Kennedy died in the Good Samaritan Hospital 26 hours later. The shooter was 24-year-old Sirhan Sirhan. In 1969, Sirhan was convicted of murdering the senator and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1972. A freelance newspaper reporter recorded the shooting on audio tape, and the aftermath was captured on film. [4]

Kennedy's remains were taken to St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York for two days of public viewing before a funeral Mass was held on June 8. His funeral train traveled from New York to Washington, D.C., and throngs of spectators lined the route to view the journey. [5] His body was interred at night in Arlington National Cemetery near his brother John. [6] His death prompted the United States Secret Service to protect presidential candidates. Vice President Hubert Humphrey was also a presidential candidate he went on to win the Democratic nomination but ultimately lost the election to Republican candidate Richard Nixon.

Much like his brother's assassination, Robert Kennedy's assassination has led to a number of conspiracy theories to date, no credible evidence has emerged that Sirhan was not the shooter, or that he did not act alone. Kennedy and Huey Long of Louisiana (in 1935) are the only two sitting United States Senators to be assassinated.

Robert F. Kennedy Is Remembered as a Liberal Icon. Here's the Truth About His Politics

W hen Robert F. Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968, he had just assumed the leadership of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party by beating Eugene McCarthy in the California Primary. For nearly four years &mdash ever since a dramatic appearance on the last night of the 1964 Democratic Convention, when a standing ovation delayed the opening of his speech by a full 16 minutes &mdash he had been the favorite of liberal Democrats, who were deserting Lyndon Johnson because of the Vietnam War. Elected to the Senate from the state of New York in 1964, he had also emerged as a spokesman for the urban poor, who had rioted in Harlem in 1964, in Watts in 1965 and in nearly every major city from 1966 through the spring of 1968.

His death a day later froze him in time as a symbol of that era. For many American liberals, especially after that year&rsquos election culminated in the victory of Richard Nixon, he also became a symbol of not just a better past, but also a better future that might have been. Lost in the aftermath of his death and the tumultuous events of the rest of 1968, is the matter of just how liberal Robert Kennedy really was.

The historical record, in fact, is clear: until 1963, at least, liberalism was not Kennedy&rsquos primary characteristic. He had been born in 1925, on the leading edge of the Silent Generation. Like so many men born in that year, he had gone into the wartime military, but too late actually to reach combat. During the 1950s and early 1960s he seemed determined to prove that he was as tough as any of the next older generation, including his two older brothers, each of whom had distinguished himself, and one of whom had died, in combat. As counsel to the Senate Rackets Committee, he brought mobsters and labor bosses to Washington to embarrass them in public, and began his long and eventually successful campaign to put Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa behind bars. Managing his brother&rsquos campaign in 1960, he ruthlessly warned delegates about the consequences of not endorsing JFK quickly enough.

As he freely admitted in oral histories he did in 1964-5, his attacks on unions helped JFK secure some support from southern Democratic governments, for whom union organizers ranked second only to civil rights workers as dangerous outside agitators.

When his brother appointed him Attorney General, his top priority was a concerted attack on organized crime, and in April he had immigration agents kidnap New Orleans mobster Carlos Marcello, an undocumented immigrant, and fly him out of the country to Guatemala. (Marcello returned and, as I argued in my book The Road to Dallas, was connected through the mob to the assassination of President Kennedy.) When that same spring the first civil rights crisis of the Kennedy Administration began, as the Freedom Riders made their way south, RFK asked the organizers to halt the rides because they would embarrass the President while he traveled in Europe.

Kennedy did evolve significantly on civil rights in the first half of 1963, but not out of moral outrage. Martin Luther King Jr.&rsquos campaign for the desegregation of public accommodations in Birmingham had provoked shocking violence, and more such episodes would surely follow. As Kennedy explained in his oral histories a year later, the Justice Department simply did not have the manpower to protect demonstrators against violence, and he therefore saw no choice but to introduce legislation that would meet their demands and get the question off the streets. So was born the great Civil Rights Act of 1964. His commitment was tactical and political, not emotional.

Additional Oral History Collections

Outside of interviews conducted by the JFK Library for the JFK and RFK Oral History Collections, multiple archival collections also house oral history interview materials:

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Collection: Contains papers, photographs, recordings, and oral history interviews with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, donated to the JFK Library archives by former volunteers and others associated with the Peace Corps.

Note: To listen to recorded interviews in this collection, please schedule an appointment with the Audiovisual Archives ([email protected]) at least two weeks in advance so that listening copies can be prepared.

Jean Stein Personal Papers: Contains transcripts of interviews with over 300 individuals conducted by Stein while researching her book American Journey: The Times of Robert Kennedy (1970). See the finding aid for additional information about accessing these interviews.

Ernest Hemingway Miscellaneous Accessions Collection: Contains multiple oral history interviews about Ernest Hemingway, including interviews of Mary Walsh Hemingway, Hadley Richardson Hemingway Mowrer, William Walton, and Hemingway's acquaintances at the Toronto Star.

Additional collections holding oral history interviews and notes on interviews, include the Adam Clymer Personal Papers, the Lewis H. Butler Personal Papers, and the Theodore H. White Personal Papers. Access, copyright, and use restrictions often differ from one collection to another, and researchers are encouraged to contact an archivist at [email protected] to learn more about accessing interviews in any collection.

Robert Kennedy - HISTORY

Robert Francis Kennedy was born on November 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh child in the closely knit and competitive family of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy. "I was the seventh of nine children," he later recalled, "and when you come from that far down you have to struggle to survive."

He attended Milton Academy and, after wartime service in the Navy from 1944-1946, received his degree in government from Harvard University in 1948.

On June 17, 1950, Robert Kennedy married Ethel Skakel of Greenwich, Connecticut, daughter of Ann Brannack Skakel and George Skakel, founder of Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. Robert and Ethel Kennedy later had eleven children: Kathleen, Joseph, Robert Jr., David, Courtney, Michael, Kerry (today president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights), Christopher, Max, Doug and Rory.

He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School three years later. While serving as president of the Student Legal Forum during his third year of law school, Robert recruited African-American Diplomat Ralph Bunche -- winner of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize, and founder of the United Nations -- to address one of the first integrated audiences in the history of the university.

Prior to entering public office, Robert practiced law in Washington, D.C. and worked as a special correspondent for the Boston Post, for which he travelled to Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Perhaps more important for his education was the Kennedy family dinner table, where his parents involved their children in discussions of history and current affairs. "I can hardly remember a mealtime," Robert Kennedy said, "when the conversation was not dominated by what Franklin D. Roosevelt was doing or what was happening in the world."

In 1952, he made his political debut as manager of his older brother John's successful campaign for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. The following year, he served briefly on the staff of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Kennedy's 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 did not imply, as Senator McCarthy often did, that traitors were making American foreign policy.

Disturbed by McCarthy's controversial tactics, Kennedy resigned from the staff after six months. He later returned to the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations as chief counsel for the Democratic minority, in which capacity he wrote a report condemning McCarthy's investigation of alleged Communists in the Army.

His later work as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee investigating corruption in trade unions won him national recognition for his investigations of Teamsters Union leaders Jimmy Hoffa and David Beck.

In 1960 he was the tireless and effective manager of John's presidential campaign. After the election, he was appointed Attorney General in President Kennedy's Cabinet. While Attorney General, he won respect for his diligent, effective, and nonpartisan administration of the Department of Justice. During this time Robert also became increasingly committed to the rights of African Americans to vote, receive an equal education, and use public accommodations. He demonstrated his commitment to civil rights during a 1961 speech at the University of Georgia Law School: "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."

“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.”

In May of 1961, when a hostile mob threatened Freedom Riders at a church in Birmingham, Alabama, Kennedy's threat to deploy U.S. Marshals ensured that the riders were able to continue their historic journey unhurt. In response to the Freedom Rides, In September of that year, Robert orders the Interstate Commerce Commission to end segregation in interstate bus terminals.

In September of 1962, Robert Kennedy sent U.S. Marshals and troops to Oxford, Mississippi to enforce a federal court order admitting James Meredith, an African American, to the University of Mississippi, which had previously been a bastion of segregation. The riot that had followed Meredith's registration at Ole Miss left two dead and hundreds injured.

In June of 1963, Robert sent Deputy Attorney General Nicholas deBelleville. Katzenbach to escort Vivian Malone and James A. Hood as they enrolled in the University of Alabama, where Governor George Wallace attempted to block their attendance. That night, President Kennedy delivered a speech calling Civil Rights "a moral issue," a phrasing that his brother had urged him to use.

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 slain on November 22, 1963. As Attorney General, Robert Kennedy had in many ways served as the administration's spokesman of the law, and he was instrumental in persuading Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen to support the bill, ensuring the civil right supporters could overcome the Southern Democrats' filibuster.

Robert Kennedy was not only President Kennedy's Attorney General, he was also his closest advisor and confidant. As a result of this unique relationship, the Attorney General played a key role in several critical foreign policy decisions. During the thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance, he worked closely with the Kennedy Administration to develop the strategy of blockading Cuba instead of invading it, thereby averting nuclear war. Robert was especially instrumental in negotiations with Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, on removal of the weapons.

Soon after President Kennedy's death, Robert Kennedy resigned as Attorney General and, in 1964, ran for the United States Senate from New York. His opponent, incumbent Republican Senator Kenneth Keating, labeled Kennedy a "carpetbagger" during the closely contested campaign. Kennedy responded to the attacks with humor. "I have [had] really two choices over the period of the last ten months," he said at Columbia University. "I could have stayed in - I could have retired. And I - my father has done very well and I could have lived off him. I tell you frankly I don't need this title because I [could] be called General, I understand, for the rest of my life. And I don't need the money and I don't need the office space. Frank as it is - and maybe it's difficult to believe in the state of New York - I'd like to just be a good United States Senator. I'd like to serve." Kennedy waged an effective statewide campaign and, aided by President Lyndon Johnson's landslide, won the November 1964 election by 719,000 votes.

As dedicated as he was to the pursuit of justice at home, Robert Kennedy was also committed to the advancement of human rights abroad. He traveled to Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South Africa to share his belief that all people have a basic human right to participate in the political decisions that affect their lives and to criticize their government without fear of reprisal. He also believed that those who strike out against injustice show the highest form of courage. In June of 1966 he traveled to South Africa, and delivered what is considered to be one of his greatest speeches, at the University of Cape Town. The "Ripple of Hope" paragraph in his Day of Affirmation address remains one of the most quoted in American politics.

“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.”

As New York's Senator, Robert initiated a number of projects in the state, including assistance to underprivileged children and students with disabilities and the establishment of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the nation's first community-development nonprofit, to improve living conditions and employment opportunities in depressed areas of Brooklyn. Now in its 32nd year, this innovative partnership between the federal government, private enterprise, and the neighborhood's residents and leaders remains a model for communities all across the nation.

These programs were part of a larger effort to address the needs of the dispossessed and powerless in America - the poor, the young, racial minorities, and Native Americans. He sought to bring the facts about poverty to the conscience of the American people, journeying into urban ghettos, Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, and migrant workers' camps. "There are children in the Mississippi Delta," he said, "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 sought to remedy the problems of poverty through legislation to encourage private industry to locate in poverty-stricken areas, thus creating jobs for the unemployed and stressed the importance of work over welfare. In March of 1968 he traveled to Delano, California to break bread with United Farmworkers leader Cesar Chavez, who was ending a 25-day fast to draw attention to the conditions facing migrant farmworkers in California.

Kennedy was also absorbed during his Senate years by a quest to end the war in Vietnam. He called for a greater commitment to a negotiated settlement and a renewed emphasis on economic and political advancement within South Vietnam. As the war continued to widen and America's involvement deepened, Senator Kennedy came to have serious misgivings about President Johnson's conduct of the war. Kennedy publicly broke with the Johnson Administration for the first time in February 1966, proposing participation by all sides (including the Vietcong's political arm, the National Liberation Front) in the political life of South Vietnam. The following year, he took responsibility for his role in the Kennedy Administration's policy in the Southeast Asia, and urged President Johnson to cease the bombing of North Vietnam and reduce, rather than enlarge, the war effort. In his final Senate speech on Vietnam, Kennedy said, "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 16, 1968, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. In the words of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Robert Kennedy's campaign was, "an uproarious campaign, filled with enthusiasm and fun . It was also a campaign moving in its sweep and passion." Indeed, he challenged the complacent in American society and sought to bridge the great divides in American life - between the races, between the poor and the more affluent, between young and old, between order and dissent. His 1968 campaign brought hope to an American people troubled by discontent and violence at home and the overseas conflict in Vietnam. He won critical primaries in Indiana and Nebraska and spoke to enthusiastic crowds across the nation.

In April of 1968, Robert delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history, in the form of an impromptu eulogy to Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been murdered earlier in the day. Speaking to a mostly Black crowd in Indianapolis that had not yet learned of Dr. King’s death, Kennedy said: “What we need in the United States is not division what we need in the United States is not hatred what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness but love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be Black.”

On June 5, 1968, Robert Francis Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, California shortly after claiming victory in that state's crucial Democratic primary. Although his life was cut short, Robert Kennedy's ideals live on today through the work of his family, friends, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which partners with the bravest people on earth to advance his vision of a more just and peaceful world.

Political Career

Fresh out of law school, Kennedy joined the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division in 1951. In 1952 he resigned the position to lead his older brother John’s senatorial campaign. In 1953 Kennedy became an advisor to the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations under Senator Joseph McCarthy. Kennedy left the position just six months later, objecting to McCarthy’s unjust investigative tactics.

Civil Rights

In 1954 Kennedy joined the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations as chief counsel for the Democratic minority. Kennedy aptly expressed his approach to helping minorities achieve equal rights in a speech to South African students: �h 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."

In 1957 Kennedy was appointed chief counsel to Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor of Management Field. Working under Senator McClellan, Kennedy uncovered the corruption of Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

In 1960 Kennedy managed brother John’s presidential campaign. When JFK was elected, Robert was made U.S. attorney general and became one of JFK’s closest cabinet advisors. When JFK was assassinated in 1963, Robert resigned as attorney general the following September and announced his intent to run for a senate seat.

Kennedy ran successfully for senator of New York, and during his time in office, he continued to advocate for the poor and human rights and oppose racial discrimination and the਎scalation of involvement in the Vietnam War. He also set his sights on becoming a U.S. presidential candidate.

As nation recognizes the 50th anniversary of his assassination, RFK remembered for leading federal assault on organized crime

In a lengthy memo to his brother President John F. Kennedy, dated January 10, 1963, meant for publication in America’s Sunday newspapers, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy reported on the progress on what he considered the highest priority of federal law enforcement:

“Dear Mr. President: The Administration during 1962 greatly expanded its coordinated drive against organized crime and racketeering.”

Robert Kennedy touted the fact that prosecutions for racketeering by his Organized Crime Section in the Justice Department rose by 300 percent above 1961 and convictions of organized criminals grew by 350 percent. He celebrated the coordination of the FBI, Secret Service, IRS and 23 other federal law enforcement agencies that helped him compile information on the nation’s 1,100 top racketeers. He noted there were more than 60 federal lawyers on his section team, up from 17 in 1961. Five of the administration’s anti-racketeering bills pushed by RFK and passed into law by Congress in 1961 had led the FBI to pursue 852 new cases against hoodlums and grand juries to indict 134 defendants in federal courts. The number of suspected hoods indicted reached 350 in 1962, compared with 49 in 1960. And recent convictions won by Kennedy’s prosecutors included mobsters Anthony “Tony Ducks” Carello, Carmine Galante and John Ormento, Frankie Carbo, Frank “Blinky” Palermo and Alfred Sica.

Robert Kennedy, far left, sits next to Arkansas Senator John McClelland, who chaired the Senate’s Rackets Committee that began hearings in 1957. Courtesy of U.S. Senate Historical Office.

As the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles is recognized this week – he was shot on June 5 and died on June 6 – one aspect of his complex legacy is less likely to be emphasized: his unprecedented crusade to expose and prosecute the Mob in America in the late 1950s and early ’60s. It was a time when the national syndicate held considerable power and influence over business, entertainment, unions, illegal gambling, prostitution, politics, the courts, and all levels of government and law enforcement.

RFK has been described as a ruthless, puritan, willing to use extralegal means to his own ends. His excesses with warrantless (and likely illegal) wiretaps and bugging of the homes and meeting places of mobsters and Mob associates – to obtain raw intelligence not useable in court – in the early ’60s caused him political grief when the secrets were revealed a couple of years later.

Minutes before hearing the shooting of John F. Kennedy in an open convertible in a motorcade in Dallas and his death about half an hour later on November 22, 1963, RFK had just ended a meeting on organized crime with Justice Department officials at his estate at Hickory Hill in McLean, Virginia, outside Washington. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover called him at home to dryly inform him of the shooting and later the president’s death. That afternoon, RFK, who for years had pursued Mob-connected figures such as Teamster Union president James Hoffa, wondered whether his unprecedented national campaign to battle organized crime – the “Mafia,” “La Cosa Nostra” – as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee and as attorney general caused the Mob to retaliate by assassinating his brother.

When Ed Guthman, spokesman for the Justice Department, rushed to Hickory Hill to speak with his boss that day, RFK said: “There’s so much bitterness. I thought they’d get one of us. … I thought it would be me.” Then Walter Sheridan, head of RFK’s “Get Hoffa Squad” at Justice, arrived. Sheridan had heard the year before from an informant about Hoffa’s expressed desire to kill RFK. Both men agreed that Hoffa was now a suspect in JFK’s murder. RFK sent Sheridan to Dallas to investigate, behind the scenes.

Roots of Organized Crime Crusade

Bobby Kennedy’s enthusiasm for rooting out the Mob started in the mid-1950s. By then, the Massachusetts native had worked in a series of high-profile, and in some cases, controversial legal positions in Washington and New York while only in his 20s. After graduating from law school and passing the New York bar exam at age 25 in 1951, Bobby was appointed assistant U.S. attorney in eastern New York thanks to calls made by his powerful, multimillionaire father, former Ambassador to England Joseph Kennedy Sr., known as “Old Joe,” and his father’s good friend, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.

But Bobby resigned only months later because of a pressing family obligation –
managing the campaign of his brother, Congressman John F. Kennedy, for U.S. senator from Massachusetts in 1952. Awkward and inarticulate at first, RFK steered his brother and campaign staffers past Old Joe’s constant interfering to victory at the polls. A campaign aide, Kenneth O’Donnell, RFK’s roommate at Harvard, would say that without Bobby’s management during the campaign, “Jack Kennedy most certainly would have lost the election.” Jack’s win as a Democrat in 1952 was an exception, as the Republicans rode presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower’s coattails to a majority in the Senate.

McCarthy, a Kennedy family pal who occasionally socialized with Bobby’s sisters Jean and Pat, stoked a bitter national debate that would follow RFK for the rest of his life. RFK and brother Jack were early, if temporary, supporters of McCarthy and his anti-Red campaign and remained anti-Communist if less strident into the 1960s. RFK, who unlike Jack worked on the committee and questioned witnesses on TV about their Communist pasts, would regret his alignment with McCarthy.

Anti-Communist Era

As part of the Republican majority in the Senate, McCarthy was appointed chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The subcommittee was supposed to investigate government operations – such as procurement spending — and national security. McCarthy determined it had to focus on allegations (or his suspicions) of Communist sympathizers in the federal government, from the U.S. Army and State Department to the Voice of America. Old Joe soon telephoned McCarthy to line up a job on the subcommittee for Bobby, who thus secured a position as assistant counsel to McCarthy’s panel in January 1953. McCarthy gained national prominence during this time, known as the “Red Scare” era, amid fears of espionage by the Soviet Union while American soldiers fought Communist Chinese forces in the Korean War. He directed his fierce demagoguery during televised sessions known as the Army-McCarthy hearings against those he felt were followers of Communism in and out of the federal government. His tactics included badgering witnesses, flouting Senate procedures and other misconduct that led to his political decline as the war in Korea ended. The Senate, citing his abuse of power, voted to censure him in late 1954, ousting McCarthy from chairing the subcommittee.

Robert F. Kennedy got his start in Washington working for a committee led by Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, center, who in the early 1950s investigated alleged Communist sympathizers in the U.S. government. Kennedy later regretted his involvement in McCarthy’s controversial anti-Communist campaign. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Theodore Sorenson, a close aide to JFK, once described Bobby’s character in this period of 1953 to 1954 as “militant, aggressive, intolerant, opinionated, somewhat shallow in his convictions . . . more like his father than his brother.”

In 1955, McCarthy’s career was in ruins, the red-baiting Army-McCarthy hearings over. The Democrats were back in the majority in the Senate, and the Permanent Subcommittee made Bobby its chief counsel. This time, he took an interest in corruption in government. While researching the topic and talking to journalists, he keyed on reports of organized criminals who infiltrated labor unions to extort money from leaders and rank-and-file members. The year before, the acclaimed movie On the Waterfront, depicting a violent Mob boss who takes control of a longshoremen’s union in New York, appeared in theaters across the country.

When RFK started asking questions of federal authorities about organized hoodlums, he soon realized that the FBI would be of little benefit on the subject. FBI director Hoover – also a close friend of Old Joe’s – stood in full denial that a national crime syndicate existed, in order to avoid the possible corruption of his agents and to direct much of their work toward investigating alleged Communist conspiracies in the United States, along with the usual bank robberies and kidnappings. Kennedy, however, learned that another federal investigative agency, the Bureau of Narcotics, knew full well about the decades-long involvement of organized crime in pushing narcotics. Two of the Narcotics Bureau’s agents in New York, Angelo Zurlo and Joseph Amato, educated RFK about the Sicilian roots of American organized crime. They in turn put him in touch with their fellow narcotics investigators. Bobby accompanied New York police officers to tense nighttime drug busts from 1955 to 1956 and learned more in long conversations with them, fascinated by the real world of cops and crime he’d witnessed.

News coverage of “racketeers” in the newspapers and national magazines had become routine by the mid-’50s. In one major event in 1956, syndicated news columnist Victor Riesel, who wrote often about labor racketeering in New York, was blinded by a man (hired by a Mob associate, as it turned out) who threw acid in his face. RFK took time out again that year to get his brother Jack on the Democratic Party ticket as vice president under presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson.

Targeting the Teamsters

Following Jack’s defeat in that effort at the party convention (to Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee), RFK was approached by reporters who watched him work with McCarthy’s committee. They urged him this time to investigate labor racketeering – for instance, top officers of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, Dave Beck, president, and Hoffa, vice president. The Teamsters controlled the $250 million its members contributed to their retirement pension fund. One reporter, Clark Mollenhoff, reminded RFK that probing organized crime made a name for Senator Kefauver, who had just defeated Jack in the vice presidential race. Kefauver had chaired a Senate committee probe centered on organized crime in interstate commerce – with many of its hearings televised live – from 1950 to 1951. (One of those Kefauver hearings was conducted in the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, the building that houses The Mob Museum today.)

Bobby started visiting with journalists in various cities to talk about organized crime infiltrating the Teamsters, the nation’s largest labor organization. His contacts persuaded him to travel to Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago, along with his crack investigator Carmine Bellino, to hear stories of extortion tactics by the Teamsters. In Chicago, they viewed accounting books kept by Teamster President Beck. The records convinced RFK that Beck was misappropriating money from the Teamsters, which then had 1.5 million members.

Bernard Spindel whispers in the ear of Jimmy Hoffa after a court session in which they pleaded innocent to illegal wiretapping charges. Hoffa became a key target of Senate Rackets Committee and Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s “Get Hoffa Squad.” Courtesy of Library of Congress.

RFK would later recall thinking that at that moment “we had come to the startling but inescapable conclusion that Dave Beck, president of America’s largest and most powerful labor union, the Teamsters, was a crook.”

He determined that labor corruption by the Teamsters had to be the next major focus of the Senate committee. But RFK’s decision would result in another clash with his father, who in the past had secret business ties with hoodlums. Old Joe became furious when he learned about his son’s intent to investigate organized crime influence within labor unions. His sister Jean described an incident during Christmastime in 1956 when Joe blasted his son for being ignorant and putting his brother Jack in danger of losing the important backing of labor unions for Jack’s intended run for president in 1960. Joe later enlisted Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to try to talk Bobby out of it, but he wouldn’t budge. Days later, Bobby met with and convinced the new chairman of the committee, Senator John L. McClellan of Arkansas, to investigate union corruption. The Senate unanimously approved the creation and funding of the eight-member Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor and Management Field. Soon nicknamed the Rackets Committee, it was tasked to probe corrupt acts by both labor and management. Preparations were made to begin by focusing on Teamsters Union leaders in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Portland.

Over the coming months, the Rackets Committee would hear testimony exposing 49 mobsters closely associated with the Teamsters, 141 Teamsters officers tied to improper or criminal activities and hear 73 of the union’s officers plead their Fifth Amendment rights to avoid answering questions. The committee received tens of thousands of letters and telegrams from across the country from union members and others “pleading for help,” McClellan wrote in 1962, “against racketeers and pledging aid to investigators even though some of the correspondents were afraid of violent reprisal.”

Early Life

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was born on January 17, 1954, in Washington, D.C., to Ethel Skakel Kennedy and former New York senator and U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy. One of 11 children born to Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy — a Democrat senator for New York and U.S. attorney general, who was assassinated in 1968 — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the nephew of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy and former U.S. senator Ted Kennedy. At a young age, he was taught to value a strong education and political activism.

After graduating from Millbrook Academy in Gloucestershire, England, Kennedy attended Harvard University and the London School of Ethics, receiving a bachelor&aposs degree in American history and literature in 1976. He went on to obtain doctorate and master&aposs degrees in law from the University of Virginia and Pace University, respectively. In 1983 he served as the assistant for district attorney of New Yorkਊnd that summer passed his bar examination after his second attempt. He was disbarred after he was discovered possessing heroine at a South Dakota airport. He was charged with a felony and pleaded guilty. 

As part of his sentencing, heꂾgan doing community service for Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the Hudson River. He became so involved at the nonprofit that after he finished his 1500 hours of community service, he was hired as its chief attorney. (He was reinstated to practice law in 1985.)

Interview: Robert F. Kennedy Jnr on Fauci, Gates, and Big Pharma

Robert F. Kennedy Jnr exposes the real nature of Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates. Fauci is probably the “worst mass murder in history” said RFK Jnr. This is because Tony Fauci knowingly withheld treatments from many people for many decades just so that the Pharma companies can sell new medical products and vaccines. And Bill Gates sounds like a total antichrist who wants to control everything in the world. Kennedy even said Gates sees himself as God. He wants to buy control of everything.

One thing I did not agree with RFK Jnr on though is his belief that global warming is really happening. His implication is that man is doing it. Even if the global temperatures are increasing it is not within our control. This is evidenced by the latest temperatures measured with satellites..

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. sounds the alarm over genocidal crimes of Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates on and on

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At the end of 1962, President John F. Kennedy asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to compile a report on the Civil Rights enforcement activities of the Justice Department over the previous year. In this report, submitted on January 24, 1963, Robert Kennedy notes "progress" overall, but reminds the President that difficult race problems remain "not only in the South . . . but throughout the country."

Though the year was marked by the deadly riots at the University of Mississippi over the admittance of a black student, Kennedy maintains a sense of optimism and hope for the future. He calls 1962 "a year of great progress in civil rights, in large measure because of the responsibility and respect for law displayed by the great majority of the citizens of the South." He does not deny, however, that many difficult problems remain, and he cites the disregard of voting rights and regulations in some southern states as a continuing problem desperately in need of reform.

Kennedy also notes progress made in African American employment and the desegregation of schools and public transportation. For these gains he credits the increasing cooperation of the southern people and calls this "the emerging spirit of the South." Evident throughout his report is his faith that the people and the government of the United States will be able to accomplish their objectives through persistence and compassion. The report reflects the true purpose of the Civil Rights Movement: to fight racism and apathy in order to enact positive change and ultimately gain equal rights.

Kennedy was correct in believing that the Civil Rights Movement would continue to advance. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed racial discrimination and removed many voting obstacles for African Americans.

A full transcript is available


In summary, 1962 was a year of progress for the United States in the field of civil rights. This is not to say the problems are disappearing. They remain, and they remain difficult – not only in the South, with open discrimination, but throughout the country where Negroes are the victims of school "resegregation", bias in housing, or employment, or other facets of society. Ugly incidents like the Mississippi riot may occur again.

But we are accelerating our progress. Again, let me say this acceleration occurs in large measure because of the emerging spirit of the South. In 1962 this spirit was not the brutal one of rioting and violence at the University of Mississippi. The spirit was that exemplified in Georgia last week by Governor Carl E. Sanders, in his inaugural address.

"We revere the past," he said. "We adhere to the values of respectability and responsibility which constitute our tradition." Then he added, "We believe in law and order and in the principle that all laws apply equally to all citizens."


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