Should Site of RFK's Assassination Be Preserved?

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Who Was Bobby Kennedy?

Read a brief snapshot of his life and accomplishments and listen to excerpts from some of his speeches and interviews.

After declaring victory in the California primary 40 years ago, Robert F. Kennedy left the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel and into the hotel's kitchen pantry, where he was shot and killed. Los Angeles Times columnist Patt Morrison wonders why the actual site of the assassination was not saved for posterity.

"The pantry is of national significance," Morrison writes, "because the RFK assassination was a national turning point, the 'great perhaps,' as Kennedy's friend, Pete Hamill, put it. And yet we knocked it down and swept it away like an outdated mini-mall."

Morrison's article "Where History Turned" appeared Thursday in the Los Angeles Times.

RFK Assassination: Aide Recalls Tragedy Repeated

In Focus

Photojournalist Bill Eppridge says Kennedy's shooting compelled him to take on the role of historian. His goal was simple: to document the moment.

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Sorensen and others confer at his Virginia home in 1968. i i

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, his brother and aides confer in the dining room of Hickory Hill, the Virginia home of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, prior to RFK's presidential campaign announcement in 1968. Pictured are Robert F. Kennedy (from left), Sen. Ted Kennedy, Ted Sorensen and RFK aide William vanden Heuvel. George Silk/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption George Silk/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Sorensen and others confer at his Virginia home in 1968.

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, his brother and aides confer in the dining room of Hickory Hill, the Virginia home of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, prior to RFK's presidential campaign announcement in 1968. Pictured are Steve Smith, RFK's Southern California campaign manager (seated, from left), RFK, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Ted Sorensen, and RFK aide William vanden Heuvel.

George Silk/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Who Was Bobby Kennedy?

Read a brief snapshot of his life and accomplishments and listen to excerpts from some of his speeches and interviews.

The night Robert F. Kennedy virtually clinched the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, the scene in his suite at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles was like a "madhouse," one of his closest friends remembers.

On June 4, 1968, Sen. Kennedy had just won the key California primary and looked forward to the Democratic National Convention.

"People were celebrating, cheering each report that came over the television," says Ted Sorensen. "And finally, he was summoned to go down to the ballroom and salute and thank the crowd of his supporters and workers. And I stayed behind in his hotel room, watching on television."

"I saw him speak, thank his supporters, conclude with the stirring words, 'Now on to Chicago,' which was to be the site of the convention that year, continued watching as the camera followed him off the platform only to hear the shots ring out, the commentators saying that Sen. Kennedy has been shot. And there he was lying on the floor.

"I could not believe that what I had gone through five years earlier was happening again," Sorensen tells Renee Montagne, referring to John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Robert Kennedy was shot just after midnight June 5, 1968, and died early the next morning.

Grief and Pride

In 1963, Sorensen was a top aide to John F. Kennedy, when the president was killed in Dallas.

"Bobby came into my office wearing dark glasses because his eyes had been filled with tears and he was a proud man. He simply stood there for a while. We looked at each other; each knew that the other had suffered a terrible loss. We commiserated a little bit and then he went on to other duties ..."

Sorensen and Robert Kennedy were not always close. The aide came to know the younger Kennedy in 1953, "not altogether favorably, to be frank about it, because we were far apart ideologically and in background," he says.

Competing for Attention

Robert Kennedy was counselor to the fiery conservative Sen. Joseph McCarthy, when Sorensen worked for the liberal Sen. John Kennedy. But Sorensen remembers it would be years before he and Robert Kennedy became friendly.

In his new memoir, Counselor, Sorensen writes that by the early 1960s, he and Robert Kennedy vied for the attention of the president, somewhat like siblings.

"We both loved John F. Kennedy and were both determined to serve him," Sorensen says. "[Robert Kennedy] was, as attorney general of the United States in 1961 and I as special counsel to the president, both had the edge of jurisdiction on legal problems. So in that sense there was competition, but in a much broader sense, whatever ill will or suspicion there may have been years earlier, we became fast friends."

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