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Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary

Ray E. Boomhower

Publication Year: 2008

On April 4, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., arrived in Indiana to campaign for the Indiana Democratic presidential primary. As Kennedy prepared to fly from an appearance in Muncie to Indianapolis, he learned that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been shot outside his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Before his plane landed in Indianapolis, Kennedy heard the news that King had died. Despite warnings from Indianapolis police that they could not guarantee his safety, and brushing off concerns from his own staff, Kennedy decided to proceed with plans to address an outdoor rally to be held in the heart of the city's African American community. On that cold and windy evening, Kennedy broke the news of King's death in an impassioned, extemporaneous speech on the need for compassion in the face of violence. It has proven to be one of the great speeches in American political history.

Marking the 40th anniversary of Kennedy's Indianapolis speech, this book explains what brought the politician to Indiana that day, and explores the characters and events of the 1968 Indiana Democratic presidential primary in which Kennedy, who was an underdog, had a decisive victory.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-8

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Memory, according to the Greek tragedian Aeschylus, is both the handmaid and the mother of the Muses. For writers of nonfiction, memories are a vital part of our work, leading sometimes to truth, but often down blind alleys. A memory can also inspire what we spend our time researching and writing about, ...

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1. A Landmark for Peace

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pp. 1-11

The Indianapolis parks and recreation department is responsible for administering approximately two hundred properties stretching over more than eleven thousand acres in the central Indiana city. One of these properties, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park at 1702 North Broadway Street on the city’s near north side, ...

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2. The Decision

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pp. 12-29

Very early in the morning on Friday, March 22, 1968, Gerard Doherty, a Boston attorney, stepped off a plane that had just landed at Indianapolis’s Weir Cook Municipal Airport. At the behest of Ted Kennedy, U.S. senator from Massachusetts, he had left Washington in a snowstorm to come to Indiana to investigate whether there might be enough support for Robert Kennedy ...

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3. The Governor

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pp. 30-52

Politics has always played an important role in Indiana. For a century the state furnished candidates for national office for an assortment of American political parties. From 1840, when the Whig William Henry Harrison captured the White House with his “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” campaign, to 1940, ...

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4. The Speech

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pp. 53-70

Robert Kennedy’s quest for the presidency in 1968 began in utter chaos. His campaign had started more than a year behind the normal schedule for such an effort, and Kennedy lacked a national organization and the backing of any key Democratic Party officials. “I have to win through the people,” he explained to a reporter from the New York Post. ...

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5. The Campaign

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pp. 71-99

As a young boy growing up in Angola, Indiana, Bill Munn took an active role in his family’s support of the Democratic Party. Wearing a tiny straw hat, Munn handed out pamphlets urging people to vote for Adlai Stevenson in his 1956 presidential run against incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower. ...

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6. The Voters Speak

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pp. 100-120

On a spring day in 1968, residents of northwest Indiana were treated to a rare sight. In a caravan of automobiles that swept along city streets could be seen icons of the past and the present. One was a boxer, the son of Polish immigrants from Gary, Indiana, who had risen to become middleweight champion of the world, ...

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7. The Train

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pp. 121-134

The call came to the home of Anthony M. Boysa, a fireman for the Penn Central Railroad, at eight o’clock the morning of Friday, June 8, 1968, from a crew dispatcher in Newark, New Jersey. Boysa had been assigned to a twenty-one-car train pulled by two black electric locomotives scheduled to leave New York on Saturday ...

Appendix: Robert F. Kennedy’s Speech in Indianapolis, April 4, 1968

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pp. 135-136


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pp. 137-156

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 157-162


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pp. 163-174

E-ISBN-13: 9780253007759
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253350893

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 608488740
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary

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Subject Headings

  • Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968.
  • Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968 -- Oratory.
  • Presidential candidates -- United States -- Biography.
  • Political campaigns -- Indiana -- History -- 20th century.
  • Primaries -- Indiana -- History -- 20th century.
  • Indiana -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1963-1969.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., American.
  • Legislators -- United States.
  • United States. Congress. Senate -- Biography.
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