For Perspective & Determination
Once again the crackle of gunfire. Once again the long journey home, the hushed procession, the lowered flags and harrowed faces of a nation in grief. Once again the simple question: Why?
(TIME, June 14, 1968) -- The second Kennedy assassination -- almost two months to the day after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. -- immediately prompted, at home and abroad, deep doubts about the stability of America. Many saw the unleashing of a dark, latent psychosis in the national character, a stain that had its start with the first settlement of a hostile continent. For the young people, in particular, who had been persuaded by the new politics of Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy to recommit themselves to the American electoral system, the assassination seemed to confirm all their lingering suspicions that society could not be reformed by democratic means.
The killing of Kennedy was horrifying in itself and forever haunting to all who had suffered through the earlier agony. Yet for all the pain and shame, in retrospect it could hardly be construed in itself as a new symptom of any intrinsically American malaise. "Violence," said Columbia University Sociologist Daniel Bell, "flows and ebbs, and I shy away from easy generalizations such as the country is sick."
Other Hatreds. Kennedy was not shot by a white racist angry with his defense of the Negro, or a Negro militant incensed with his white liberalism, or a high-school dropout like Lee Harvey Oswald who felt himself rejected by a capitalist society. The man charged with his murder is a virulent Arab nationalist, whose hatreds stem from the land where he spent the early part of his life, and where political assassination is commonplace and violence as accepted as the desert wind.
That, for most Americans, did not make the loss any easier to bear. Lyndon Johnson, who has more than once brooded late into the night with friends on the subject of violence, seemed shaken and visibly disturbed by the shooting in Los Angeles. He did what he thought had to be done. He promised the stricken family any help that the Government could provide, appointed a commission to study the causes of violence, and called, in the most vigorous language at his command, for an end to the "insane traffic" in guns -- a trade, as he observed, that makes instruments of death as readily purchasable as baskets of fruit or cartons of cigarettes. Almost as he spoke, Congress sent him a crime bill with a gun-control section, but the measure was so flabby as to be almost as scandalous as the lack of any legislation in all the years. Congress, on Johnson's request, also passed emergency legislation authorizing Secret Service protection for the other major presidential candidates (cost: $400,000 this month alone).
"Must Not Demoralize." Disturbed as he was, Johnson also reminded the nation in a TV address that "200 million Americans did not strike down Robert Kennedy" any more than they struck down his brother or Dr. King. While it would be "self-deceptive to ignore the connection between lawlessness and hatred and this act of violence," he said, "it would be just as wrong and just as self-deceptive to conclude from this act that our country itself is sick, that it's lost its balance, that it's lost its sense of direction, even its common decency." In his funeral eulogy, New York's Archbishop Terence Cooke, a member of the new violence commission, also urged that "the act of one man must not demoralize and incapacitate 200 million others."
Americans, contemplating both the inexpungible crime of Kennedy's killing and the prevalence of violence in their proper perspective, can best maintain the proper processes of American political life by eradicating the conditions that trigger the assassin's finger.
A Life On the Way to Death
The circumstances were cruel enough: son of a house already in tragedy's grip, father of ten with the eleventh expected, symbol of the youth and toughness, the wealth and idealism of the nation he sought to lead -- this protean figure cut down by a small gun in a small cause. Crueler still, perhaps, was the absence of real surprise.
It was the unspoken expectation of the veteran campaigners who traveled with Robert Francis Kennedy that death was always somewhere out there in the crowd. Occasionally an ordinary citizen, a Negro more often than not, gave voice to the same fear: They won't let him live. At the first word of the shooting, a reporter with Kennedy workers in San Francisco wrote in his notebook: "They seemed almost to expect it. There is grief. But more, there is a kind of weird acceptance. Horrible to see. They've been through assassinations before."
The anthems and eulogies, the bitterness and the indignation, the fears and the rumors, the mind-numbing saturation of television and radio coverage engrossed the consciousness and conscience of a nation. The pronouncements of official bereavement, the calls for constructive action, for conciliation, for wisdom, all were unexceptionable. The United Nations lowered its flag to half-staff -- an unprecedented tribute to one of Kennedy's modest official rank. Pope Paul announced at a formal audience the shooting of the junior Senator from New York. Condolences came from Charles de Gaulle, Aleksei Kosygin, Queen Elizabeth, Marshal Tito and scores of other world leaders.
For many, the only solace was tears openly shed. Not just for the young and the dispossessed, but for countless people who watched and waited from a distance and scores of tough-minded men whose lives had become intertwined with his. Richard Cardinal Cushing, witness and minister to so much Kennedy sorrow, concluded: "All I can say is, good Lord, what is this all about? We could continue our prayers that it would never happen again, but we did that before."
Faraway Tomorrow. More than anyone else, Robert Kennedy had long felt the possibility that some day people would no longer be able to mention "the Kennedy assassination" without specifying which one. In 1966, he responded to a question about his long range political plans by saying: "Six years is so far away, tomorrow is so far away. I don't even know if I'll be alive in six years." More recently: "If anyone wants to kill me it won't be difficult." And he was fond of quoting Edith Hamilton: "Men are not made for safe havens."
Whether gulping fresh air as a tyro mountain climber or rapids shooter, staring down hostile students in South America or frenzied crowds at home, he had only a shrug for death. He made a point of declining police protection when it was offered -- as it was last week in Los Angeles -- and his unofficial bodyguard went unarmed. To the crowds whose raucous adulation drew him endlessly to the brink of physical peril, he seemed to offer a choice: Raise me up with your voices and votes, or trample me with your strength.
In California, as last week began, it seemed that they had opted to raise him up. The last day of primary campaigning went well. While the voters in California and South Dakota were revivifying his candidacy, Kennedy renewed his morale by romping on the beach at Malibu with Ethel and six of their children. He had to rescue David, 12, from a strong undertow -- but what Kennedy day was complete without a little danger?
Characteristic Mixture. Then it was on to the Ambassador Hotel, near downtown Los Angeles, to wait out the vote count. Already high spirits rose with the favorable totals. In South Dakota, he won 50% of the vote, v. 30% for a slate favorable to Native Son Hubert Humphrey and 20% for Eugene McCarthy; then, in the far more crucial California contest, it was 46% for Kennedy, 42% for McCarthy and 12% for an uncommitted delegate group. The two victories gave Kennedy 198 precious delegate votes. Plans were being made for the campaign's next stages in New York and other key states, but first, that night, there were some formalities and fun to attend to: the midnight appearance before loyal campaign workers (and a national television audience) in the hotel's Embassy Room, a quiet chat with reporters, then a large, private celebration at a fashionable nightspot, The Factory.
The winner greeted his supporters with a characteristic mixture of serious talk and cracks about everything from his dog Freckles to his old antagonist, Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty. Among Kennedy's last words from the rostrum: "I think we can end the divisions within the United States, the violence."
The next stop was to be the press room. For once, Kennedy did not plunge through the crush to reach the Embassy Room's main door. Bill Barry, his bodyguard, wanted to go that way despite the crowd; he did not like the idea of using a back passageway. Said R.F.K.: "It's all right." So they went directly behind the speaker's platform through a gold curtain toward a serving kitchen that led to the press room. The Senator walked amid a clutch of aides, hotel employees and newsmen, with Ethel a few yards behind. This route took him through a swinging door and into the hot, malodorous, corridorlike chamber that was to be his place of execution.
On his left were stainless-steel warming counters, on his right a large ice-making machine. Taped on one wall was a hand-lettered sign: THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. At the far end of the ice-making machine stood a man with a gun. Later, a witness was to say that the young man had been there for some time, asking if Senator Kennedy would come that way. It was no trick getting in: there was no serious attempt at security screening by either the hotel or the Kennedy staff.
"I Can Explain." Kennedy paused to shake hands with a dishwasher, turning slightly to his left as he did so. Before Bobby released the hand of Jesus Perez, the gunman managed to get across the room, prop his right elbow on the serving counter and, from behind two assistant maitres d'hotel, fire at his victim just four feet away. Kennedy fell. The hotel men, Karl Eucker and Eddy Minasian, grappled with the assassin, but could not reach his gun hand. Author George Plimpton and Kennedy Aide Jack Gallivan joined the wrestling match. The gun, waving wildly, kept pumping bullets, and found five other human targets. Eight men in all, including Rafer Johnson, an Olympic champion, and Roosevelt Grier, a 300-lb. Los Angeles Rams football lineman, attempted to overpower the slight but lithe assailant.
Johnson finally knocked the pistol out of the stubborn hand. "Why did you do it?" he screamed. "I can explain! Let me explain!" cried the swarthy man, now the captive of the two black athletes and spread-eagled on the counter. Several R.F.K. supporters tried to kill the man with their hands. Johnson and Grier fended them off. Someone had the presence of mind to shout: "Let's not have another Oswald!" Johnson pocketed the gun.
So This Is It. From both ends of the serving kitchen, scores of people pressed in. All order had dissolved with the first shots ("It sounded like dry wood snapping," said Dick Tuck of the Kennedy staff). The sounds of revelry churned into bewilderment, then horror and panic. A priest appeared, thrust a rosary into Kennedy's hands, which closed on it. Someone cried: "He doesn't need a priest, for God's sake, he needs a doctor!" The cleric was shoved aside. A hatless young policeman rushed in carrying a shotgun. "We don't need guns! We need a doctor!"
Television and still photographers fought for position. Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh swung at one of them. Ethel, shoved back to safety by a hotel employee at the first sound of gunfire, appeared moments later. While trying to get to her husband, she hears a youth scream something about Kennedy. "Don't talk that way about the Senator!" she snapped. "Lady," he replied, "I've been shot." And Ethel knelt to kiss the cheek of Erwin Stroll, 17, a campaign worker who had been wounded in the left shin.
Finally she got to Bobby. She knelt over him, whispering. His lips moved. She rose and tried to wave back the crush. Dick Tuck blew a whistle. The crowd began to give way. Someone clamped an ice pack to Kennedy's bleeding head, and someone else made a pillow of a suit jacket. His blue and white striped tie was off, his shirt open, the rosary clutched to his hairy chest. An aide took off his shoes.
Amid the swirl, the Kennedys appeared calm. TIME correspondent Hays Gorey looked at the man he had long observed in constant motion, now prostrate on a damp concrete floor. Wrote Gorey: "The lips were slightly parted, the lower one curled downwards, as it often was. Bobby seemed aware. There was no questioning in his expression. He didn't ask, `What happened?' They seemed almost to say, `So this is it.'"
"I Want Him Alive." The word that Kennedy was wounded had spread back to the ballroom. Amid the screams and the weeping, Brother-in-Law Stephen Smith's controlled voice came through the loudspeaker system, asking that the room be cleared and appealing for a doctor. Within a few minutes, physicians were found and elbowed their way to Kennedy. More policemen arrived; none had been in the hotel, but a police car had been outside on other business. Rafer Johnson and Rosy Grier turned over their prisoner and the gun. The cops hustled the man out, carrying him part of the way past threatening spectators. Jesse Unruh bellowed: "I want him alive! I want him alive!"
Finally, 23 minutes after the shootings, the ambulances collected the stricken: the youngster Stroll; Paul Schrade, 43, the United Auto Workers' Pacific Coast regional director, whose profusely bleeding head rested on a white plastic Kennedy-campaign boater; Ira Goldstein, 19, a part-time employee of Continental News Service, hit in the left hip; William Weisel, 30, an American Broadcasting Co. associate director, wounded in the abdomen; Mrs. Elizabeth Evans, 43, who with her husband Arthur had been touring the several election-night headquarters and wound up with a slug in her forehead. Although Schrade was the one who appeared dead to onlookers, only Kennedy was critically wounded.
Hollow-Nosed Slugs. With Ethel by his side, Kennedy was taken first to nearby Central Receiving Hospital, where doctors could only keep him alive by cardiac massage and an injection of Adrenalin, and alert the better-equipped Good Samaritan Hospital to prepare for delicate brain surgery. As if there were not already enough grim echoes of Dallas and Parkland Hospital, the scene at Central Receiving was degraded by human perversity. A too-eager news photographer tried to barge in and got knocked to the floor by Bill Barry. A guard attempted to keep both a priest and Ethel away from the emergency room, flashed a badge, which Ethel knocked from his hand. The guard struck at her; Tuck and Fred Dutton swept him aside. Then the priest was allowed to administer extreme unction.
At Good Samaritan, meanwhile, a team of neurosurgeons was being assembled. At this stage, there was still some frail hope that Kennedy would live. It was known that he had been hit twice. One of the .22-caliber "long rifle," hollow-nose slugs had entered the right armpit and worked its way up to the neck; it was relatively harmless. The other had penetrated his skull and passed into the brain, scattering fragments of lead and bone. It was these that the surgeons had to probe for in their 3-hr. 40-min. operation. ["Long rifle" bullets are the most lethal of three types commonly used in.22-caliber weapons. "Shorts" are tiny, "longs" the intermediate size. Hollow-nosed bullets are particularly vicious because they spread on impact, enlarging the area of damage.]
Never Alone. In the intensive-care unit after the operation, Kennedy was never left alone with the hospital staff. Ethel rested on a cot beside him, held his unfeeling hand, whispered into his now-deaf ear. His sisters, Jean Smith and Pat Lawford, hovered near by. Ted Kennedy, his shirttail flapping, strode back and forth, inspecting medical charts and asking what they meant. Outside on Lucas Street, beneath the fifth-floor window, hundreds of Angelenos gathered for the vigil; crowds were to be with Bobby Kennedy the rest of the week. A local printer rushed out 5,000 orange and black bumper stickers: PRAY FOR BOBBY. His daughter and other girls gave them away to all takers.
More kith and kin gathered. The three eldest children -- Kathleen, 16, Joseph, 15, and Robert, 14 -- were allowed to see their father. Andy Williams, George Plimpton, Rafer Johnson and others peeked in. The even rise and fall of the patient's chest offered some reassurance; the blackened eyes and the pallor of cheeks that had been healthy and tanned a few hours before were frightening.
Six Counts. As the doctors fought for one life, Police Chief Thomas Reddin worried about another. Dallas, 1963, might not have taught the nation how to preserve its leaders, but it had incontestably demonstrated the need to protect those accused of political murder. The inevitable speculation about conspiracy arose again. There was no support for it, but a dead suspect would certainly become Exhibit A.
The man seized at the Ambassador was taken first to a local police station, then to North Los Angeles Street police headquarters. His arraignment would have to take place at the Hall of Justice, a few blocks away, and Reddin, ever mindful of Dallas, was determined to make it as private a proceeding as possible. First the police considered using an armored car for transporting the prisoner, but decided instead on a patrolman's pickup truck that was, conveniently, rigged as a camper. A judge was recruited to preside at an unannounced 7:30 a.m. session, an hour before the court usually convenes. With Public Defender Richard Buckley representing him, the prisoner was charged with six counts of assault with intent to kill.
Subsequently the suspect was transferred to a windowless maximum-security cell in the hospital area of the Central Jail for Men. A guard remained in the cell with him. Another watched through an aperture in the door. Altogether, the county sheriff's office assigned 100 men to personal and area security around the cell and the jail. For the suspect's second court appearance, the judge came to him and presided at a hearing in the jail chapel.
Who was the man initially designated "John Doe"? The police had few clues: height, 5 ft. 3 in.; weight, 120 lbs.;eyes, brown; hair, thick, black; accent, foreign, but not readily classifiable. He had a broken index finger and a sprained ankle as a result of the struggle in the pantry, but his basic condition was good. His fingerprints disclosed no criminal record in any law-enforcement agency. Reddin thought he might be a Cuban or a West Indian. He carried no identifying papers, but had four $100 bills, a $5 bill, four singles and some change; a car key; a recent David Lawrence column noting that Kennedy, a dove on Vietnam, was a strong defender of Israel.
Silent at first, the suspect later repeated over and over: "I wish to remain incommunicado." He did not seem particularly nervous. Reddin described him as "very cool, very calm, very stable and quite lucid." John Doe demanded the details of a sexy Los Angeles murder case. "I want to ask the questions now," he remarked. "Why don't you answer my questions?" He talked about the stock market, an article on Hawaii that he had read recently, his liking for gardening, his belief that criminal justice discriminates against the underdog. When he felt that the investigators were talking down to him, he snapped: "I am not a mendicant." About the only things he would not discuss were his identity and the events at the Ambassador Hotel. After a few hours, the police fed him a pre-dawn breakfast of sausage and eggs and gave up the interrogation.
Someone Named Joe. By then the snub-nosed Iver Johnson eight-shot revolver, model 55 SA -- a relatively cheap weapon that retails for $31.95 -- was yielding information. The serial number had been registered with the State Criminal Identification and Investigation Bureau. Within minutes, the bureau's computer system came up with the pistol's original purchaser: Albert L. Hertz of Alhambra. He had bought the gun for protection in August 1965, after the Watts riot. He informed police that he had subsequently given it to his daughter, Mrs. Robert Westlake, then a resident of Pasadena. Mrs. Westlake became uneasy about having a gun in the same house with her small children. She gave it to a Pasadena neighbor, George Erhard, 18. Last December, Erhard sold it to someone named Joe -- "a bushy-haired guy who worked in a department store."
With that lead, the police quickly found Munir ("Joe") Sirhan, 20, in Nash's Department Store. Joe, said Chief Reddin, was "very cooperative." He and Adel Sirhan, 29, identified the prisoner as their brother, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, 24, who goes by the nickname Sol. The identification was confirmed by a check of fingerprints taken when Sirhan applied for a state racetrack job in 1965.
All at once, from Washington, Pasadena, Beirut, the Jordanian Village of Taiyiba and the loose tongue of Mayor Yorty, the life and bad times of the accused assassin, Sol Sirhan, came into view. [The word derives from the Arabic hashshashin, "those who use hashish." At the time of the Crusades, a secret sect of the Mohammedan Ismailians employed terrorists while they were ritually high on hashish, which is similar to marijuana.] The middle-class Christian Arab family had lived in Jerusalem while Palestine was under British mandate, and the father, Bishara Salameh Sirhan, now 52, was a waterworks employee. The first Arab-Israeli war cost the elder Sirhan his job. Family life was contentious, but young Sirhan Sirhan did well at the Lutheran Evangelical School. (The family was Greek Orthodox, but also associated with other religious groups.)
The family, which had Jordanian nationality, qualified nonetheless for expense-free passage to the U.S. under a limited refugee-admission program sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency and the World Council of Churches. Soon after reaching the U.S. in January 1957, the parents separated. The father returned to Jordan, settled alone in his ancestral village of Taiyiba and became prosperous enough from his olive groves to revisit the U.S. twice. His five sons and their mother Mary all live now in the Los Angeles area.
In Arab headgear and Western jacket and tie, Bishara Sirhan received a TIME correspondent and observed that Sirhan had been the best-behaved of his children. "I don't know," he said, "how this happened and I don't know who pushed him to do this." Would he now go to the U.S.? He thought not. "I raised him to love. I tell you frankly: now I am against him."
Mary Sirhan, who has worked in a church nursery for the past nine years, lives with her sons in an old white frame house. The neighbors in the ethnically mixed, lower-middle-class Pasadena neighborhood describe Sol as "nice, thoughtful, helpful." He liked to talk about books and tend the garden; he played Chinese checkers with a couple of elderly neighbors, one of them a Jewish lady. Sol was no swinger, was rarely seen with girls. His brothers told police that Sol liked to hoard his money -- perhaps explaining the $409 he had on him despite his being unemployed recently. He did well enough at John Muir High School to gain admission to Pasadena City College, but he dropped out. He wanted to be a jockey, but could qualify only as a "hot walker," a low-ranking track factotum who cools down horses after the run. Then he got thrown from a horse, suffering head and back injuries.
"Political Act." Later he worked for a time as a $2-an-hour food-store clerk. His former employer, John Weidner, like several others who know him, remembers his frequently expressed hatred for Israel and his strident Jordanian loyalty. Sol liked to boast that he was not an American citizen (as a resident alien, Sirhan could not legally own a concealable firearm in California). A Dutch underground agent who assisted Jews during World War II, Weidner says of Sol: "Over and over he told me that the Jews had everything, but they still used violence to get pieces of Jordanian land." The Rev. Harry Eberts Jr., pastor of the Presbyterian church where Mary Sirhan works and prays, says of Sirhan: "He is a Jordanian nationalist and was committing a political act."
What had this to do with Robert Kennedy? Journalists quickly recalled that Kennedy, in his campaigning on the West Coast, had restated his position that the U.S. had a firm commitment to Israel's security. In New York, Arab Spokesman M.T. Mehdi talked darkly of the "frustration of many Arabs with American politicians who have sold the Arab people of Palestine to the Zionist Jewish voters." That suggested a motive, but District Attorney Evelle Younger and State Attorney General Thomas Lynch wanted to avoid any such discussion until the trial. Thus they were aghast, and said so, when Mayor Yorty went before a news conference to divulge what he described as the contents of Sirhan's private notebooks, found in the Sirhan home.
According to Yorty, Sirhan wrote that Kennedy must be killed before June 5, the first anniversary of the last Arab-Israeli war, a date that has detonated demonstrations in some Arab countries. Sirhan was also said to have written "Long live Nasser." Yorty went on to characterize Sirhan as pro-Communist and anti-American, and to imply that he might have had some extremist connections. In contrast, the police and prosecutor had been bending over backward to protect Sirhan's legal rights -- advising him of his right to counsel and his right to remain silent, calling in a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union to watch out for the suspect's interests.
It Hurt Us Bad. Aside from its legal implications, Yorty's garrulousness could fuel a new round of conspiracy theories -- although conspirators with any skill would hardly have used so light a revolver as a .22. Many found it difficult to believe that the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were unrelated. Some blamed right-wing extremists; others concluded that all three slayings were part of a Communist plot to divide and weaken the U.S.
For the principals in last week's drama, the speculative and the possible were blotted out by all too real events. Robert Kennedy lived for 25 hours and 27 minutes after being shot on a cruelly elongated Wednesday that the nation is likely to remember in the context of that Friday in 1963. Of all the words last week, some of the most poignant came from Mary Sirhan, who sent a telegram to the Kennedys. "It hurts us very bad what has happened," Mrs. Sirhan said. "And we express our feelings with them and especially with the children and with Mrs. Kennedy and with the mother and the father and I want them to know that I am really crying for them all. And we pray that God will make peace, really peace, in the hearts of people."
More Faith. The "mother and father" -- Joseph Kennedy, 79, long partially paralyzed by a stroke, and Rose, 77, who has survived sorrow as intense as that meted out by the gods to the houses of Cadmus and Atreus. Of their nine children, they have buried four; Joe Jr., who died in World War II; Kathleen, who perished in a 1948 plane crash; John, and now Bobby, at the age of 42. Rosemary, 48, has been a life-long victim of mental retardation. Ted, now the only remaining son, nearly died in a 1964 plane accident. While he was recovering Bobby cracked: "I guess the only reason we've survived is that there are too many of us. There are more of us than there is trouble." The curse of violent death has extended beyond the immediate family. Ethel's parents died in one plane crash, her brother George in another. George's wife Joan later choked to death on food lodged in her throat. Kathleen's husband was killed in World War II.
Last week, like most Americans, Rose and Joe Kennedy were asleep when the bullets struck. Ann Gargan, the niece who lives with them in Hyannisport, Mass., did not awaken them. But Rose got up around 6, as usual, to prepare for a 7 a.m. Mass. She heard the news then. Joe heard it later when Ted telephoned him. Rose went to St. Francis Xavier Church, where a wing had been built in Joe Jr.'s memory, where a bronze plaque marks the pew that Jack used to occupy, where Bobby once served as an altar boy. Later that day, Cardinal Cushing came to offer what comfort he could. "She has more confidence in Almighty God," he said, "than any priest I have ever met."
Three Widows. Next morning came the news that the family had feared. At 1:44 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, Bobby Kennedy had died under the eyes of his wife, his brother, his sisters Pat and Jean and his sister-in-law Jackie.
The Los Angeles medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, presided over a six-hour autopsy attended not only by members of his own staff but also by three Government doctors summoned from Washington -- again a lesson from Dallas. Sirhan was indicted for murder by a grand jury. Meanwhile, once again, the nation watched the grim logistics of carrying the coffin of a Kennedy home in a presidential Boeing 707. This time the craft carried three widows: Ethel, Jackie and Coretta King.
Everywhere, hundreds and thousands watched the cortege firsthand. Millions bore witness by television. The party arrived in New York City at 9 p.m. Thursday, and already the crowd was beginning to form outside St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. The church was not to be open to the public until 5:30 the next morning, but some waited on the sidewalks through the warm night. Then, thousands upon thousands, in line for as long as seven hours, they marched past the great bronze doors for a glimpse of the closed mahogany casket. The black, the young and the poor were heavily represented: Bobby Kennedy's special constituents.
Things That Never Were. There remained the final searing day, the day of formal farewell amid all the ancient panoply of Roman Catholic ceremony and all the contemporary irony of American politics. There was Cardinal Cushing in his purple, his rumbly intonation evoking yet another memory of that earlier funeral. There was the President, who started his presidency by giving condolences to the Kennedys and now, near the end of his power, came to mourn the man who had helped shorten the Johnsonian reign. There were the men pausing in their pursuit of succession: Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy. And there was Ralph Abernathy in his denims, William Fulbright, Averell Harriman, Barry Goldwater and so many others of the powerful and the prominent.
But in all the vastness of St. Patrick's Cathedral, it was from first to last a peculiarly personal Kennedy occasion. The women wore black, their daughters white; the Mass, even for the dead, carries the promise of life. Ethel and Rose displayed yet again the steely grace that seems to sustain all women born to or married to Kennedys. Children were a big part of Bobby's life, and played a part in the service. Four sons served as acolytes. Eight of their brothers, sisters and cousins bore the bread, the wine and the sacred vessels to the high altar.
It was Ted who acted as paterfamilias. His determinedly brisk voice betrayed him a few times, but the occasional hesitation only added to the power of his eulogy. "He loved life completely and lived it intensely," Ted said, in a reading that was unusual for a Roman Catholic funeral. Frequently using Bobby's own words, Ted concluded with the lines adapted from George Bernard Shaw that Bobby used to end many of his own speeches: "Some men see things as they are and say `Why?' I dream of things that never were and say `Why not?'" The service also showed ecumenical and modernist influences. The Mass was entirely in English. Some of the musical selections were strange to traditional Catholic rites.
Arlington. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, that fierce old war song chanted tenderly by Andy Williams at the end of the funeral, was to be heard again and again during the afternoon as the special 21-car train bore the Senator and his family and his friends south to Washington. There were crowds and choirs at many of the communities along the right-of-way, more tears and dirges -- and there was still more death. Two waiting mourners at Elizabeth, N.J., were killed by a train roaring in the other direction.
The funeral train inched on and on through the waning day, hours behind schedule. From the rear platform, Ted Kennedy, with short, sad gestures, thanked people for coming out. At Baltimore, a memorial service was held on the platform as the train passed through.
Long after nightfall, it arrived in Washington. Along the lamplit streets, past a luminescence of sad and silent faces, the cavalcade wound through the federal city and across the Potomac, where in a green grove up the hill in Arlington, John Kennedy's grave looks out over the city and the river. The moon, the slender candles, the eternal flame at John's memorial -- 47 feet away -- and the floodlights laved Robert Kennedy's resting place beneath a magnolia tree. It was 11 o'clock, the first nighttime burial at Arlington in memory. There was no playing of taps, no rifle volley. After a brief and simple service, the coffin flag was folded into a triangle for presentation to Ethel, and the band played America the Beautiful.
When the Height Is Won, Then There Is Ease
There were two Robert Kennedys -- the one who was loved and the one who was hated. To many, he was the relentless prosecutor, vindictive young aide to Joe McCarthy and pitiless interrogator of the racket-busting McClellan Committee, a cocksure combatant who was not too scrupulous about his methods. Many politicians and businessmen not only disliked him but also genuinely feared him for what he was and for what he might become. Not a few saw unprincipled ambition in every gesture he made and every step he took.
To many more, he came across as a man of infinite compassion, a leader with unique empathy for the poor, the hungry, the minorities, and all those whom he termed the "suffering children of the world." As Attorney General, his brusqueness often offended high-level politicians and bureaucrats -- yet he was every ready to stand on his desk for half an hour to explain the workings of the Justice Department to a swarm of schoolchildren, whom he always addressed as important, interesting people.
Liberal & Conservative. Unlike his brothers, Bobby never seemed at ease in the Senate. He was blunt where it pays to be euphemistic. He was an activist in a club dedicated to deliberation, and he was impatient with rules and tradition, both of which the Senate venerates. He was a loner. Yet he achieved a good deal simply because he worked longer and harder than most of his colleagues, assembled a better staff, sensed more deeply the nation's abiding problems. He knew that he was the only man in the country, save perhaps the President, who could make headlines with almost anything he said -- and knew also that this did not always help him. He publicly questioned the war long before it became popular to do so, spoke in favor of the poor in affluent areas where it was clearly not to his advantage, and defended law and order in the ghettos, where such a statement by any other white man would have been interpreted as anti-Negro. A curious blend of liberal and conservative, he was concerned about poverty and the cities, yet convinced that the Government should not always take on their full burden.
His wife Ethel often said, "I think he's brilliant," but his assets lay more in a sharp intelligence, a fierce energy, and an ability to give and attract devotion and to surround himself with brilliance. Almost from the day of his brother's inauguration, Hickory Hill, the historic estate in Virginia that once belonged to President John, became an institution that the capital will sorely miss.
It was also a gay and lively home, with ten children -- three of whom, Kathleen, 16, Joseph, 15, and Robert Jr., 14, bear the names of Kennedys who died violently -- and a bizarre menagerie was never dull. A Kennedy pet census once counted two horses, four ponies, one burro, two angora goats, three dogs, three geese, two cockatoos, one cat, one guinea pig, 40 rabbits, one turtle, one alligator turtle, 22 goldfish, 15 Hungarian pigeons and five chickens. A sea lion named "Sandy" was regretfully banished after it began chasing guests. Ethel, now 40, never quite lost her sense of wonder at being married to Bobby Kennedy. Their affection was tender, gay and companionable, and though she is terrified of airplanes, she went with him almost everywhere. For her, the supreme test of an individual's worth was simply whether her husband approved of him.
Some Faraway Disaster
After Dallas, she had the soothing hand, the understanding heart. "There was in those days," TIME correspondent Hugh Sidey remembers, "a sense of urgency about him, almost as if he were sliding off some horrible precipice toward some faraway disaster. There was an irresistible compulsion to do everything and try everything. That is when he began to shoot rapids and climb mountains." This compulsion, an almost existential need to dare the elements, combined with a lifelong love of physical exertion, prompted him to lead the first ascent of the Yukon's 14,000-ft. Mount Kennedy, named for his brother, and plunge, during a 1965 canoe trip down the Amazon, into piranha-infested waters. A group of Indians cried anxiously that he was risking his life. "Have you ever heard of a United States Senator being eaten by a piranha?" he asked, and swam on.
The voice, the humor and the casual grace evoked memories of another man and a happier time. But Bobby was always his own person. Jack could get somewhere without really trying. Bobby ("the Runt") could not, or thought he could not, and thus tried all the harder. Perhaps this is what inspired in other men such unyielding loyalty and such unquenchable hatreds, neither of which Jack ever evoked to such intense degree. Because of the family tradition, it was inevitable that some day, if not in 1968, then 1972, Bobby would run for President. As a Senator, John Kennedy explained the family mystique: "Just as I went into politics because Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow, my brother would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, Teddy would take over for him." In the end, Bobby, with his merry, energetic wife and his happy band of children, created a charisma of his own.
Pain Which Cannot Forget
Never an intellectual, Bobby nonetheless read a great deal, particularly after Dallas. While Jack would read simply for delight, Bobby would always choose a writer who had something practical to tell him. Aeschylus, who introduced the tragic hero to literature, was his "favorite poet." On the death of Martin Luther King Jr., he used the lines: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." Asked once why he strove so hard, Kennedy again quoted from Aeschylus: "When the height is won, then there is ease."
Bobby never reached the height, nor found the ease for which he quested. Rocking across Nebraska in a train, he mused on all the things that he wanted to do and all that he felt he could do: reconcile the races, summon the "good that's in America," end the war, get the best and most creative minds into government, broaden the basic idea of the Peace Corps so that people in all walks of life would try to help one another. He was ambitious, but not for himself. He ended his musing: "I don't know what I'll do if I'm not elected President." As his body lay in St. Patrick's Cathedral, there was agreement on one point. Whoever became President would always have known that Robert Kennedy was around. So would the nation. So would the world.
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