When Robert Kennedy Came to Bloomington

My name is Lora and I am interning at the Indiana University Archives for the summer. As part of my internship, I was asked to assist a patron with a reference request regarding Robert F. Kennedy’s visit to Bloomington. This was my first time using microfilm, which was a great learning experience. I examined articles from The Indiana Daily Student and The Daily Herald-Telephone to see what was published regarding his visit and his assassination a few weeks later.

Senator Robert Kennedy speaks to RCA employees (The Daily Herald-Telephone, 4/25/68)

Kennedy arrived in Bloomington on April 24, 1968, on a campaign tour for the Indiana primary. He was accompanied by former astronaut John Glenn and both were greeted by large crowds when they landed at the Monroe County airport. While in Bloomington, Kennedy made multiple stops, including at a local RCA manufacturing facility and the Indiana University campus, where over 4,000 people came to hear him speak. As a result of this reference request, a previously unknown recording of this important speech was uncovered in another office on campus! A really exciting new acquisition for the University Archives! (Update: This recording has been digitized and is available through Media Collections Online at https://media.dlib.indiana.edu/media_objects/j9602083w.)

Former Astronaut John Glenn and Robert Kennedy upon arriving in Bloomington. (The Daily Herald-Telephone, 4/25/68)

In his speeches, Kennedy focused on issues such as rural development through tax incentives and decreasing America’s role as a world policeman, stating “we must make calm and discriminating judgments as to which governments can and should be helped.” Many of these comments were made within the context of America’s then involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy also called for an end to educational draft deferments, which was met with some boos from students. Despite disagreement with some of his policies, Kennedy left an impression upon many in Bloomington as a charismatic politician and large crowds greeted him wherever he traveled. Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, and upon news of his death, Bloomington residents expressed shock and sadness at the loss of a “great leader.”