SO LONG BOBBY: RFK LAID TO REST 45 YEARS AGO
New York City and Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Senator Robert Francis Kennedy, former Attorney General for President John F. Kennedy, was laid to rest 30 yards from JFK's grave 45 years ago this evening, June 8, 1968.
The day began at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City where the funeral service was held.
Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy delivered the eulogy for his brother.
In paying tribute to Bobby, Teddy read the words his brother had written about the positive influence of their father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.
"Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off."
And Ted also quoted from RFK's eloquent words of hope for a better world...
"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, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
But the most moving moment came when Ted concluded the eulogy with these words, his voice breaking at one point...
"My brother need not be idealized....but be remembered.... as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw war and tried to stop it.
Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.
As he said many times....to those he touched and who sought to touch him....
'Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?'"
What happened next was most eloquently described as follows in the words of Bob Frost of Biography magazine...
"As the ceremony ended and the casket was borne down the aisle, a sweet tenor voice came from the choir loft: Andy Williams singing 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.'
The music echoed through the sanctuary, evoking coffins and campfires from a century earlier when the nation was also torn asunder."
After the service, Bobby's casket was placed in the observation platform car of a 21 car funeral train bound for Washington, D.C.
The train pulled out of New York at 12:30 p.m. with arrival set for 4:30 p.m.
Because the flag draped casket was at first positioned too low to be seen by spectators, it was lifted up onto chairs.
It was estimated that a million people lined the tracks from New York to Washington, D.C. to pay their last respects to Robert F. Kennedy.
Along the way, two of those people, a man and a woman, held up a hand made sign which read....
Various unforeseen factors, including a tragic accident involving another train, delayed the funeral train which did not arrive at UNION STATION until 9:10 p.m.
Normally a 4 hour journey by train had taken 8 hours and 40 minutes.
The burial at Arlington National Cemetery was said to be the first ever done at night.*
*This is technically incorrect because on the night of December 5, 1963, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy and stillborn daughter Arabella were buried beside their father, JFK.
Grave of Robert F. Kennedy
Arlington National Cemetery
Photo by Wknight94 (2011)
Bobby's casket was carried by 13 pall bearers including JFK/LBJ Secretary of Defense Robert "Bob" McNamara, Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, and Bobby's oldest son, Joe Kennedy.
The graveside service was performed by Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York.
After the flag covering the casket was removed and folded by the honor guard, it was presented to the family by astronaut John Glenn.
Arlington National Cemetery
Photo by DE (2005)
"Passion and Promise: RFK," by Bob Frost, Biography magazine, 2000.
"RFK's Funeral Train," Excerpt from "Robert Kennedy: His Life," by Evan Thomas, www.washingtonpost.com
"RFK, RIP, Revisted," by James Stevenson, June 1, 2008, www.nytimes.com
"The Funeral of Robert F. Kennedy: June 8, 1968." www.rememberingrfk.blogspot.com
"The Pennsylvania Railroad GGI: RFK's Funeral Train," Richard Duley contributor, www.steamlocomotive.com
I do not have words eloquent enough to express the sorrow brought on the nation by the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.
The song "Abraham, Martin and John", however, superbly expressed that sorrow by linking these assassinations with that of President Abraham Lincoln a century before.
This sorrow, however, is accompanied by the realization that we live in a less than perfect nation and in a less than perfect world.
As Bobby so well put it, we can only "seek a better world."
JFK assistant and renowned historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., wrote in his journal dated June 9, 1968...
"We have now murdered the three men who more than any other incarnated the idealism of America in our time.
Something about our social ethos has conferred a kind of legitimacy on hate and violence."