Kennedy, Robert F.

Kennedy, Robert F. (Francis)

(1925–68) attorney general, U.S. senator; born in Boston, Mass. (brother of John F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy). One of the large family of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, he took his law degree at the University of Virginia Law School and was admitted to the Massachusetts State Bar (1951). He became an attorney with the Justice Department's criminal division (1951–52). He managed John F. Kennedy's campaign for election to the United States Senate (1952) and was named assistant counsel to the Hoover Commission, in Washington, D.C. He then became assistant counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (1953), chaired by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. After several more posts as a legal counsel, he became chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field (1957). Although later considered a liberal, through such appointments in the 1950s he was associated with the red-baiting and union-smashing tactics being pursued by the committees he represented. He managed his brother's campaign for the presidency of the U.S. (1959–60), and as attorney general (1961–64) and closest adviser to President John F. Kennedy (1960–63), he exerted considerable influence on the nation's domestic and foreign affairs. To supporters he was charming, brilliant, and sincere in his concern for the downtrodden; to detractors, he was described as calculating, ruthless, overly ambitious, and inconsistent. He was able to use the Kennedy name to win election to the U.S. Senate from New York (Dem., 1965–68)—a state to which he previously had few ties. He jumped into the 1968 presidential election only after Senator Eugene J. McCarthy had proven President Lyndon Johnson's political vulnerability. Even so, to many Americans he appeared the hope for the future, to embody his slain brother's ideals, until he himself was assassinated (June 6, 1968, by Sirhan Sirhan, a Jordanian immigrant) immediately after winning the California Democratic presidential primary.
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Led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy, Robert F.