Bobby Kennedy Among the People

In 1968, one of the Post's editors gave his thoughts on the departed Robert F. Kennedy, who had just been assassinated during his campaign for president.

Robert F. Kennedy
Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

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This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the July 13, 1968, issue of the Post.

By now everybody has said all the inevitable things about violence in America, and about the fates hammered at a proud family. What remains, different for each of us, is some personal memory of Robert Kennedy, of what he was.

I’d had a number of encounters with Kennedy — beginning with a long and fascinating lunch with him two years ago — but I had never observed him among the people. And so, last April 22, I boarded the Kennedy press plane in Washington, bound for the Indiana primary campaign. We were headed for the southern part of the state, “Nixon country.” The weather was beautiful, but the day went sour almost immediately. Kennedy was taken to a motel in Vincennes, where perhaps 100 members of a Rotary-like group called Civitan were assembled. Kennedy was late, and the audience had started their meal, and they continued it as he spoke, their eyes on the shrimp salad instead of the candidate.

I felt the coffin move, and my heart jumped.

But in the days that followed, the crowds grew and were enthusiastic, which made Kennedy blossom. In Huntington someone presented him with lots of petunias. “I am very happy to be in Petunia,” he said. “I have always wanted to come to Petunia.” The crowd loved it. It was a nice moment.

Seven weeks later, I again saw Kennedy among the people, the thousands of mourners who streamed past his bier in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A new honor guard was due to relieve the previous guard, but one member was absent; and so a Kennedy staff man I knew nodded to me, and I went and stood at the foot of the coffin. My hands were in front of me, and because space was cramped, my fingers touched the flag-covered bier. I felt the coffin move, and my heart jumped. Then I realized that the coffin was unsteady, and that each mourner who bent to pat or kiss it made it stir, rocking it softly, as if to aid his rest.

The editorial Kennedy Among the People
Read “Kennedy Among the People” by Thomas B. Congdon from the July 13, 1968, issue of the Post.

This article is featured in the July/August 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. I wanted to read the rest of the article, and was told that my access request had expired. Inasmuch as I subscribed to the magazine a few weeks ago, I’m not pleased with this. Is there an explanation? If my subscription didn’t “go through,” the fault doesn’t lie with me as far as I know.

  2. I lost items from my military household shipment to upper Michagin , namely valuable items. Their offer to pay for these items was terrible. I contacted my Senator Robert Kennedy. He agreed with me and offered a new bill regarding insurance of military household shipments. It passed and I received letters of anger from certain people.

  3. A fascinating first-hand look by a Post staffer of Bobby Kennedy recently (at the time) and his recollections that even by July 1968 were haunting. Another tragic loss so soon after Martin Luther King’s assassination; all within 5 years of JFK. We don’t know how differently things would have been in the following decades had those events not happened, which is also haunting and shows the long reach the ’60s still have and will continue to; seemingly permanently.


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