Check River, Stream Levels Near You

Remembering Robert F. Kennedy’s Visit to Scranton 50 Years after his Assassination

SCRANTON, Pa. -- 50 years ago, a little more than 24 hours after he was gravely wounded, New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy died.

As biographers note, his trip to Scranton four years earlier gave Kennedy a renewed sense of purpose after the killing of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy had just won the California primary as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States. It was a major victory, but the celebrations soon turned to horror.

Following the win, Kennedy was shot multiple times and died the next day on June 6, 50 years ago today.

"In 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated, it was so unbelievable to us, and to have it happen again so rapidly and then of course shortly before that, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated," local historian, Nick Petula said. "We think today is tumultuous, but I think 1968 was the most tumultuous time since the Civil War."

On a rainy and cold St. Patrick's Day in March of 1964, Robert F. Kennedy made a visit to Scranton, which was his first public appearance since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Nick Petula was 16 years old at the time. He had the opportunity of meeting Bobby Kennedy, who many predicted would be the future president of the United States.

"We kind of planned where we were going to try and see him and get close to him," Petula recalled. "Fortunately, we were close enough to shake hands, see him close up and say a few words. It was a historic and memorable event for us."

During Bobby Kennedy's visit to the Electric City in 1964, he was a part of the groundbreaking at John F. Kennedy Elementary School on Prospect Avenue in Scranton.

Petula remembers being there that day and recalls seeing thousands of people in attendance.

"They treated him like a rock star," Petula added. "There's no doubt. There was pushing and shoving. Girls were screaming, massive crowds, 5,000 people at the school, thousands of people in downtown Scranton. There had been thousands of people at the airport and, of course, the (Friendly) Sons of St. Patrick dinner was a complete sellout."

Newswatch 16 stopped by John F. Kennedy Elementary School. The principal there tells us that was the first school in the country named after JFK following his assassination: a big reason Bobby Kennedy visited Scranton in 1964.