You never know in this life when you’re about to become a witness to tragic history before it occurs.
Such was the circumstance for my older brother, Paul Jacobs, who found himself face to face with American political royalty– a man who might’ve spared us from the last phase of Vietnam and the enduring cynicism of Watergate — had he not been assasinated in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel roughly seven hours later on June 5, 1968 by Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan.
Senator Robert Kennedy (D-New York) was running for president of the United States and in L.A. on a campaign stop at the time. We all know how that election turned out after RFK was killed. Nixon trounced Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey 301 electoral votes to 191.
My big brother was a twenty-one-year-old USC undergrad and Robert Kennedy supporter when this picture of the fist-pumping senator and former U.S. Attorney General was taken on primary-election day. I was six, less concerned with White House occupants and sixties culture wars than playing “Army” with my plastic soldiers whose heads my dog liked to gnaw.
Paul was working part-time then as a statistician for the Los Angeles County Probation Dept. A photo bug, he had his trusty Nikkormat 35 mm SLR with him when he went outside just west of the Biltmore Hotel around 5 P.M. and saw Robert Kennedy’s motorcade idling after Kennedy had emerged from the Biltmore. Paul got close enough, maybe 15 feet away, for this poignant picture, which in a sense is disturbing considering the way his older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was shot in Dallas and the events awaiting RFK less than half a day away on Wilshire Boulevard.
At any rate, the world — which has thousands of thousands, if not millions of Kennedy photographs circulating — has never seen this candid picture nor its companion one that will run soon. Just by chance, Paul had a front row seat to history before yet another assassination, another flash of a bullet, destroyed what might’ve been.
In studying every detail of this magnificent and depressing picture, which may have been taken on sloping Grand Avenue, I still marvel at Robert Kennedy’s determined expression that seemed to say to believers, “I got your back.” I can only wonder what the man who appears to be a Secret Service agent in front of the car is hollering.
This picture is owned and copy-written by Paul G. Jacobs and any use of it in any way without express written permission is prohibited!
It’s now only seeing the light of day 42 years later.
* L.A. Observed post on this photograph