Biography of Robert F. Kennedy

Bobby and Ethel with the kids

(Link back here  to the introductory video on educational resource landing page.)

Note: The content on this page will also link to  resources on RFKC’s Legacy section of the website.

The Early Years: 

Robert F. Kennedy was born Nov. 20, 1925, in Brookline, Massachusetts, the seventh child of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy. At age two, he moved to Riverdale, New York, where he lived until 6th grade. His family traveled to London, England, for two years with his father, Joseph Kennedy, who was the U.S. ambassador to England.

After high school, Robert F. Kennedy joined the Navy as an apprentice during World War II. After the war, he attended Harvard University, where he played varsity football and other sports. When he was older, he loved to play touch football games with friends and family and even climbed the highest mountain in North America, Mt. Kennedy, named for his brother, President John F. Kennedy. He later graduated from University of Virginia Law School.

A Life of Public Service: 

In 1960, he helped his brother John F. Kennedy become president. After the election, he was appointed U.S. attorney general. As attorney general he took on those who violated civil rights, whether they were in government, law enforcement or on the streets. He fought organized crime and stood up for African- Americans, helping them exercise their right to vote, attend integrated schools and use all public facilities. In 1963, his brother President Kennedy was killed and Bobby, along with the whole nation, grieved the loss of the extraordinary leader.

New York’s Senator: 

Soon afterwards, he resigned as attorney general and  ran successfully to become a U.S. senator from New York the following year. He created programs for underprivileged children and students with disabilities in New York state. Kennedy loved children. He and his wife Ethel had 11 children who would often visit him at work. He worked to make sure all children could obtain a good education, a decent place to live and enough food to eat.

In 1968, he ran for U.S. president. His candidacy inspired thousands of young people across the country to get involved in politics and brought together people of many different races. Tragically, after a campaign event June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California, Robert Kennedy was shot and later died. The country mourned together and thousands came out to watch his funeral procession by train from New York to Washington, D.C. where he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery near his brother President John F Kennedy.

Courage to Stand Up and Speak Out: 

Robert F. Kennedy was not afraid to go after criminals who broke the law, especially those who hurt others or did not respect the rights of other citizens because they were of a different race. He believed all people were born with basic human rights that must be protected. In 1966, he traveled to South Africa and told students “We must recognize the full human equality of all of our people …We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do.”

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