Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's Last Visit to Detroit, May 15, 1968





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Published on Apr 5, 2010

New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy is rapturously received by residents of 12th Street (now Rosa Parks Boulevard) on Detroit's mostly "black" near West Side, May 15, 1968, shortly after the Democratic party presidential aspirant addressed an estimated 10,000-15,000 persons at Kennedy Square in downtown Detroit, named in honor of his martyred brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Sitting atop the front seat at left is Kennedy's wife, Ethel, pregnant with their 11th child. Kennedy is being anchored at the waist -- to keep him from being pulled from the car -- by Frederick G. (Fred) Dutton, his chief strategist and traveling aide. The African American man seated behind Ethel is a personal bodyguard or plainclothes policemen. (At the time, Secret Service protection was not provided for presidential candidates.) At the end of the video, Kennedy's ever-loyal personal bodyguard, William G. (Bill) Barry, a former New York FBI special agent, can be seen walking behind Kennedy's car in shirtsleeves.

Kennedy is riding in a green 1968 Chrysler Imperial Crown Convertible, weighed down by young "black" Kennedy fans hitching a ride on its roof and trunk. Kennedy's car is trailed by at least three chartered press buses, carrying reporters, and sandwiched between cars brimming with photographers and television and newsreel cameramen.

As the video ends, Kennedy's car turns left (west) at Claremount, ground zero of the worst urban uprising or rebellion in U. S. history up to that point, which exploded 10 months before in the early hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967. Unlike most politicians, Kennedy didn't simply condemn the violence, but called for the causes of it to be addressed.

Kennedy would be shot and mortally wounded at Los Angeles three weeks later, on June 5, 1968, and die the following day.

On the day that Kennedy was shot, President Lyndon B. Johnson assigned a Secret Service detail to most presidential candidates (inexplicably excluding African American comedian, social activist and Freedom and Peace party candidate Dick Gregory, but including former segregationist Alabama governor and American Independent party candidate George C. Wallace), which was soon followed by Congressional legislation.

Six months later, Ethel Kennedy would give birth to her last child, Rory Elizabeth Katherine.

In "black" homes at Detroit and thruout the U. S., the portraits of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who had been assassinated two months before Robert Kennedy) became a triptych when the second assassinated Kennedy joined them.

This video is a compilation of two stock footage clips, which accounts for the differences in color and contrast and the two soundtracks -- one an excerpt of Kennedy's speech at Ball State University at Muncie, Ind., on April 4, 1968 (only hours before Dr. King's assassination), the other a comment by an African American supporter.

NOTE, 1/28/12: A contributor kindly identified the "African American supporter" of Kennedy heard at the end of this video as George Green, who was present at the Ambassador Hotel when Kennedy was mortally wounded on June 5, 1968. See the full interview with Green in the documentary "The Making of the President 1968" here:


(Video Courtesy eFootage.com)

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