Tuesday, June 6, 2017

RIP: Robert Francis Kennedy - Nov. 20, 1925 to June 6, 1968

RIP: Robert Francis Kennedy - 11/21/25 - 6/6/68


Not long before Robert Kennedy was assassinated, he made a campaign stop in Lansing, Michigan.  He was going to give his stump speech in a ballroom of the Jack Tarr Hotel, which was almost directly across Michigan Avenue from Western Union, where I happened to be working at the time.  I was dying to lay eyes on Kennedy in person.  I assumed he'd be arriving via North Capital Avenue from the airport, probably in an open convertible despite his brother having been assassinated in an open convertible just five years earlier.  I was really bummed that my lunch period was over.  I plotted to sneak out and run a half block down to Capital Avenue if I could somehow learn when Kennedy was about to arrive.

Then it was announced my the manager of the office that he needed a volunteer to go listen to Kennedy's speech and the moment it was over to run back to the office with copies of certain reporters' stories so that they could be teletyped to various news agencies.  The way things worked in those days, the employee with the most seniority would have first divvy, and then on down the line of seniority.  I was not really a member of the Lansing staff; mine was a traveling job in which I would be sent to any office in Michigan or Indiana where help was needed; thus I was low man on the totem-pole in almost any office.

To my amazement no-one volunteered!  The manager asked if I would be willing.  Yes!  I was given a pass to get into the ballroom.  I ran out of the office, turned right, running past Lansing City Hall to Capital Avenue.  And there he was, thronged by admirers, standing up in an open car.  The car inched toward the hotel, now so close, just across the Michigan Avenue intersection.

After I got a good close look at him, waving, touching hands reached up to him, frequently running his hand through his thick hair as if to arrange it against the breeze, I ran across to the hotel, showed my pass, and hurried up to the second floor ballroom.  There the man at the door not only admitted me, but  instructed a man nearby to escort me up to the left corner of the platform from which RFK would speak.  "This young man will get your stories to Western Union," he said.  I guess 28 was 'young' to that guy.  The platform, raised perhaps eight inches, was about 8X12'  I was amazed at my vantage point.

When Kennedy at last reached the platform -- and that had seemed to take forever -- he actually, to my groupie-prone self, looked supraliminal; there was an aura about him; he seemed to glow!  His skin was the most perfect skin ever!  His blue eyes were a richer blue than I'd ever seen!  He was perfect in every human way.

Less than two weeks later I was staying with a friend on Lake Pinckney while I was assigned to the Ann Arbor office.  The phone rang at a god-awful-early hour.

"They killed him, too," my friend Richard said, sobbing, barely managing to speak.  

"Oh, god, oh god," was all I could muster in reply.

That was ... what? ... forty-nine years ago.

Today, I am again smitten. I have, at last, found someone whom I can love politically much the same way I loved RFK politically.

1 comment:

  1. Great story uncle George. Not too many get that close and it makes me think there were not too many Bobby fans in the Lansing Western Union office. I supposedly saw RFK with mom when he he stopped in the Davenport on May 14,1968 but have no memory. I was only 1.5 year old. Although I collected his brother's political memorabilia, I do have a couple of Bobby's buttons too. What potential.