Virginia – Arlington National Cemetery: Robert F. Kennedy Gravesite

Virginia – Arlington National Cemetery: Robert F. Kennedy Gravesite
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Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, former attorney general (1961-1965), United States Senator (1965-1968) and presidential candidate, was shot in the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, following his victory in the California primary and died the next morning. His funeral Mass took place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on June 8. The remains were then transported upon a slow-moving train to Washington, D.C., stopping all northbound traffic with many people gathered along the route to pay tribute to Senator Kennedy. The long transport necessitated an evening interment–to date the only to ever take place at Arlintong National Cemetery.

The casket was borne from the train by 13 pallbearers, including former astronaut John Glenn, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, family friend Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Robert’s eldest son Joe and his brother Senator Edward Kennedy. The procession stopped once during the drive to Arlington National Cemetery at the Lincoln Memorial where the Marine Corps Band played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The funeral motorcade arrived at the cemetery at 10:30 p.m. The brief grave-side service was conducted by Terence Cardinal Cook, Archbishop of Washington. Afterward the folded flag was presented to Ethel and Joe Kennedy in behalf of the United States by John Glenn.

In 1971 a more-elaborate grave site was completed, at the request of the Kennedy family, by architect I.M. Pei. The new grave site retains the simple, white Christian cross of the earlier site, and adds a granite plaza with inscriptions from Senator Kennedy’s two most notable addresses:

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance." – Robert F. Kennedy, South Africa, 1966

"Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’" – Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

Arlington National Cemetery, a military cemetery directly across the Potomac from Washington, D.c., was established during the Civil War on the grounds of the Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Robert E. Lee’s wife Mary Anna (Custis) Lee, a descendant of Martha Washington. By 1864, the military cemeteries of Washington and Alexandria were filled with Union dead. After Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs quickly selected Arlington as a replacement, in part to prevent the Lee’s from ever returning, the government confiscated the land claiming unpaid property taxes. Today, more than 300,000 people, including veterans and military casualties from every one of the nation’s wars, are interred in the 624-acre cemetery administered by the Department of the Navy.

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