Robert Kennedy was one of the four Kennedy brothers who shaped American politics during the mid 20th century. He was appointed attorney general by John F. Kennedy in 1960 and led the fight against organized crime, despite that fact that organized crime bosses had helped his brother win the union vote, and the presidency. He was also active in protecting those who fought for civil rights. Following his brother’s assassination Robert resigned from the cabinet and won election in 1964 as a United States senator from New York. He established himself as a leading liberal and criticized President Johnson’s conduct of the war in Vietnam. He had won five of six primaries in his campaign for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination when he was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant who was upset by Kennedy’s pro-Israel position.
Kennedy interrupted his college years at Harvard to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After graduating from Harvard he studied law at the University of Virginia. Robert began his career by helping his brother John win a Senate seat in 1952. He served on a number of Senate committees, including Joseph McCarthy’s infamous committee investigating communists, before serving as John Kennedy’s campaign manager in a successful bid for the presidency in 1960.
His eldest brother, Joseph Jr., was killed in World War II. One of his sisters, Cathleen, was killed in a plane crash in 1948; another sister was institutionalized due to mental retardation.
In 1950 Robert married Ethel Shakel. After Robert’s death the sole surviving brother was Senator Edward Kennedy, who was responsible for commuting the sentence of his brother’s assassin from death to life in prison, where he remains. Robert and Ethel had 11 children, of whom 9 survive. One, Michael, died in a skiing accident, and another, David Anthony, died of a drug overdose.