Robert F. Kennedy died on June 6, 1968. His funeral was held on June 8th.
The presidential election of 1968 was one of the most exciting in United States history; the war in Vietnam was still going strong, a sitting president had just stepped down, and another Kennedy was running for president. Robert F. Kennedy was the junior senator from New York and the brother of the assassinated president, John F. Kennedy. A month after announcing the murder of Martin Luther King to a crowd in Indianapolis, Robert F. Kennedy was shot. He had just won the Democratic primary in California making him the front runner for his party’s nomination. He was shot on June 5 and died on June 6.
On June 8, 1968 a funeral mass for Robert F. Kennedy, which was televised, was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Thousands lined the streets for a chance to pass by his coffin. His younger brother, Senator Edward Kennedy read the eulogy, part of which read:
“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”
After the mass, Robert F. Kennedy’s remains were transported to Washington, D.C. by train. Thousands of people lined the railroad tracks to see the train; many saluted, many cried. Sadly, two people died after being hit by a train traveling the other way.
The train arrived in Washington just after 9pm; the trip took twice as long as it normally would have. After leaving the train, the funeral procession briefly stopped at the Lincoln Memorial where the Marine Corps Band played “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The procession then moved on to the Arlington Cemetery. It was the only nighttime burial that has ever taken place there. Floodlights were placed around the grave and candles were distributed to the mourners. The coffin was carried to the gravesite by 13 pallbearers; among them were Robert McNamara, Edward Kennedy, and Joseph Kennedy, the oldest son of Robert F. Kennedy.
There was a brief graveside service performed by Terence Cardinal Cooke, the Archbishop of New York. A flag was then folded and presented to his widow, Ethel, by John Glenn.
The majority of the mourners had left by midnight. Among those mourners was singer Bobby Darin, according to him he spent the night at the gravesite. Darin had campaigned for Kennedy and had only met him a few weeks previously. In response to Robert F. Kenney’s death he wrote the song “In Memoriam.”
Robert F. Kennedy’s gravesite originally had just a simple cross and a plaque that said Robert Francis Kennedy, 1925-1968. In 1971 a more elaborate gravesite was erected; a granite plaza was added which features two inscriptions taken from his most famous speeches. His grave is close to that of his brother, John F. Kennedy.
Robert F. Kennedy was a candidate who appealed to many different types of people. They trusted him and they believed in his potential, which sadly was never fulfilled. When he died, for many it truly was the end of hope.