Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Portland, Oregon, October 25, 1966.
In 1966 as a 19-year-old cub photographer working for the Oregon Journal, I had the opportunity to photograph Sen. Robert Kennedy when he came to town. Kennedy was the first national politician I covered, and he made one hell of an impression. Like most people my age now, I’ll never forget where I was when it was announced that his brother President John F. Kennedy was shot three years earlier, so seeing him was particularly meaningful to me. I was also struck by LIFE Magazine photographer Bill Eppridge who was traveling with Kennedy. Eppridge, as big a league photographer as there was, gave a hand to this panicked young photog when I couldn’t figure out how to get through the crowded labor hall into the right spot. He not only led me through the throng, but guided me to the best position to get a good shot. It was an unselfish act that informed the rest of my career as an example of how to treat others.
But the capper wasn’t that moment. After the event Sen. Kennedy, his staff, and press corps, made their way to Portland International Airport in a ragtag motorcade. I followed them to get one last photo of Kennedy before he left. A DC-3, its engines idling, waited on the tarmac. Senator Kennedy bound up the stairs, turned, waved, then entered the plane. But it was Eppridge who provided the decisive moment. The lanky photographer climbed the aircraft steps, looked around for one last photo, then ducked inside. Its door closed, and the old DC-3 taxied out and took off. I felt like Rick in the final scene of Casablanca. It was the moment that changed my life. I wanted to be on that plane, to document those who were making history. That flight not taken led to countless others that I did. Thanks to Robert and Bill for showing me the path. I will never forget you.
Photo by David Hume Kennerly with an assist by Bill Eppridge
Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona: David Hume Kennerly Archive.
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents
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Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for his Vietnam War and other photos. Pres. Ford’s chief White House photographer. Still at it.