Charlayne Hunter-Gault recalls a visit from Robert F. Kennedy in the spring of 1961, when she was one of the first black students at the University of Georgia. He made it clear he was a supporter.
Robert Kennedy Shows His Commitment to Civil Rights
Ms. CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In the spring of ’61, I had been at the University of Georgia just a few months. There had been an awful reception when Hamilton Holmes and I went there in January of that year as the first two blacks students. We’d gone under court order, and students rioted outside of my dormitory. What I always found amazing was that he was in fact invited for Law Day because it was the law students who had organized the riot outside of my dorm.
Unidentified Man: The honorable Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Mrs. HUNTER-GAULT: And I was saying, I wonder how much he knows about what has really gone on here. I wonder if he even knows my name.
Attorney General ROBERT F. KENNEDY: The graduation at this university of Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, will without question aide and assist the fight against communist political infiltration and even guerilla warfare.
Mrs. HUNTER-GAULT: I almost couldn’t catch my breath. Of course, he was sending a message. He was sending a message to them in that room. “Don’t you touch them.”
Attorney General KENNEDY: Thank you very much.
Mrs. HUNTER-GAULT: And I congratulated him on his speech and thanked him, and he was saying, you know, that he was glad to meet me and that he was really glad to be there, and of course this moment was lost on nobody.
Editor's Note: On April 4, 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy was on the campaign trail in Indianapolis, Indiana, seeking the Democratic nomination for president when he received word that civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated that day in Memphis, Tennessee. Senator Kennedy had been set to deliver a stump speech to a mostly African-American audience. He decided to skip his prepared speech. Instead, he delivered improvised remarks, speaking from the back of a flatbed truck.