The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Robert F. Kennedy

Robert Kennedy
Robert Kennedy

Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, also called "RFK" (November 20, 1925June 6, 1968) was the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, and was appointed by his brother as Attorney General for his administration. He worked closely with his brother during the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Early Life

Robert Kennedy was the seventh child of Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Kennedy born on November 20, 1925. He attended and graduated from Harvard University in 1948, after a brief time in the Navy. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1951 and then managed his brother John's successful U.S. Senate campaign in 1952.

RFK soon made a name for himself as the chief counsel of the Senate Labor Rackets Committee hearings, which began in 1956. In a dramatic scene, Kennedy squared off against Jimmy Hoffa during the antagonistic verbal sparring that marked Hoffa's testimony. Robert left the Rackets Committee in 1959 in order to run soon-to-be President Kennedy's campaign.

Working for JFK

Robert Kennedy with older brother John F. Kennedy, just outside of the Oval Office.
Robert Kennedy with older brother John F. Kennedy, just outside of the Oval Office.

President Kennedy rewarded his younger brother's efforts by naming him to his Cabinet as Attorney General of the United States. During the Kennedy Administration, Bobby played a key advisory role for President Kennedy. Among the weighty issues they faced were the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 18 months later, the escalation of military action in Vietnam and the widening spread of the Civil Rights Movement and its retaliatory violence.

Soon after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Robert Kennedy left the Cabinet to run for a seat in the United States Senate representing New York. He was elected in November of 1964, defeating Republican incumbent Kenneth Keating . During his three and a half years as a US Senator, Kennedy visited Apartheid-ruled South Africa, helped to start a successful redevelopment project in poverty stricken Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York City, visited the Mississippi Delta as a member of the Senate committee on hunger and, reversing his prior stance, called for a halt in further escalation of the Vietnam War.

Candidacy for Presidency

Originally Kennedy had declined speculations that he was going to try for the Democratic nomination in 1968 against the incumbent President Lyndon Johnson. After Johnson won only a very narrow victory in the New Hampshire primary on March 12, 1968 against Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, an anti-war candidate, Kennedy too declared his candidacy for the Presidency on March 16. Two weeks later Johnson appeared on television to state that he was no longer a candidate for re-election. On April 4, during a campaign stop in Indianapolis, Kennedy learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. During a heartfelt, impromptu speech in Indianapolis' inner city, Kennedy called for a reconciliation between the races. Thousands of people were injured, 43 were killed in riots throughout the United States in the aftermath of King's murder. Indianapolis was quiet.

Kennedy won the Indiana and Nebraska primaries, lost the Oregon primary and on June 4, 1968 picked up a big boost in his drive toward the Democratic nomination when he won in South Dakota and in California. After addressing his supporters that evening in a ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Robert Kennedy was shot at point blank range by Sirhan B. Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian.

Olympic gold medalist decathlete Rafer Johnson and American football player Roosevelt Grier helped detain Sirhan with Grier jamming his thumb behind the trigger of the gun to prevent further shots from being fired.

Robert Kennedy died in the early morning hours of June 6, 1968 at the age of 42. He was buried near his brother in Arlington National Cemetery on June 8.

Personal life

The Kennedy brothers: John, Robert, and Edward (Ted)
The Kennedy brothers: John, Robert, and Edward (Ted)
See also: Kennedy political family

In 1950, he married Ethel Skakel, who would eventually give birth to 11 children. The last child, Rory Kennedy, was born after Robert's assassination.

His pallbearers included Robert McNamara, John Glenn, Averell Harriman, C. Douglas Dillon, Kirk Lemoyne Billings (schoolmate of John F. Kennedy), Stephen Smith (husband to Jean Ann Kennedy), David Hackett, Jim Whittaker, John Seigenthaler Sr., and Lord Harlech.

D.C. Stadium in Washington, D.C. was renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 1969.

In 1998, the United States Mint released a special dollar coin that featured Kennedy on the obverse and the emblems of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Senate on the reverse. In Washington, DC on November 20, 2001, US President George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft dedicated the Department of Justice headquarters building as the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Building, honoring RFK on what would have been his 76th birthday. They both spoke during the ceremony, as did Kennedy's eldest son, Joseph II.


  • RFK Biography

External links

1998 Robert Kennedy special dollar coin
  • RFK Memorial
  • American Experience: RFK
  • Information on 1998 Special dollar coin
  • Los Angeles Police Department Records provided by the Online Archive of California
  • Theory that RFK was not shot by Sirhan Sirhan
  • Articles on the Robert Kennedy assassination
  • The President Promise of Robert F. Kennedy

Preceded by:
William P. Rogers
Attorney General of the United States Succeeded by:
Nicholas Katzenbach

Last updated: 02-03-2005 03:56:02
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01