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55 Years On: Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy was the guy who could walk into impoverished neighborhoods and talk with people credibly, make them believe that tomorrow was going to be a better day.

Article contribution by Byron Tully

Photo: Robert F. Kennedy chats with reporters prior to his assassination at the Ambassador Hotel. Los Angeles, June 5, 1968 (Bill Eppridge—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

I remember the day Robert F. Kennedy died. My father asked me to come into the kitchen. He pointed to a chair as he sat down across the table from me. I sat obediently and waited. The moment hung heavy.

“He didn’t make it,” my father said simply. I have a vague recollection, perhaps incorrect, about going to sleep one night, knowing that Bobby Kennedy had been shot, but that he was still in surgery, and there was still hope. Now, the morning after, all that had changed.

A few years before, I remember the teachers at my private school crying and consoling one another the day President Kennedy was killed. They looked at us, children barely old enough to go to the bathroom by ourselves. I could see them worry for our future, but I had no idea what had really happened. I was a kid.

In April of 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I don’t recall my father telling me about the shooting, but I do recall his darkened face when James Earl Ray was captured. “They caught the guy, and he’s white.”

It wasn’t a racist comment. The killing of Dr. King was a shock to everyone in our family. My father, though, was always looking forward, over the horizon, around the corner, beyond the event. He  feared for the lives of innocent people who he knew would be in danger in the coming, inevitable social unrest.

His concerns were soon justified. Riots broke out across the country. The largest mass protest since the Civil War erupted in Washington, DC, with 20,000 people storming to within blocks of the White House. Eleven people were killed in Chicago. Seven died in Baltimore. Hundreds were injured and thousands arrested in cities across the country.

Photo: Robert Kennedy accomplished an extraordinary feat in his last campaign by uniting blacks and working whites in a way that no American politician has since been able to replicate. ©Getty

And then, just a few months later, came Bobby. Looking back, I thought it could have been the final blow. The last candle of hope, extinguished. Robert F. Kennedy, a lot of people thought, was the last man who could calm everybody down. It was ironic: the billionaire’s son, the Harvard graduate, was the guy who could walk into impoverished neighborhoods and talk with people credibly, make them believe that tomorrow was going to be a better day.

But it wasn’t. He didn’t make it. So we cried. We grieved, but, true to our nature as Americans, we persevered.

The same issues that Bobby was so passionate about–poverty, education, civil rights–still face us today. We still endeavor to address them, solve them, resolve them.

And embedded in those redoubled efforts, of course, there is hope. Without it, we would not remember him with such recent pain, a never-healing wound of what might have been. With it, we move forward with renewed promise of what still could be.

For all his faults, he left us that perfect gift: the will to fight on, even in the darkest moments.

Photo: Robert F. Kennedy drew crowds like a rock star ©Lawrence Schiller/courtesy Lawrence Schiller Archive

About Byron Tully (right)

Grandson of a newspaper publisher and son of an oil industry executive, Byron Tully is an author who also writes for the entertainment industry. His nonfiction debut, "The Old Money Book," was published in April of 2013 to excellent reviews and enjoys consistently strong sales worldwide. His other works include "The Old Money Guide To Marriage", "Old Money, New Woman: How To Manage Your Money and Your Life", and "Old Money Style - The Gentleman's Edition".

Byron regularly contributes to its blog, www.theoldmoneybook.com, which has been visited by over 1 million readers since 2014.

In February of 2020, "Old Money Style - The Gentleman's Edition" was published by Acorn Street Press. This fourth book in the Old Money series reveals the fundamentals of dressing well in a classic and timeless style. In November of 2020, Byron published a 2nd Edition of "The Old Money Book", which expands on his original classic. This 2nd Edition includes vital information and insights for readers as they navigate a very different, post-pandemic world.

Byron speaks frequently about the culture and values of Old Money. He has been interviewed by KABC New York's Financial Quarterback Show, The Huffington Post, and The Simple Dollar, among others.

He lives in Paris and is happily married to an Old Money Gal from Boston.

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