Robert Kennedy: 50 years post-assassination

There were 13 shots fired, but Sirhan’s gun only held eight bullets.

RFK, 1964
As I’ve mentioned in this blog, I wasn’t a big fan of Robert Kennedy when he ran for President in 1968. Among other things, I didn’t trust him as Attorney General under his brother John and briefly under Lyndon Johnson, mostly over the purported FBI stalking of Martin Luther King Jr.

I didn’t support RFK running for US Senate from New York. But being only 11 in 1964, I didn’t have much of a say in the matter. He won, of course, beating out a perfectly nice moderate Republican named Ken Keating, back in the days when there WERE moderate Republicans.

Still, I was up extremely late watching the results of the California primary on June 4/5, 1968 when Bobby Kennedy declared victory. “On to Chicago!” A short time later, as I was finally getting ready for bed, I heard what turned out to be shots fired, followed by pandemonium.

So many people I knew were devastated by the news of his shooting and eventual death on June 6. As were people I never knew: The busboy who cradled a dying RFK has finally stepped out of the past, for example.

Now, 50 years later, Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son Robert Kennedy Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan. While RFK Jr. can have views I don’t subscribe to – autism from vaccines, e.g. – it seems that, at bare minimum, he and his sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are correct that Sirhan could not have been the only shooter.

There were 13 shots fired, but Sirhan’s gun only held eight bullets. Sirhan faced RFK, but the fatal shots were to the back of Bobby’s head.

It’s interesting that, while there were many people milling around the Senator, the details get lost in the trauma of the moment. This killing, along with that of his brother Jack, will be fodder for conspiracy theories, quite possibly for the next half century.

K is for Kennedys

Caroline Kennedy released a new book, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, that was published on September 14, with a two-hour ABC News preview the night before.

Like a lot of Americans, I was most fascinated by the lives of the children and some of the grandchildren of Joseph Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first President I REALLY remember, though I was born shortly after Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated. Naturally, I recall the assassination all too well.

I’ve expressed my ambivalence about Bobby Kennedy.

And I was terrified when Teddy Kennedy decided to challenge Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination for President; I was convinced if he won the general election, he would die, not just because his brothers all died violently, including his eldest brother Joe, in World War II. It was also the 20-year curse that every President elected or re-elected in a year ending in zero since 1840 had died in office (WH Harrison, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, FD Roosevelt, JFK), which Ronald Reagan finally broke.

Both Teddy, who became the “Lion of the Senate” for working effectively with both Republicans and Democrats; and Eunice Shriver, a strong advocate of the Special Olympics, died in August 2009. Ted’s daughter Kara, who spoke at his funeral, died in September 2011 at the age of 51.

The public interest in the Kennedys continues. Perhaps it’s because 2011 is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration as President of the United States, with us trying to decipher what that means today.

Programs continue to be made about them, including The Kennedy Detail, a 2010 documentary about the JFK assassination, and The Kennedys, an eight-hour 2011 miniseries that was dropped by The History Channel as historically inaccurate but run by the little-known ReelzChannel, which garnered 10 Emmy nominations, and a win for Barry Pepper, who played Bobby Kennedy.

And this month, the transcripts of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s more than eight hours of interviews with JFK’s widow, Jacqueline from 1964 are being released by daughter Caroline in a new book, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, that was published on September 14, with a two-hour ABC News preview the night before.
Fred Hembeck’s essay about Tom Clay’s version of Abraham, Martin and John, features me.

ABC Wednesday – Round 9

L is for Loving Day

As late as 1987, a full 20 years after the Loving v. Virginia ruling, only 48% of Americans said it was acceptable for blacks and whites to date. That number has since jumped to 83%, according to the Pew Research Center.

I can’t believe I missed it. OK, until I read about it in TIME magazine, I’d never even heard of it, though it’s been going on for a half dozen years. There’s a group that has called for Loving Day Celebrations around June 12th each year “to fight racial prejudice through education and to build multicultural community.”

The celebration is named for Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who had the audacity to fall in love with each other. Unable to get married legally in their native Virginia – he was white, she was black – they got hitched in Washington, DC and “established their marital abode in Caroline County”, Virginia.

Ultimately, on “January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge” stemming from their interracial marriage, “and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years. He stated in an opinion that:

“‘Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.'”

The Lovings moved to DC, and in 1963, took legal action against the state of Virginia. Meanwhile, Mildred Loving also wrote to US Attorney General Robert Kennedy for assistance, and he referred the Lovings to an ACLU lawyer who took the case pro bono. The Lovings lost at every court, with the primary reasoning being that “because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race.”

However, their case made it to the US Supreme Court, and on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in Loving v. Virginia, that the anti-miscegenation laws of Virginia and 15 other states were unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the Court, concluded:

These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

These convictions must be reversed.

Interestingly, the polling I’ve seen suggests that at the time of the ruling, less than 30% of Americans favored mixed marriages. From TIME:

As late as 1987, a full 20 years after the case, only 48% of Americans said it was acceptable for blacks and whites to date. That number has since jumped to 83%, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2010, the center estimated that 1 in 7 new marriages in the U.S. is now an interracial coupling. In 1961, the year Obama’s parents married, only 1 in 1,000 marriages included a black person and a white person; today, it’s 1 in 60.

In statistics for 2008, 14.6 percent of all marriages were between spouses of different races.

In 2010, there is a Republican running for Congress, Jim Russell, who wrote in 2001, “In the midst of this onslaught against our youth, parents need to be reminded that they have a natural obligation, as essential as providing food and shelter, to instill in their children an acceptance of appropriate ethnic boundaries for socialization and for marriage.” I wrote about him extensively here, and he is hardly alone. So I guess the Loving Day folks still have much work to do.
Pete Seeger – All Mixed Up

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial