Kennedy, Robert Francis

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
Save to active project

Kennedy, Robert Francis

Robert Francis Kennedy, 1925–68, American politician, U.S. Attorney General (1961–64), b. Brookline, Mass., younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and son of Joseph P. Kennedy.

A graduate of Harvard (1948) and the Univ. of Virginia law school (1951), Bobby Kennedy managed his brother John's successful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1952. From 1953 to 1956 he was counsel to the Senate subcommittee chaired by Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy. He then became (1957) chief counsel to the subcommittee investigating labor rackets and there gained a reputation for toughness by exposing corruption in the Teamsters Union. In 1960 he was manager of his brother's presidential campaign. His inclusion in President Kennedy's cabinet gave rise to charges of nepotism, but he proved a vigorous attorney general, especially in prosecuting civil rights cases. He was also his brother's closest adviser.

After John Kennedy's assassination, Robert Kennedy continued for a time in President Lyndon Johnson's cabinet, but in 1964 he resigned to run for election as Senator from New York. Despite criticism that he was a "carpetbagger," he succeeded. In the Senate he was a vigorous advocate of social reform and became identified particularly as a spokesman for the rights of minorities. Although Kennedy had supported his brother's intensification of American aid to the South Vietnamese government, he became increasingly critical of Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War and by 1968 was advocating that the Viet Cong be included in a South Vietnamese coalition government.

Urged to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, Kennedy appeared reluctant until Sen. Eugene McCarthy's showing in the New Hampshire Democratic primary convinced him that a challenge to Johnson could be successful. Kennedy announced his candidacy on Mar. 16, 1968. Although Johnson withdrew (Mar. 31) from the race, the administration's standard passed to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, while Senator McCarthy retained the support of many opponents of the Vietnam War, who accused Kennedy of opportunism.

Kennedy conducted an energetic campaign and won a series of primary victories, culminating in California on June 4. At the end of that day he gave a victory speech in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and while leaving was shot. He died a day later (June 6, 1968). The gunman, Sirhan B. Sirhan, was captured at the scene and later convicted of murder. Like his brother John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He wrote The Enemy Within (1960), Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1969), and To Seek a Newer World (1969).

Bibliography

See P. Kimball, Bobby Kennedy and the New Politics (1968); D. Halberstam, The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy (1968); D. Ross, ed., Robert Kennedy: Apostle of Change (1968); J. Newfield, Robert Kennedy: A Memoir (1969); J. Witcover, Eighty-Five Days (1969); V. Navasky, Kennedy Justice (1971); M. K. Beran, The Last Patrician (1998); R. Steel, In Love with Night: The American Romance with Robert Kennedy (1999); E. Thomas, Robert Kennedy: His Life (2000). See also E. O. Guthman and J. Shulman, Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words (1988).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Kennedy, Robert Francis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?