Robert F. Kennedy

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Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) was a younger brother of President John F. Kennedy. Robert, also known as "Bobby" Kennedy or RFK, served as Attorney General during his brother's presidency. Robert was considered one of John's closest advisers. He was a strong supporter of Civil Rights issues and was primarily known for his fighting of Organized crime.

Robert Kennedy started his legal career in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in 1951. In 1953, he served with Roy Cohn as counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy's Committee on Government Operations and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He became nationally known for his anti-Mob activities while working as chief counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field, a post which he left in 1960 to work on his brother's presidential campaign. After the election, John Kennedy appointed him to be Attorney General. At 36, he was the youngest man to serve in this position.

As Attorney General, Kennedy was alarmed by FBI reports in 1962 that two of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s closest advisers, Stanley Levison and Hunter Pitts "Jack" O'Dell, were actually secret operatives of the Communist Party's underground "apparatus." Brothers Jack and Morris Childs, two highly placed Communists working as FBI operatives, had informed the FBI of Levison's secret activities on behalf of the CPUSA since 1951. In 1956, Bayard Rustin, who had joined the Communist Party two decades earlier, introduced King to Levison. Then, in June 1957, an FBI memo reported that a redacted source -- either Jack or Morris Childs -- "stated that Stanley Levison is now a CP member with no official title, who performs his CP work through mass organization activity."

The President worried about political damage he would suffer if King's association with Communists were exposed. In 1962, Robert Kennedy ordered the FBI to wiretap Levison's office. RFK later privately acknowledged to journalist Anthony Lewis:

I asked the FBI to make an intensive investigation of Martin Luther King, to see who his companions were and, also, to see what other activities he was involved in. This is also the reason that President Kennedy and I and the Department of Justice were so reserved about him, which I'm sure he felt. We never wanted to get close to him just because of these contacts and connections that he had, which we felt were damaging to the civil rights movement and because we were so intimately involved in the struggle for civil rights, it also damaged us. It damaged what we were trying to do.

In June 1963, JFK met with King in the Rose Garden, warning him that Levison was a "Kremlin agent," and telling King to get rid of him. King looked the President in the eye and promised he would. But King merely pretended to break off contact with Levison while actually continuing to confer with him through intermediaries. On June 16, Attorney General Robert Kennedy had FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover through bureau agents wiretap King's telephones, including the one in the preacher's Atlanta office. In October 1963, Kennedy allowed the FBI to wiretap MLK Jr's phone again on a trial basis due to suspicion that Dr. King still had associates which were Communist; this was later expanded during Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency.[1][2]

Robert stayed on after his brother's assassination, resigning in September 1964. He then ran a successful campaign for Senate, and took office as Senator from New York in early 1965. Kennedy ran for President of the United States as a Democrat in the 1968 election, but was assassinated just months before.


Robert Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan on June 6, 1968 while running for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States against his principal opponent, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota. It is believed that Sirhan Sirhan carried out the assassination because of Kennedy's strong support for Israel. Neither Kennedy nor McCarthy won the party nomination; instead the party choice fell on Vice President Hubert Humphrey, also of Minnesota, who prevailed among delegates without entering a single primary contest following the withdrawal on March 31, 1968, of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Humphrey went on to be defeated for the presidency by Republican Richard M. Nixon in 1968.


  1. Why Martin Luther King Was Republican, Human Events, August 16, 2006
  2. Herst, Burton (2007). Bobby and J. Edger. pp. 372–74


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