Biographies & Memoirs


Falling to Earth


In the end, the best way to honor Jack's memory was to take up his unfinished work.

His great dreams had included sending an American to the moon, nuclear disarmament, and the passage of a landmark civil rights bill. A lunar quest was years from feasibility. The checkered progress of disarmament was to be measured across decades.

The civil rights bill, by contrast, virtually cried for enactment. President Johnson supported it. A majority of Congress, including several Republicans, seemed to recognize that its time had come. Its main provisions would strike down restraints imposed in an agrarian age when most living Americans had witnessed slavery as a sanctioned practice. The affection that most Americans still harbored for the late President Kennedy and his dreams lent a timely backdrop for the effort to topple segregation in schools, employment, and public places.

Yet passage in the Senate remained far from a sure thing. No important civil rights legislation since Reconstruction had ever made it past the stone wall of southern resistance. Generations of senators from the old Confederacy, although a minority, had even managed to torpedo an antilynching bill. No signal existed that 1964 would be any different.

The southerners' weapon of choice on civil rights bills was the filibuster, that time-honored tradition of preventing a vote on legislation by holding the Senate floor and orating on any subject until silenced by a "cloture" vote--or, more commonly, until a compromise is forged or the opposition gives up. In the early 1960s, cloture required assent by at least sixty-seven of the Senate's one hundred members. Sixty-seven Senators were Democrats in 1964; but of these, twenty-one were from the "solid South." Among the current Republicans, only twelve of the thirty-three were moderates; the rest were conservative. A filibuster against the bill was inevitable, and we knew that the math was against us: we were nine votes short of cloture, which by all previous indicators was a hopeless gap.

The math did not in any way impede the determination and tactical shrewdness of President Lyndon Johnson, abetted by Senators Hubert Humphrey and Mike Mansfield.

Johnson sought to bolster public acceptance of the civil rights bill with speeches, appeals to the clergy, and by jawboning newspaper editors and publishers to call for its passage. He worked through Mansfield, the majority leader, to name Humphrey as manager of the bill. Humphrey homed in on the bill's most powerful adversary outside the South, Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, the Republican minority leader. Playing to Dirksen's aspirations to be recalled as a great man of the Senate, Hubert flattered the senator publicly, claiming in broadcast interviews that as a great man, he would naturally do the right thing on civil rights. Dirksen voted for the bill.

The House of Representatives passed a strong version of the bill in February 1964. Mansfield fielded it and adroitly steered it around its natural Senate starting place, the Judiciary Committee, where Richard B. Russell of Georgia awaited with the intention of shoving it into limbo. Mansfield found a creative pretext for rushing the bill directly to the Senate floor for debate. When it arrived there on March 10, Russell and his fellow Dixie Democrats launched their filibuster.

Russell was anything but subtle about his aims. He and his allies clung to the spirit of a speech he made in 1946 while filibustering a bill that would have permanently created the Fair Employment Practices Commission: he would resist "to the bitter end" any measure that would bring about "social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races" in the southern states.

The end this time would indeed be bitter for them. Over fifty-seven days of argument, arm-twisting, pressure, and persuasion in April, May, and June of that year--"the longest debate," as it came to be called--we virtually willed the bill to passage.

When I first entered the Senate, new members usually did not make floor speeches for at least two years. Today, they all speak almost immediately. But not in 1964. And when they finally did take the podium, members usually spoke on issues of local concern. So it was something of a break with tradition when I decided to make my maiden speech on April 9, 1964, and use it to advocate for the passage of the Civil Rights Act. But it seemed to me that civil rights was the issue and this was the time. I was increasingly involved in both the substance of the discussion and the debate and felt it was very important to speak out.

I began with a note of homage to the time-honored protocols of the Senate: "It is with some hesitation that I rise to speak.... A freshman senator should be seen, not heard; should learn and not teach. This is especially true when the Senate is engaged in a truly momentous debate."

I voiced my respect for the quality of debate thus far and noted that I'd planned to focus my initial Senate speech on issues affecting my home state. But "I could not... [watch] this issue envelop the emotions and the conscience of the nation without changing my mind. To limit myself to local issues in the face of this great national question would be to demean the seat in which I sit, which has been occupied by some of the most distinguished champions in the cause of freedom. I feel I can better represent the people of Massachusetts at this time by bringing the experience of their history to bear on this problem."

I recalled the prejudice directed against my own Irish forebears. I cited the support for the bill among hundreds of religious leaders, most particularly Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston--who, I avowed, had made unparalleled contributions to my own racial and religious understanding.

Noting that wide areas of the South remained without integration years after the principle had been established, I warned that if Congress did not move quickly to expedite the integration decree, "it will be acquiescing in what has amounted in many places to a virtual reversal of the Supreme Court's decisions."

As for discrimination in federal programs--health, education, job training, for instance--I made what I believed to be a ringingly obvious point: "We cannot justify using Negro taxpayers' money to perpetuate discrimination against them."

After voicing a series of buttressing arguments to support these major points, I wound up my maiden speech as follows: "I remember the words of President Johnson last November 27: 'No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the Civil Rights Bill for which he fought so long.'

"My brother was the first president of the United States to state publicly that segregation was morally wrong. His heart and his soul are in this bill. If his life and death had a meaning, it was that we should not hate but love one another, and that we should use our powers not to create conditions of oppression that lead to violence, but conditions of freedom that lead to peace. It is in that spirit that I hope the Senate will pass this bill."

On June 19, 1964, a year to the day after my brother sent his civil rights bill to Congress, it passed into law on a vote of seventy-three to twenty-seven.

We knew that the Democratic Party would pay a price for this achievement. Lyndon Johnson himself put it most succinctly when he remarked, "We may win this legislation, but we're going to lose the South for a generation." And he was right; this marked the onset of the transformation of that region from Democratic to Republican.

Other Democratic leaders foresaw this as well, yet they acted to pass the bill nonetheless. I'm convinced that they acted, as had my brother in his speech, beyond political calculus: this was simply the right thing to do. Lyndon Johnson underscored his own progressive aims on May 22 when, at a commencement address at the University of Michigan, he described his vision of a "Great Society." His ideas, transformed into action by a Democratic Congress, produced a constellation of programs, laws, and agencies for social reform, some conceived by Jack and Bobby, but all championed and fought for by LBJ. They included the War on Poverty and the Economic Opportunity Act, the Job Corps, Project Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, the National Endowments for the Arts and for Humanities, VISTA, and others.

All were landmarks in American history.

On Friday, June 19, 1964, the same evening that we passed the Civil Rights Act, the Massachusetts Democratic Party was opening its annual convention in Springfield. I had planned to fly there after the vote and accept the party's nomination to my first full term in the United States Senate. My friend Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana had agreed to deliver the keynote. The usual flurry of floor speeches in the Senate had pushed the Civil Rights vote further and further into the evening hours, delaying our departure for the state convention, and at one point I telephoned the delegates in Springfield, my voice amplified in their hall by a public address system, to assure them I would arrive later in the evening.

The Senate roll call began at 7:40 p.m. After proudly voting "aye," I hurried and headed to Washington National Airport. There, I boarded a chartered plane along with Senator Bayh, his wife, Marvella, and my longtime aide and friend Edward Moss. The pilot, Edwin J. Zimny, was a last-minute substitute for Daniel Hogan, the plane's owner, who had decided to attend a reunion of Yale alumni. The plane was an Aero Commander, a small twin-engine painted white with blue trim. Our destination was Barnes Municipal Airport in Westfield, Massachusetts, near Springfield.

The night was heavy and humid in Washington. We headed northeast on the 360-mile trip, with the pilot navigating on instruments. An Aero Commander is configured with seats for the pilot and copilot, plus room for five passengers. Directly behind the pilot and copilot are two rear-facing cabin seats that in turn face a bench accommodating three people. The Bayhs sat together on the bench, and Ed Moss and I both initially sat in the rear-facing seats. As we were coming in over Springfield, Ed Moss got up and said, "You people need more space, because you're working on your speeches." With that, he unbuckled himself and moved up into the empty copilot's seat. Birch worked on his speech and I went over mine, and as we were coming into Barnes airfield I turned in my seat to watch our approach for landing. I looked out in front of the plane and saw that the ground was blanketed in fog. As I knew from my own experience as a pilot, we should have been able to see the airport runway lights at about this time, giving the pilot a target for landing. But instead of runway lights as we came out of the mist, I saw a hill, scattered with large rocks, and we were about to crash into it.

The pilot glimpsed this terrifying sight at the same moment I did and pulled back on the stick to lift the plane up. Every muscle in my body tensed as I mentally went through the motions with the pilot. Up. Up. Up, dammit! I could see tall pine trees just beyond the rocky part of the hill. If only the pilot can clear them... He couldn't. We were flying at an altitude of only 177 feet. The whole plane was jolted as we struck the first treetop, and then we rode along the tops of those trees in what felt like a slow-motion nightmare. As we sped along and clipped those treetops, the plane teetered from side to side, until the left wing of the plane struck one of the trees with such force that the plane was thrown to the left. We crashed to the ground in an apple orchard and skidded into the earth between two rows of trees, plowing a trench two feet deep. That trench helped to slow the plane down, but we still slammed into a tree. The low branches acted as a knife, slicing open the front of the plane. The impact hurled my corkscrewed body forward into the cockpit, directly between the pilot and my friend Ed Moss.



On my left, I could make out the pilot slumped over the wheel. He looked in bad shape. I swiveled my gaze painfully to the right. Ed Moss looked in bad shape too. Behind me in the cabin, I could hear Birch Bayh saying, "Is there anybody alive up there? Is anybody alive?" I couldn't answer. The sleeves of my coat had come off from the impact, the shoelaces had broken on my shoes, and I couldn't move from my waist down.

Birch and Marvella managed to drag themselves out of the airplane. They were some distance away, but I could still hear them. And I still could not speak. I could hear Marvella crying in the darkness, "We've got to get help! We've got to get help! We've got to get help! We've got to get help!"

Then Birch's voice: "I smell gas. That plane might catch fire! I'm going back to see if there's somebody alive in there." It sounds very easy, as I describe it, to say that a plane's going to catch fire, we'd better hurry and get help, and for Birch to turn around, come back, and look in that plane again. But of course there was nothing easy about it. The plane could have exploded into a fireball at any moment, and Birch was risking his own life to try to save those of us still in the plane. He showed courage and compassion that I'll never forget.

When he came back to the plane, I opened my mouth and managed to say, "I'm alive, Birch!" He replied, "I can't bend over because of my back." But the prospect of the plane catching fire gave me some extra juice to try and get out of there. And so I summoned everything I had to turn around, even though I was paralyzed from the waist down. I crawled to the window and put my arm around Birch, and he dragged me out of that plane, far enough away to be safe if there were an explosion. Then I just let go and collapsed onto the ground. Birch left me to go back to the plane to try to rescue the others. But when they didn't move or answer his calls, he feared that Zimny and Moss were dead. The situation was very grim. I was having difficulty breathing as I lay on the ground in that apple orchard. I couldn't move and was fighting to remain conscious. We had crashed near a back road, and Birch and Marvella walked to the road to try to flag down a passing car for help. For a long time it seemed as though we would spend the night there. Nine cars passed them before one finally stopped. A man named Robert Schauer picked up the Bayhs and drove them to his home, where they called for help. Schauer lent them blankets and pillows and returned them to the crash site. Police and an ambulance finally arrived about an hour and a half after Birch had pulled me from the plane. I said, "You'd better go over to the others. See if they're still alive." They went to the plane and took Moss out, who was still alive. Zimny was dead.

About a half hour later they came back, loaded me in the ambulance, and transported me to a hospital. I was in so much pain that I asked for sodium pentothal. I'd dislocated my shoulder once, and I recalled that pentothal knocked you out. The doctors said, "No, no, we can't give you that." It seems that an anesthetic could have been dangerous if I had internal injuries. But as they cut my clothes away--boom! I passed out. Merciful relief from the pain. I'd suffered a broken back and a collapsed lung that had been punctured by the tip of a rib, one of several that had been cracked apart. I'd been given transfusions, and doctors had suctioned water and air from my chest cavity to keep me from suffocating. My life hung in the balance for a while. Doctors told me that I'd been lucky: had any of my broken vertebrae been cervical or thoracic, I'd have been permanently paralyzed. I was thirty-two years old, six feet two inches tall, and 230 pounds, not that far from my college football weight, and my relative youth and fitness worked in my favor as well.

I remember the first thing I saw when I woke up was Najeeb Halaby from the Federal Aviation Administration, who said, "What happened on the plane?" And I thought, What the hell am I doing talking to this guy? What in the world am I doing talking to Jeeb Halaby about the plane?

Then Joan arrived. She had been waiting for me at the convention, about fifteen miles from the crash site. When she heard the news, she hurried to the hospital, escorted by the governor of Massachusetts, Endicott "Chub" Peabody. "Hi, Joansie," I managed when she rushed into the room. "Don't worry." Then my sister Pat came. Later I got the news that Ed Moss had not pulled through. I was devastated.

A White House aide, under orders from President Johnson, telephoned the home of Dr. Paul Russell, chief surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. Roused from sleep, Dr. Russell sped the hundred miles from Boston to my bedside, joining two Cooley Dickinson doctors. Several hours later I saw the tousled hair and concerned blue eyes of my brother beside the bed. Bobby had driven all night from Hyannis Port. My brush with death just seven months after Jack's assassination was almost too much for him to bear. I tried to ease his mind with a joke. "Is it true," I asked him, "that you are ruthless?" Bobby stayed at the hospital for two days.

I remained at Cooley Dickinson until July 9, encased in a tubing-andstrap device called a Stryker frame that kept me suspended above my bed, occasionally rotating like a hunk of barbecue meat. My father arrived on July 2 from Hyannis Port, an arduous visit for him. He rolled into my room in his wheelchair in the midst of a debate by doctors over how to treat me. There were two options: (1) to perform surgery on my back now, with a long period of convalescence and rehabilitation, to repair the break and fuse my spine, hopefully preserving my ability to walk; or (2) to spend the next six months immobilized, giving my back the chance to heal and fuse on its own. If I could not walk at the end of that six-month period, then we could consider surgery, with an additional lengthy period of convalescence and rehabilitation. Dad made his opinion as clear as if he still had the full power of speech. Whipping his head from side to side, he shouted out, "Naaaa, naaaa, naaa!" I understood that Dad was recalling the back operation on Jack that had left him in permanent pain (and no doubt thinking of Rosemary as well). I made a decision that not only honored his wishes, but mine also: I would take the more conservative option of allowing the broken bones and vertebrae to heal naturally. The chances for complications from the surgery itself were significant, and in 1964 the techniques and equipment were not what they are today. I could very well have been paralyzed because of the surgery. No, I would take my chances with nature.

I made the right choice. I would spend the remainder of my life not being able to stand fully erect and always feeling pain from my injuries. On the bright side, which is how I prefer to look at things, I would spend the remainder of my life able to walk.

When the doctors had ascertained that I'd not suffered injuries to my spinal cord, I was transferred to New England Baptist Hospital in Boston. There I began to savor the simple joys of life as soon as a little strength began to return.

Joan and the children swam back into close orbit with me. Jack's death had devastated her. My accident further distressed her, but it also lent her a new sense of purpose. I was up for election to my first full term that fall. My reelection was not in serious doubt, but we still had a campaign. My opponent was a former state representative named Howard Whitmore Jr. So, as she had in my first Senate campaign, Joan became a surrogate for me. Over the course of the next five months, she barnstormed cities and towns all over Massachusetts, charming crowds and winning votes.

President Johnson visited me at the hospital at 12:40 p.m. on September 29. We'd spoken on the phone September 6--according to my notes, he said he'd had a "hankering" to call--and he'd asked if he could visit in person during a campaign swing through New England. He said he'd been following the reports on my recovery. "I still do not understand how you can shave on your stomach, but I guess you can get used to most anything." Then he asked, "Ted, is there anything I can do to make your life more livable?"

Upon his arrival, he walked into my room and gave me a kiss on the forehead. Then he kissed Joan and told her how well she'd done at the Democratic convention. Our conversation was mostly about his reelection campaign. He mentioned that he thought TV coverage had become more important than the daily newspapers. He talked about how poorly he was polling in Alabama and predicted he would lose Louisiana and Mississippi as well. We talked about prospects for Bobby's Senate campaign, which he said he would do everything to support.

And then President Johnson confided something to me regarding Jack's assassination and the findings of the Warren Commission. He felt the real responsibility had been with the FBI. As Johnson saw it, they were aware that Oswald was dangerous and that he had visited Moscow and Mexico. FBI agents had even interviewed Oswald, but they had neglected to warn the Secret Service of their suspicions, and that's why Johnson thought the agency was culpable.

It was only a thirty-five-minute conversation, but we also had time to discuss a Detroit autoworkers' strike (he was against it); South Vietnam, which he described as a very critical situation; and Rhode Island politics, which he believed had been heavily controlled by corporate interests until Theodore F. Green had been elected governor and then senator. As always, our exchanges were easy and cordial, and when he departed, at 1:15 p.m., I was in good spirits.

During my recuperation, I began to paint again--a hobby I had not pursued since those youthful days of competition with Jack. I'd forgotten the pleasure painting had given me. I have continued to paint since then, with the sea, and sailing boats, and the Cape Cod shoreline as my favorite subjects.

My thoughts turned often to my dad. What had I left unsaid to this great man? So many things.

An inspiration hit me: I would compile a book for him, a book of essays; mine and those of others in the family, which would express to Dad all the loving memories, the respect, the moments of laughter that lived unspoken in all of us. I sent the word out through the family, and the eloquent writings came in.

I chose the title--The Fruitful Bough--from Genesis, chapter 49, verses 22-24:

Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.

As I reread The Fruitful Bough today, I see that most of its entries--mine, Mother's, Pat's, Eunice's, Joe Gargan's, and the rest--are gilded with a love that allows no hint of human frailty in their subject. I smile as I pause over the inevitable exception. "I don't believe he is without faults," Bobby's essay begins; and, a bit later: "His judgment has not always been perfect." This is Bobby being Bobby. My brother loved and admired our father as fervently as the rest of us, as his essay shows; yet sentimentality (as opposed to true sentiment) was never part of his nature.

The hospital room became my postgraduate seminar. More receptive to ideas even than in my latter years at Harvard, and motivated now by the intellectual demands of my office, I invited a series of professors to come and offer me tutorials in a variety of subjects, complete with reading lists. John Kenneth Galbraith folded his lanky frame into a chair and educated me in economics. Samuel Beer held forth on political science. And my understanding of civil rights issues was bolstered by a number of visitors, some of them famous leaders, who briefed me on the social and constitutional history of the movement. Furthermore, my hospital stay gave me more direct insight into health care and its costs.

I entered a world, at Cooley Dickinson and later at New England Baptist in Boston, of sufferers for whom the cost of being healed was often as great a hardship as the disease itself. I met people whose stories haunted me: good working people who scrimped and sacrificed to pay for a family member with tuberculosis; families, already struggling to pay their bills, beset by catastrophic illness.

I realized that access to health care was a moral issue.

I left New England Baptist Hospital on December 16, after six months of rehabilitation. At 4 a.m. on the day of my discharge, I quietly and temporarily exited the grounds with the help of Eddy Martin, who drove me through the cold darkness to Andover, and the cemetery where Ed Moss lay buried. It was Ed's forty-first birthday. His grave was on a hill, and the two of us had to struggle upward, Eddy Martin protecting me as best he could from slipping and falling on the icy slope. We returned to the car and drove to the Moss home, where I spent time talking to Moss's widow, Katie. Then we drove back to the hospital, where I completed my formal checkout and flew to Palm Beach to spend the holidays with my family.

By then, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and Bobby was a senatorelect from New York. The war had escalated in early August following the attacks, or alleged attacks, by North Vietnamese patrol boats against a U.S. Navy destroyer--the long-disputed "Gulf of Tonkin incident." On August 7, the House and Senate, under executive pressure and lacking an accountable version of the facts, enacted Lyndon Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, granting him authority to wage unlimited war against North Vietnam without securing congressional approval. From my hospital bed, I announced my support of Johnson's resolution.

Bobby declared his Senate candidacy on August 22, and resigned as attorney general on September 3; Johnson named Nicholas Katzenbach to succeed him. Bobby and Ethel kept Hickory Hill in Virginia and took an apartment at the United Nations Plaza. Naturally, Kenneth Keating, the incumbent Republican senator from New York, seized the opportunity to tar my brother as a "carpetbagger." Bobby handled it with his usual wit. He could have chosen to retire, he told an audience at Columbia University. After all, "My father has done very well and I could have lived off him." Nor did he need the title "senator" because "I could be called general, I understand, for the rest of my life. And I don't need the money and I don't need the office space." As the laughter and applause swelled, Bobby concluded, "Frank as it is--and maybe it's difficult to believe in the state of New York--I'd like to just be a good United States senator. I'd like to serve."

Nonetheless, his campaign was rocky at the outset, as Keating went all-out to portray my brother as hostile to the interests of blacks. These attacks roused Bobby; he wound up his campaign at a fever pitch and with the support of NAACP officials. When President Johnson, en route to his own rout of Barry Goldwater for the presidency, campaigned alongside him in late October, Keating's lead, and chances, evaporated. Bobby won the election by more than seven hundred thousand votes.

His victory made our parents unique in the annals of political families: they were the first Americans in history to have raised three senators.

Any euphoria my brother may have felt was tempered by his lingering grief over Jack. In a meeting with reporters in his office shortly after he was sworn in, one of them asked him how he felt now as a member of the Senate. Bobby replied quietly, "I regret the circumstances that led to my being here."

It is fair to say that Bobby and Lyndon Johnson had a complicated relationship. Bobby was not initially in favor of having LBJ as Jack's running mate--he worried about whether anyone who had been running so hard for the seat himself could suppress his own presidential ambitions so quickly. And I don't think either of them ever felt warmth or trust toward each other. Truth was, Bobby's close relationship with Jack prevented Johnson from ever really getting as close to Jack as he would have been had Bobby not been in the picture. It was, in my opinion, a classic "three's a crowd" scenario. But even though there was no love lost between Bobby and LBJ, I wouldn't go so far as to call them bitter and implacable enemies, as some have suggested. Johnson was capable of kindness toward my brother, and courtesy, and political support. Toward me, President Johnson was consistently solicitous and friendly. I liked him and always got along with him very well.

Still, I know that there were times that Johnson tried to play Bobby off against me, which was totally bizarre, since there was no way that a Kennedy would side with an outsider against another Kennedy. With all of his political acuity, I would have thought he'd understand that. Nevertheless, Johnson never learned it and never gave up trying. "I love Teddy and Sarge is great," he used to say. "Now what is it with this strange fellow Bobby? Why is he so difficult?" Bobby cut right to the heart of the matter. "Why does Lyndon fear me so much, for chrissakes?" he said once. "He's the president of the United States and I'm the junior senator from New York!"

Actually, Bobby's relations with Johnson in 1964 and 1965 were not all that bad, certainly not as tense as they are often portrayed in the press. Some historians have written that Bobby longed for Johnson to name him as his running mate in the '64 election, but that Johnson kept him at bay. The truth is that the vice presidency under Johnson did not loom large as an option in my brother's mind. He might have been briefly tempted, but he was never possessed by the idea. There is no denying that Bobby had been awakened by the ovation he'd received after his remarks at the Democratic convention in Atlantic City. It was so overwhelming and so extraordinary that he thought briefly of letting his name go before the convention as a candidate for vice president. But a few hours' reflection convinced him that this was not worth the try. Johnson had made his mind up about Hubert Humphrey. Still, the enormous affection and respect he enjoyed at the convention gave Bobby heart as he launched his campaign for the Senate from New York.

Bobby typically addressed his career decisions in that manner. He lived and made decisions in the moment and not in the cold, calculating way that some critics have tried to attribute to him. Bobby never really thought about what he was going to do next. He was absolutely absorbed in whatever he was doing at any given time. He started his career on the labor committee investigating racketeering, and for him, that was enough. Our father said to him, "Well, why don't you think about moving to Maryland, and then after this thing is over, you could run for the Senate?" Bobby had by then settled into Hickory Hill. He replied to our father, "No, I'm not thinking about anything else. I just want to do this. I don't really care where I live."

As he began campaigning in New York, Bobby discovered, as he told me, that the city had a particular kind of energy that he had not thought much about until then. The writers and journalists there, he said, had a set of social concerns unlike their counterparts in Washington, who prided themselves as "insiders." As such, they tended to focus on the politics of a given situation. Many of the writers in New York were less sophisticated in practical politics, Bobby observed, but they were far more concerned about the moral and social substance of the issues.

Bobby was most stirred by Michael Harrington, whose landmark study of "invisible" poverty, The Other America, had been published two years earlier. JFK and LBJ were also struck by the book; it energized Jack's attention to the poor, and served as an impetus for Johnson's War on Poverty.

Bobby and I took the oath of office together on January 4, 1965--me, for my first full term. I was still navigating with the aid of a cane. Having my brother as a colleague in the Senate was wonderful. He brought energy into any room, any hearing; and his presence delighted and uplifted me as it did everyone who came into his orbit. Our new proximity brought with it the spirit of the old times; the laughter and teasing and optimism of our boyhoods; the easy intimacy of our autumn garage weekends at the Cape house.

We'd struck up our old needling even before I left the hospital. Bobby had come to visit, and as the newsmen's cameras flashed, one photographer leaned toward my brother and said, "Step back a little, you're casting a shadow on Ted." I quickly responded, "It's going to be the same in Washington."

As he recovered his old intensity and drive, my brother found the Senate's pace infuriatingly slow in relation to the changes he wanted to make. Jack had been in the Senate for five months before he made a speech. I'd been in office for sixteen months. Bobby managed to wait all of three weeks before taking the floor. He was advocating a bill that would have included thirteen upstate New York counties that bordered Pennsylvania in an Appalachian Economic Development Plan.

Bobby never wanted to give the impression that he planned to coast through the Senate on his name. He understood power well. He knew that there was an inside Senate and an outside Senate, and that his fastblossoming idealism made him basically an outsider. Some historians have wondered if Bobby's transformation was provoked by Jack's death. I believe it was.

Bobby decided that he would take on issues that championed America's dispossessed, such as antipoverty bills and further civil rights reform. He searched out injustices and moral causes. His involvement in them lent them a sense of urgency they might not otherwise have inspired. As he grew and learned, he became more and more interested in people, as opposed to abstract issues.

For all our fraternal closeness, Bobby and I did not work in tandem as senators. Even when we tried, we couldn't manage it. Once, not long after his election, Bobby arrived late for a vote on some long-forgotten bill and looked over at me from his seat to see how I was voting. I looked back at him, not understanding what he wanted. He kept looking at me, and finally shook his head as if to ask, "Is the vote no?" I got it. I nodded back at him, meaning, "Yes, the vote is no." But Bobby thought I meant, "The vote is yes." So Bobby voted yes. I then voted no, which set the Senate buzzing--were the Kennedy brothers at odds with each other?! I looked at Bobby again and shook my head no. Bobby then shook his head no--in agreement, he thought, with the no vote. But I thought he meant, "No, I'm not voting no." So I vigorously nodded my head yes, as if to say, "Yes, you are supposed to vote no." Bobby shook his head, changed his vote to no, then bent over his desk and quickly scribbled me a note: "Now I get it. When you nod, you want me to vote no, and when you shake your head, you want me to vote no. So I guess I'm always supposed to vote no!"

We served on one committee together--Labor and Public Welfare--but otherwise chose separate legislative paths, and reinforced one another to the extent we were able. Bobby gravitated toward Vietnam-related issues, such as reforming the draft. I focused on immigration and civil rights. I was, after all, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and in 1965 especially, civil rights virtually defined the committee's agenda. Martin Luther King had received the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1964, a reminder to Americans that the world's enlightened societies supported his quest. In the spring of 1965, a voting rights bill was making its way through both houses. Its cosponsors were Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen. It aimed to expand upon the Civil Rights Act's social impact by outlawing literacy tests and other impediments long enshrined in southern state laws to discourage Negro voting.

Some Judiciary members, myself included, believed that the bill did not go far enough, and that liberal lawmakers had not been adequately consulted. We felt that it ignored one of the most onerous tools of disenfranchisement against impoverished black voters, the poll tax. In 1964, a constitutional amendment devoted exclusively to outlawing the poll tax had been ratified--the Twenty-fourth. But this amendment covered only voting in federal elections. In Texas, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi, along with stubbornly independent (and virtually all-white) Vermont, the tax was still imposed on state and local balloting.

In April 1965, I led the fight for an amendment to the voting rights bill that would ban poll taxing at all electoral levels. I drew upon an inspirational ally in this effort, the visionary NAACP lobbyist Clarence Mitchell. This was the first time I floor-managed a piece of legislation in the Senate.

I faced some unlikely opponents. Attorney General Katzenbach opposed it on the belief that federal intervention in local elections could be ruled unconstitutional regardless of the Twenty-fourth Amendment. Hubert Humphrey, a champion of civil rights well before the movement, lobbied against it on the Senate floor. Cosponsor Mike Mansfield, a progressive on many issues, lined up against it--as did two other famous liberals, Eugene McCarthy and Vance Hartke of Indiana. At the time, I was not able to figure out why. Much to my surprise, it was later publicly revealed in Congress that Martin Luther King himself wrote to many lawmakers asking them not to vote for the poll tax removal, since he saw it as jeopardizing the passage of the Voting Rights Act as a whole.

I drew upon every scrap of procedural savvy that I had observed in my brief career as a senator. I drilled with professors from Howard University, Harvard, and several other sources, including Thurgood Marshall, until I'd mastered the constitutional underpinnings of the issue. (An extension of my hospital "tutorials," this practice would remain with me.) I kept in close touch with civil rights leaders, including Dr. King, to make sure I understood the direction and depth of their feeling. I believe that I met and spoke personally with every senator. On the Senate floor, I declared that the poll tax not only was conceived in discrimination and not only did it operate in discrimination--it was obviously ineffectively discriminatory, given that it would inhibit voting by the poor of any race.

I lost that battle by four votes: forty-nine to forty-five. Its defeat may have turned partly on a letter from Katzenbach, which was read by Mike Mansfield on the floor. Nonetheless, I took pride in having championed the amendment. I felt even better when my constitutional judgment was vindicated: the Voting Rights Act, signed into law on August 6, did not abolish the poll tax, but it did direct Attorney General Katzenbach to file suits against the states that used it. In the ensuing four years, Katzenbach won every one. Millions of southern blacks registered as new voters.

Soon after that, thanks to the courtesy of James Eastland, I was given my first chance at another cause that would become a career passion of mine: immigration.

President Johnson's Great Society program was redressing one social imbalance after another in the mid-sixties. One of these was to dismantle the quota system that since 1924 had allowed masses of northern Europeans to enter the United States, while keeping stringent limits on Asians, Africans, and people of color generally. Jack had cared about immigration reform, but it was what happened to newcomers once they had been allowed in that stirred his conscience: the indignities heaped on the boatloads of poor Irish disembarking at Boston, for instance.

The immigration bill before the Judiciary Committee had been proposed by Emmanuel Celler, the great Democratic congressman from Brooklyn, and was cosponsored by Senator Philip Hart of Michigan. I was happy to accept its management when Eastland offered it to me. Eastland was hardly a champion of immigration reform, but he was a realist. The momentum was running against him, and perhaps he would need a favor from me someday.

My Boston Irish constituency was not thrilled to see me at work reducing Ireland's proportionate access to U.S. citizenship, and some loud voices were raised. But I kept in touch with opposition groups in Massachusetts and managed to calm everyone's fears that the measure would lead to a deluge that would overwhelm American society. The bill passed by seventy-six votes to eighteen on September 22, 1965. President Johnson signed it into law in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.

In October 1965, I had an experience that did not produce such satisfying results.

The issue was a federal judgeship for Francis X. Morrissey, the Boston municipal judge who'd been a friend of our family for years. He was the same Frank Morrissey who'd steered me through the city's political and jurisprudence cultures after I left law school and began to form a career, and who'd reported to Dad on my successes at giving talks and winning acceptance in Boston. Before that, starting in 1946, he had mentored Jack in a similar way, then helped manage Congressman Kennedy's Boston office.

Our father was fond of Frank. He'd seen something noble in Morrissey's classic Irish-American working-class story. Frank was a dockworker's son from Charlestown, a part of Boston across the Charles River, just north of the city proper. He was one of twelve children who'd grown up in a household without electricity. He'd studied law at Suffolk Law School in Boston, taking night courses while working as a bank teller in the daytime.

Dad believed in Frank Morrissey, and in 1961 asked Jack to appoint him as a federal judge. Jack understood the odds, and held the nomination in abeyance.

But now Jack was gone. It was four years later and Dad was frail and in decline from his stroke. I didn't want unfinished business, and I asked him whether he still cared about the Morrissey appointment. He made clear to me that he cared very much. This was the only request my father had ever made of me. Interestingly, Jack had told friends the same thing back in 1961. Jack and I both believed in our father's judgment; and his request for a favor--literally a once-in-a-lifetime event--was just about impossible for either of us to ignore. It was a matter of loyalty.

I backed Frank Morrissey for the federal judgeship. I went to the White House to personally ask President Johnson to nominate him, and the president agreed. With me sitting next to him, the president then placed a call to my father to tell him the news. According to Johnson's own White House tape recordings, he said, "Mr. Ambassador, we are sitting here with Teddy and we're getting ready to recommend your friend Judge Morrissey for the federal bench, and we wanted to tell you about it first."

Then the president handed me the phone. "Dad, well, it looks like you're the man with all of the influence," I said. "The president said he is doing it for all of you and Jack and Bob and myself, so it's really fine. But I think he is giving a little extra push because of your interest in it." My father was overcome with emotion.

As much as I wanted to make my father happy, I understood full well that there would be opposition to Morrissey. And I also wanted to do the right thing. I searched my conscience. I polled senators whose moral clarity I respected, including the deeply principled Phil Hart, whose early support of gun control and school busing inspired recall petitions against him. Senator Hart told me that Morrissey was indeed qualified to assume the federal bench: "He isn't the brightest of all the people we have, but he's certainly very competent and able to handle it." Bobby sent a letter supporting the nominee. Attorney General Katzenbach sent a report to James Eastland saying there was no basis to question the nominee's credibility. The Judiciary Committee recommended Morrissey's confirmation by a vote of six to three.

It wasn't enough. There were surprise revelations about three months of study at a Georgia law school before taking the bar exam there. That angle was featured heavily. The Boston Globe ran a series of articles in opposition to the nomination, and won a Pulitzer Prize for its efforts. The Globe claimed that the candidate had lied about his residency in order to take the Georgia Bar back in 1934. Senators who had been disposed to vote for Morrissey began to back away, including the senior senator from my state, Leverett Saltonstall.

It particularly wounded me that the leader of that insurrection was Senator Joe Tydings of Maryland. Joe and I had come to the Senate at about the same time; he and our wives had been social friends, and he'd blossomed quickly as a courageous champion of such politically perilous causes as gun registration. (The National Rifle Association got its revenge by helping turn him out of office in 1970.) He'd been a friend of Jack's and a political beneficiary of Bobby's esteem. During the hearings, though, Tydings turned on me. He spoke stridently on the Senate floor of judicial standards, implying that Morrissey did not meet them and insisting that he should not be appointed.

When I saw that I was going to be some five votes short on confirmation, I privately told President Johnson that I would abandon my fight for Morrissey. That was on the night of October 20, 1965. The following day, before a packed Senate gallery that included Joan, Ethel, and Eunice, I spoke passionately on Frank's behalf. I traced his impoverished childhood and chided his opponents for holding him to elitist standards.

Then I steeled myself and told the Senate that I recommended the nomination be recommitted to the Judiciary Committee--in effect, withdrawing it. Francis Morrissey's name was never resubmitted. He continued on as a municipal judge, served as a trustee and chair of several Boston institutions, retired in 1980, and died on December 27, 2007, at the age of ninety-seven.

That same afternoon I boarded a flight to Vietnam with a fact-finding congressional delegation that included two good friends: my old Harvard teammate and roommate John Culver, then a congressman from Iowa, and my former moot court partner John Tunney, then a California congressman. My seatmate en route to Saigon, and my roommate for the four days and four nights we were there, was Senator Joseph Tydings. It was about as long and hard an exercise in tongue-biting as I have ever had.

Was my loyalty to Frank Morrissey excessive? To this day, my heart tells me that I was right in championing this man, who was at least the professional equal of many other sitting federal judges. My reason tells me that good and thoughtful lawyers and senators looked at his record and concluded otherwise. Some historians have written that Lyndon Johnson himself played me false in his supposed support for Morrissey, intending to hoodwink me and Bobby: hoping we'd be embarrassed by a negative Senate vote. I never really bought that theory. I thought Johnson played it straight.

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