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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Kennedy, Robert F., 1951

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, members of Congress, ambassadors, educators, business people, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Robert F. Kennedy

U.S. Attorney General; U.S. Senator from New York

Born in Boston in 1925, Robert Kennedy graduated from Milton Academy and then served in the United States Navy Reserve from 1944 to 1946. He graduated from Harvard University in 1948 and from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1951. In his third year, Kennedy served as president of the Student Legal Forum. Among the speakers he recruited to speak was the African-American diplomat Ralph Bunche. Kennedy and other law students convinced the university president, Colgate Darden, to allow for an integrated audience, which broke with university policy. In his 2011 commencement address, Attorney General Eric Holder praised Bobby Kennedy’s actions, noting, “Sixty years later, I believe that Robert Kennedy would be proud to see this diverse, and extremely talented, group of graduates.”

After graduating from UVA Law, Robert Kennedy was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. He then served as an attorney for the Criminal Division, Department of Justice from 1951 to 1952, and as assistant counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and to the Hoover Commission in 1953. He became chief counsel to the minority for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1954, and its chief counsel and staff director in 1955. Kennedy was chief counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field from 1957 to 1960. He was campaign manager for John F. Kennedy’s election to the United States Senate in 1952 and for his election to the Presidency in 1960.

In 1961, he became Attorney General of the United States, a position he held until his resignation on September 3, 1964, to become a candidate for the United States Senate. He was elected as a Democrat from New York to the Senate and served from January 3, 1965, until his death by assassination on June 6, 1968 in Los Angeles, while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Kennedy has since received numerous honors, including the renaming of D.C. Stadium as Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 1969, the 2001 naming of the Department of Justice headquarters in his honor, and the 2008 renaming of New York’s Triborough Bridge. The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, created in his memory, supports human rights activism and journalism related to causes supported by Kennedy. 

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