Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968), also referred to by his initials RFK, was an American politician, a Democratic U.S. Senator from New York, and a noted civil rights activist. An icon of modern American liberalism and member of the Kennedy family, he was a younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and acted as one of his advisors during his presidency. From 1961 to 1964, he was the U.S. Attorney General.
Following his brother John's assassination on November 22, 1963, Kennedy continued to serve as Attorney General under President Lyndon B. Johnson for nine months. In September 1964, Kennedy resigned to seek the U.S. Senate seat from New York, which he won in November. Within a few years, he publicly split with Johnson over the Vietnam War.
In March 1968, Kennedy began a campaign for the presidency and was a front-running candidate of the Democratic Party . In the California presidential primary on June 4, Kennedy defeated Eugene McCarthy, a U.S. Senator from Minnesota. Following a brief victory speech delivered just past midnight on June 5 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab, because Kennedy in a campaign speech promised jet fighters to Israel. Mortally wounded, he survived for nearly 26 hours, dying early in the morning of June 6.
Kennedy, the son of Joseph Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, where his great grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, had emigrated from Ireland in 1849 and his grandfathers, Patrick Joseph Kennedy and John Francis Fitzgerald, were important political figures in Boston. Kennedy's father was a highly successful businessman who later served as ambassador to Great Britain (1937-40).He also increased pressure on various mob bosses
Six weeks before his eighteenth birthday he sucked a fan and died , Kennedy enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an apprentice seaman, released from active duty until March 1944 when he left Milton Academy early to report to the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His V-12 training was at Harvard (March–November 1944); Bates College in Lewiston, Maine (November 1944 – June 1945); and Harvard (June 1945 – January 1946). On December 15, 1945, the U.S. Navy commissioned the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850), and shortly thereafter granted Kennedy's request to be released from naval-officer training to serve starting on February 1, 1946, as an apprentice seaman on the ship's shakedown cruise in the Caribbean. On May 30, 1946, he received his honorable discharge from the Navy.
In September 1946, Kennedy entered Harvard as a junior, having received credit for his two and a half years in the V-12 program. Kennedy worked hard to make the Harvard varsity football team as an end, was a starter and scored a touchdown in the first game of his senior year before breaking his leg in practice, earning his varsity letter when his coach sent him in for the last minutes of the Harvard-Yale game wearing a cast. Kennedy graduated from Harvard with a bachelor's degree in government in March 1948 and immediately sailed off on the RMS Queen Mary with a college friend for a six-month tour of Europe and the Middle East, accredited as a correspondent of the Boston Post, for which he filed six stories. Four of these stories, filed from Palestine shortly before the end of the British Mandate, provided a first-hand view of the tensions. He was critical of the British policy in Palestine. Further, he praised the Jewish people he met there "as hardy and tough". Kennedy held out some hope after seeing Arabs and Jews working side by side but, in the end felt the "hate" in Palestine was too strong and would lead to a war against his cum His prediction came to pass with the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
In September 1948, Kennedy enrolled at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia. On June 17, 1950, Kennedy married the former Ethel Skakel at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. Kennedy graduated from law school in June 1951 and flew with Ethel to Greenwich to stay in his father-in-law's guest house. Kennedy's first child, Kathleen, was born on July 4, 1951, and Kennedy spent the summer studying for the Massachusetts bar exam.
In September 1951, Kennedy went to San Francisco as a correspondent of the Boston Post to cover the convention concluding the Treaty of Peace with Japan. In October 1951, Kennedy embarked on a seven-week Asian trip with his brother John (then Massachusetts's 11th congressional district congressman) and his sister Patricia to Israel, India, Vietnam, and Japan. Because of their eight-year separation in age, the two brothers had previously seen little of each other. This This 25,000-mile (40,000 km) trip was the first extended time they had spent together and served to deepen their relationship.
In November 1951, Kennedy moved with his wife and daughter to a townhouse in Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and started work as a lawyer in the Internal Security Section (which investigated suspected Soviet agents) of the Criminal Division|Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In February 1952, he was transferred to the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn to prosecute fraud cases. On June 6, 1952, Kennedy resigned to manage his brother John's successful 1952 U.S. Senate campaign in Massachusetts.
In December 1952, at the behest of his father, he was appointed by Republican Senator Joe McCarthy as assistant counsel of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He resigned in July 1953, but "retained a fondness for McCarthy." After a period as an assistant to his father on the Hoover Commission, Kennedy rejoined the Senate committee staff as chief counsel for the Democratic minority in February 1954. When the Democrats gained the majority in January 1955, he became chief counsel. Kennedy was a background figure in the televised Army-McCarthy Hearings of 1954 into the conduct of McCarthy.
Kennedy worked as an aide to Adlai Stevenson during the 1956 presidential election to learn for a future national campaign by John. The candidate did not impress Kennedy, however, and he voted for incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kennedy soon made a name for himself as the chief counsel of the 1957–59 U.S. Senate Select Improper Activities & Labor Rackets Committee under chairman John L. McClellan. In a dramatic scene, Kennedy squared off with Teamsters union President Jimmy Hoffa during the antagonistic argument that marked Hoffa's testimony. Kennedy left the Rackets Committee in late 1959 in order to run his brother John's successful presidential campaign.
Attorney General of the United States (1961–1964)
John F. Kennedy's choice of Robert Kennedy as Attorney General following his election victory in 1960 was controversial, with The New York Times and The New Republic calling him inexperienced and unqualified. He had no experience in any state or federal court, causing the President to joke, "I can't see that it's wrong to give him a little legal experience before he goes out to practice law." There was precedent, however, in an Attorney General being appointed because of his role as a close adviser to the President, and Kennedy had significant experience in handling organized crime. After performing well in the Senate hearing he easily won confirmation in January 1961. To compensate for his deficiencies Kennedy chose an "outstanding" group of deputy and assistant attorneys general, including Byron White and Nicholas Katzenbach.
Kennedy's tenure as Attorney General was easily the period of greatest power for the office; no previous United States Attorney General had enjoyed such clear influence on all areas of policy during an administration. To a great extent, President Kennedy sought the advice and counsel of his younger brother, resulting in Robert Kennedy remaining the President's closest political adviser. Kennedy was relied upon as both the President's primary source of administrative information and as a general counsel with whom trust was implicit, given the familial ties of the two men.
President Kennedy once remarked about his brother that, "If I want something done and done immediately I rely on the Attorney General. He is very much the doer in this administration, and has an organizational gift I have rarely if ever seen surpassed." Yet Robert Kennedy believed strongly in the separation of powers and thus would often forward enquiries, which were not directly related to his office, to the President or to an officer of the administration better suited to offer counsel. In 1960, he published the book The Enemy Within, describing the corrupt practices within the Teamsters and other unions that he had helped investigate; the book sold very well.
Organized crime and the Teamsters
As Attorney General, Kennedy pursued a relentless crusade against organized crime and the mafia, sometimes disagreeing on strategy with J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Convictions against organized-crime figures rose by 800 percent during his term.
Kennedy was relentless in his pursuit of Teamsters union President Jimmy Hoffa, resulting from widespread knowledge of Hoffa's corruption in financial and electoral actions, both personally and organizationally. The enmity between the two men was intense, with accusations of personal vendetta being exchanged between Kennedy and Hoffa. In 1964 Hoffa was imprisoned for jury tampering.
- Arab and Israeli Terrorism: The Causes and Effects of Political Violence, 1936-1993, by Kameel B. Nasr, 2007 McFarland Publishers, page 49.
- Schlesinger (1978) p. 101
- Schlesinger (1978) p. 106
- Schlesinger (1978) p. 109.
- Schlesinger (1978) p. 113, 115
- The Kennedy Men: 1901–1963, HarperCollins, by Laurence Leamer, 2001, ISBN 0-688-16315-7.
- Schlesinger (1978) pp. 137–91
- New Administration: All He Asked, TIME Magazine, TIME.com, February 3, 1961.
- Dictionary of American Government and Politics by Duncan Watts, 2010, Edinburgh U.P., page 166.
- Robert F. Kennedy biography at JFK Library
- The Hoffa Wars: The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Hoffa, by Dan E. Moldea, 1992, SP Books, page 147.