Let's Learn From the Past: Robert F. Kennedy

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Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy provided hope for a generation of Americans living through the tumultuous 1960s. But his life and promising political career were tragically cut short nearly 45 years ago.

Kennedy was born Nov. 25, 1925, in Brookline, Mass., one of nine children to Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

After law school, Kennedy began his career in politics as the campaign manager for his brother John F. Kennedy, who was elected U.S. senator of Massachusetts in 1952. One year later, Robert served on the staff of the Senate's Subcommittee on Investigations chaired by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. He resigned after only six months because he disagreed with McCarthy's controversial accusations of communism in American government.

From 1957-59, Kennedy made a name for himself as the chief counsel of the Senate Labor Rackets Committee, which investigated organized crime within America's labor unions.

Kennedy returned to election politics as campaign manager for his brother John's presidential run in 1960. Following his victory over Republican candidate Richard Nixon, President Kennedy appointed Robert U.S. attorney general. Mob convictions rose 800 percent during his tenure.

On Nov. 22, 1963, the nation was stunned by the tragic news of President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. The news crushed Robert, who resigned from his Cabinet position nine months after the assassination to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate, representing New York.

After four years as a U.S. senator, a tumultuous start to 1968 -- including the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and civil unrest throughout the nation -- inspired Kennedy to announce his candidacy for U.S. president on March 18, 1968.

On June 5, Kennedy followed a key victory in the California Democratic Primary with a rousing speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. On his way to speak to a private room of supporters, he was shot three times in the hotel's kitchen. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead early the next morning.

Kennedy's body was returned to New York for a funeral procession on June 8 to St. Patrick Cathedral. Immediately following the funeral, a train carried his body from New York to Virginia, where he was laid to rest near his brother at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thousands lined the funeral train's path as they mourned another tragic death of a national leader, just two months after the murder of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Visitors to the Heinz History Center's new exhibition, "1968: The Year That Rocked America," can learn more about Robert F. Kennedy and see Bill Eppridge's Nikon Nikkormat camera that captured the iconic photograph of Robert Kennedy moments after his assassination. For information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

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