Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary

Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary

Ray E. Boomhower
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/11/2008
Format: Hardback 30 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-35089-3
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Winner, Best Book of Indiana Journalism, Indiana Pro Chapter, Society of Professional Journalists

On April 4, 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., arrived in Indiana to campaign for the Indiana Democratic presidential primary. As Kennedy prepared to fly from an appearance in Muncie to Indianapolis, he learned that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been shot outside his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Before his plane landed in Indianapolis, Kennedy heard the news that King had died. Despite warnings from Indianapolis police that they could not guarantee his safety, and brushing off concerns from his own staff, Kennedy decided to proceed with plans to address an outdoor rally to be held in the heart of the city's African American community. On that cold and windy evening, Kennedy broke the news of King's death in an impassioned, extemporaneous speech on the need for compassion in the face of violence. It has proven to be one of the great speeches in American political history.

Marking the 40th anniversary of Kennedy's Indianapolis speech, this book explains what brought the politician to Indiana that day, and explores the characters and events of the 1968 Indiana Democratic presidential primary in which Kennedy, who was an underdog, had a decisive victory.

Author Bio

Ray E. Boomhower is senior editor of the Indiana Historical Society's journal Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History and author of Gus Grissom: The Lost Astronaut, Jacob Piatt Dunn Jr.: A Life in History and Politics, 1855–1924 and The Soldier's Friend: A Life of Ernie Pyle. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.


“Winner, Best Book of Indiana, Journalism Winner, Best Books of Indiana, Nonfiction Historical/Biographical Author Ray Boomhower is the 2010 Regional Indiana Authors Award winner”

“Boomhower offers a compelling look at a brief few weeks in 1968 when Hoosiers found themselves at the center of a dynamic struggle over a Presidential nomination and the future direction of our nation. Along the way, he gives readers insight into the tensions, tragedy and emotions of a singular moment—Senator Robert Kennedy's remarks in Indianapolis just hours after Dr. Martin Luther King had been shot—and provides a deeper understanding of one of the more significant events in our nation's long, contentious civil rights journey.”
 — Evan Bayh, former U.S. Senator

“A first-rate book: well-researched, balanced, weaving a compelling narrative of an inspiring American and an idealistic time.”
 — Lee H. Hamilton, former U.S. Representative and author of How Congress Works and Why You Should Care

“Boomhower's account of the 1968 Indiana primary is a highly readable monograph that contextualizes the campaign quite well. . . . The book is a valuable contribution to RFK scholarship and sheds new light on the inner workings of one of Kennedy's most important political endeavors.Vol. 41, no. 2, June 2011”
 — Presidential Studies Quarterly

“You do not have to be from Indiana to read this book. Insights on politics and electioneering in the United States abound.November 2008”
 — William Doherty, H-Net Reviews

“Boomhower's book provides a good account of the Indiana primary, an account that is at its best as history. It makes very good use of archival materials, blending primary and secondary sources into a compelling narrative. The narrative itself is rich with detail and deepens our understanding of several key aspects of the campaign. ”
 — Rhetoric and Public Affairs

“This book is a must-read for anyone interested in presidential politics.March 2009”
 — Indiana Magazine of History

“Well-written and handsomely packaged in the style of Kennedy's campaign flyers, Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary will likely stand as the definitive historical account of that contest. . . . this book is a solid scholarly contribution to the continued debate over the significance of Kennedy's presidential candidacy . . . Winter 2008”
 — Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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Table of Contents


1. A Landmark for Peace
2. The Decision
3. The Governor
4. The Speech
5. The Campaign
6. The Voters Speak
7. The Train

Appendix: Robert F. Kennedy's Speech in Indianapolis, April 4, 1968
Selected Bibliography