“We Want Bobby!” Robert F. Kennedy’s Final Minutes

“The June 6, 1968, issue of the Village Voice reported on the shooting of Andy Warhol by a disgruntled wannabe playwright, which took place on June 3. Media moved at a slower pace back then, and so there is no mention in the Voice that the madness of the times had also once again caught up with the Kennedys — Bobby had been shot early on the morning of June 5 in Los Angeles, after winning the California primary. By the Voice cover date of June 6, RFK had already died from his wounds. But on the back page of the paper, the candidate is still alive — as his canvassers prepared for the June 18 New York primary contest. What if Kennedy had survived and Warhol had died? We wouldn’t have the artist’s late, great ‘Shadows’ series, but how different would America’s political and social history be? Richard Nixon, who had lost the presidency to Bobby’s brother John in 1960, would go on to defeat Hubert Humphrey by a razor-thin margin, in 1968. Could the underhanded Republican have beaten the surging RFK? On March 22, shortly after entering the presidential race, Bobby told students at Vanderbilt University, ‘Richard Nixon represents the dark side of the American spirit.’ And indeed, the famously paranoid president would prove Kennedy right when he resigned in disgrace, in 1974 — but not before he had managed to sow more tribal hatreds across the land with his divisive racial policies and secret escalations of the Vietnam War. Mailer had been correct in his hope, back in 1964, that the notoriously ruthless and pragmatic RFK might be capable of growth and change. In the documentary The Sixties — The Years That Shaped a Generation, Frank Mankiewicz, an aide to RFK, tells this story: ‘I think one thing that happened to him was that his brother was murdered. I think that had a profound impact on him. On an airplane during the campaign, someone asked him — may have been Jack Newfield — What’s your position on capital punishment? And he said, I’m against it. And whoever it was said, When you were at the Justice Department that wasn’t your position, when you were attorney general. And he said, Well, then I hadn’t read Camus.’ It is the rare American politician who cites a French journalist/philosopher/novelist as a powerful influence on his thinking. Along with the rest of the nation, the Voice mourned Kennedy’s passing, not least with a beautiful, elegiac portrait of RFK that staff photographer Fred McDarrah had taken on the Lower East Side a few months earlier. Both Pete Hamill and Jack Newfield reported from the scene of the assassination. …”
Voice: Bobby the K: Robert Kennedy Comes to New York
New Yorker: When New York City Mourned R.F.K. (June 15, 1968)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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