From his brother John's side to his own political rise cut short.
Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Published June 6, 2018
Published 19 days ago
Robert F. Kennedy's assassination on June 6, 1968, marked the halfway point of a turbulent year in which Americans had already faced heavy losses, from civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. (cut down by an assassin's bullet just two months earlier) to the scores killed in the intensifying Vietnam War. At the time of his death at just 42 years old, Kennedy was on the campaign trail, in pursuit of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States — a role his older brother John, of course, had served before his own assassination in 1963. In many ways, Bobby's death was a jarring reminder that, as Jackie Kennedy said after John's death, "There'll never be another Camelot again." And yet his message of hope and his dedication to improving his country continues to resonate and inspire 50 years later. As Bobby himself once said, "Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live." Here, a look back at the most memorable photos and quotes of Bobby Kennedy.
George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images"The future is not a gift: it is an achievement. Every generation helps make its own future." (Pictured: then-U.S. Senator Kennedy in 1964 surrounded by the future of his family — including (clockwise from top left) daughter Kerry, sons Michael and David, nephew John Jr., niece Caroline, and daughter Courtney — at Hickory Hill, their home in McLean, Virginia.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images"Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’”Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images"I don't want to win support of voters by hiding the American condition in false hopes or illusions. I want us to find out the promise of the future, what we can accomplish here in the United States, what this country does stand for and what is expected of us in the years ahead. And I also want us to know and examine where we've gone wrong."Historical/Corbis via Getty Images"There was no such thing as half-trying. Whether it was running a race or catching a football, competing in school — we were to try. And we were to try harder than anyone else. We might not be the best, and none of us were, but we were to make the effort to be the best." (Pictured: Bobby flanked by his older brother John and younger brother Ted.)
Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesBobby and his wife, Ethel, in 1957. Together they had 11 children, some of whom have dedicated their lives to activism.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images"Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it."
Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black."Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope." (Pictured: In the wake of riots following the assassination of MLK, Bobby visits with residents in Washington, D.C.)Brooks Kraft/Sygma via Getty ImagesBobby and siblings gather around John and his bride Jackie on their wedding day, September 12, 1953.
Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images"No matter what talent an individual possesses, what energy he might have, no matter how much integrity and how much honesty he might have, if he is by himself, and particularly a political figure, he can accomplish very little."Michael Rougier/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images"Men without hope, resigned to despair and oppression, do not make revolutions. It is when expectation replaces submission, when despair is touched with the awareness of possibility, that the forces of human desire and the passion for justice are unloosed." In the months before his death, Kennedy offers support for Cesar Chavez and striking grape pickers in California.Bettmann/Bettmann Archive"I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I'd like to feel that I'd done something to lessen that suffering."
Lawrence Schiller/Getty Images"I don't want to be part of a government, I don't want to be part of the United States, I don't want to be part of the American people, and have them write of us as they wrote of Rome: 'They made a desert and they called it peace.'"Chicago History Museum/Getty ImagesBobby Kennedy's younger brother, Ted, eulogized him in a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral two days after the assassination. "He gave us strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing in time of happiness," Ted recalled. "He will always be by our side."