You probably know Robert F. Kennedy as the brother of JFK, but he was a successful lawyer and politician in his own right. He had a long and varied political career, one that ended abruptly with his tragic assassination.
Keep reading for a bunch of intriguing facts about the man, who grew from a soft-spoken, gentle child to a shrewd politician with serious potential.
He was one of nine children.
via: GettyRobert was the seventh of Joseph and Rose Kennedy’s nine children and was eight years younger than John F. Kennedy.
RFK was known to have a quick temper.
via: GettyIn his book Robert Kennedy: His Life, Evan Thomas shares a story about Kennedy’s 21st birthday celebration at a bar. After buying the bar a few rounds, some other people were singing happy birthday to someone else, which made him mad enough to smash a beer bottle over a man’s head. Ahem, party foul.
He played football at Harvard.
via: GettyKennedy played on the university’s varsity team in 1947 but had to stop playing when he broke his leg.
He climbed Mount Kennedy.
via: GettyAnd he was in the first group of climbers to do it. The 14,000-foot Canadian mountain was named after John F. Kennedy, and Robert had no prior climbing experience.
Kennedy’s assassin is still alive.
via: GettySirhan Sirhan assassinated Kennedy in 1968, and is still incarcerated in California—the state outlawed the death penalty in 1972. On the next page, what does RFK have to do with a sea lion and a salamander?
He was an animal lover.
via: GettyKennedy had a dog named Brumus (who was a labrador or a Newfoundland, depending on who you ask), and the New York Times listed the family’s other pets: “two other dogs, ponies, horses, geese, a burro, a sea lion, Hungarian pigeons, 20 goldfish, rabbits, turtles and a salamander."
RFK wasn’t always a star student.
via: GettyIn fact, he repeated the third grade, as mentioned in his wife’s biography.
He had a childhood hobby of collecting stamps.
via: GettyAt age 11, he exchanged letters with then-President Franklin Roosevelt about their shared hobby.
Some say he was a ladies man.
via: GettySome accounts have linked him with Marilyn Monroe, Candice Bergen, his sister-in-law Jackie, and ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, though it’s difficult to say if these claims are true.
He was living in London just before World War II.
via: GettyHe attended seventh grade there, as his father had become the Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He returned to the United States just before the war broke out. Click Next to learn why Robert was made fun of in school.
He had social struggles in school.
via: GettyHe attended Catholic school and from eighth through tenth grade, he introduced his mom to classmates, and they made fun of him, calling him "Mrs. Kennedy's little boy Bobby."
As a child, he struggled to connect with his father.
via: GettyRobert’s soft, generous personality conflicted with his father’s harsher attitude, and his father often didn’t give him the attention he hoped for.
He tried to impress his parents by getting a paper route.
via: GettyBut he found a way to game the system—he had the family’s chauffeur drive him on the route in their Rolls-Royce.
By adulthood, he had won his father over.
via: GettyJoseph Kennedy was eventually proud of Robert, saying that he had become “hard as nails."
RFK worked on the McCarthy Committee.
via: GettyHe worked on the controversial Senate Subcommittee on Investigations under Joseph McCarthy for six months. He left because he disagreed with the committee’s aggressive methods of gleaning intelligence on suspected communists. Next, a political flip-flop that will blow your mind.
He worked on political campaigns before his brother became president.
via: GettyHe worked on the campaign for Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee who ran against Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. He was unimpressed with Stevenson and actually ended up voting for Eisenhower, ironically enough.
He was a successful author.
via: GettyIn 1960, he published The Enemy Within, an investigative book about the corrupt practices used by the Teamsters and other unions.
RFK worked on his brother’s presidential campaign.
via: GettyHe gave speeches throughout primary season, and his strategy was “to win at any cost."
He was connected to the civil rights movement.
via: GettyHe was involved in securing the release of Martin Luther King, Jr. from an Atlanta jail. In 1961, he predicted that within 30 to 40 years, an African-American person would “also achieve the same position that my brother has as President of the United States."
Kennedy served as the attorney general.
via: GettyAfter JFK won the 1960 presidential election, he appointed his brother attorney general. Some said he was under qualified, as he had no experience in state or federal courts. Click next to learn why RFK almost didn’t get the attorney general position.
JFK needed some convincing to give his brother the attorney general appointment.
via: GettyHe originally didn’t want to appoint Robert to be the attorney general, but their father overruled him. Robert ended up becoming his brother’s closest political advisor.
He railed against the Mafia and organized crime.
via: GettyAs attorney general, he worked to shift FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s focus from communism to organized crime.
Some civil rights leaders saw him as intolerant and narrow-minded.
via: GettyIn his efforts to improve race relations, RFK held a meeting with a black delegation arranged by author James Baldwin.
He helped put an end to Jim Crow laws.
via: GettyHe saw voting as a key to racial justice and was involved in creating the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which helped end, Jim Crow.
Robert was a key player in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
via: GettyHe helped develop the strategy to blockade Cuba rather than performing a military strike that could have led to nuclear war. He proved to be skilled at negotiating compromises. Next, how did JFK’s death change Robert’s life?
His brother’s assassination had a profound effect on Robert.
via: GettyHe was more willing to question the political system and had a more fatalistic view of the world. In 2013, his son said that Robert had not been satisfied with the Warren Commission’s investigation of the assassination.
He became a New York senator.
via: GettyA year after his brother’s assassination, Robert became a New York senator.
In March of 1968, he announced that he would be running for president.
via: GettyHe ran on a platform of racial and economic justice and social change. He won the Indiana and Nebraska primaries in May, but lost the Oregon primary.
His assassination happened on the same day he won the California primary.
via: GettyHe was celebrating in a Los Angeles hotel and was shot by Sirhan Sirhan while attempting to exit through the hotel’s kitchen.
There are conspiracy theories around his death.
via: GettySome believe there was a second gunman, perhaps a security guard; others suggest that the CIA was behind his killing. Be sure to share this article on Facebook with all your history-loving friends!