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They were Kentucky’s poorest, most desperate people. And he was a Kennedy with an entourage.

Now, a year later, Kennedy traveled to eastern Kentucky’s coal country ... visited people in their beat-up homes and tapped into a “deep vein of disillusionment,” as described at the time by William Greider, then a reporter for the Louisville ...

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Harry Caudill walked in Eastern Kentucky with U.SSenRobert Kennedy in February 1968Kennedy, who toured Appalachia to study its poverty, soon would declare himself a presidential candidateHe was assassinated later that year Photo Provided Harry Caudill walked in Eastern Kentucky with U.SSenRobert Kennedy in February 1968Kennedy, who toured Appalachia to study its poverty, soon would declare himself a presidential candidateHe was assassinated later that year Photo Provided jQuery(document).ready(function () { mi.leadAssets.init(); }); State They were Kentucky’s poorest, most desperate peopleAnd he was a Kennedy with an entourage. By Paul Schwartzman The Washington Post LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Reddit Print Order Reprint of this Story $(document).ready(function () { mi.articleShareTools.init({ nextLinkedin: '10267', nextPinterest: '10221' }); mi.socialSharingScroll.init(); }); February 23, 2018 02:50 PM The boy was 11 years old and had never seen a man in the middle of winter with a suntan and such straight teeth in his corner of the United States, the small towns baked into the impoverished hills of eastern Kentucky. But here was SenRobert FKennedy in February of 1968, in a gray coat and dark, narrow tie, his sandy brown hair falling over his foreheadThe senator stood on the steps of the Letcher County courthouse, a horde of citizens gazing in wonder at him and the ungainly caravan of reporters documenting his every step in those days when everyone expected him to announce his candidacy for president. “I stood really close to him - I was able to do that - and that was the first time I’d seen someone with a suntan in winter,” Benjamin Gish, now 61, said 50 years later“I asked my mom how was that possible? And she said, ‘Only wealthy people can have suntans in February.’ It was like a big star had come to townI was amazed just seeing him there.” In those months before he ran for president, Kennedy commanded public attention opposing the Vietnam War and criticizing President Lyndon Johnson. jQuery(document).ready(function () { mi.renderNewsletterIframe.init({ container: '#newsletter-signUpWidget', url: ',,' }); }); Never miss a local story. Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access. SUBSCRIBE NOW jQuery(document).ready(function () { mi.calltoActionCtrl.init(); }); But he was also preoccupied with the scourge of poverty and hunger, a focus that had taken him to Bedford-Stuyvesant, a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn, and to the Mississippi Delta, where he was seen wiping away tears after venturing into a family’s shack and meeting a child with a distended stomach who was listless from malnourishment. Now, a year later, Kennedy traveled to eastern Kentucky’s coal country, a region that one local leader told him accounted for 20 of the nation’s 30 poorest counties; where a doctor told Kennedy that 18 percent of the population was underweight and 50 percent suffered from intestinal parasites; where one man, Clister Johnson of Partridge, Kentucky, told him that he, his wife and nine children survived on a monthly income of $60. “They’re desperate and filled with despair,” Kennedy told a television reporter“It seems to me that in this country, as wealthy as we are, this is an intolerable conditionIt reflects on all of usWe can do things all over the rest of the world but I think we should do things for people in our own country.” Semantic approach is to add css styling --> SenRobert FKennedy, left, shook hands with supporters after arriving at Blue Grass Field Feb13, 1968, before beginning a two-day tour of poverty areas in Eastern KentuckyKentucky’s U.Ssenator John Sherman Cooper, center, met Kennedy at the airport Herald-Leader Over the course of two days, Kennedy traveled 300 miles in Appalachia, stopping in towns with names such as Neon and Hazard and Pippa PassesHe held two public hearings, one of them in a one-room schoolhouse, visited people in their beat-up homes and tapped into a “deep vein of disillusionment,” as described at the time by William Greider, then a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Don’t Give Us Anymore Promises,” read a banner at one stop“We Can’t Eat Your Fancy Promises.” “It was a really scary time for the country, which was fracturing into multiple pieces, and Bobby Kennedy acted in the spirit of the moment,” Greider recalled recently“I can still picture him talking to street crowds in Chicago and New York, spinning it out with full feeling, emotion and thoughtThat was his brillianceHe was not a bleeding heart until that seasonIt was in that moment that he captured the spirit of the liberal discontentNot just in eastern Kentucky but everywhere.” The trip was organized by Peter Edelman and Tom Johnston, two of Kennedy’s aides who consulted with local leaders such as Tom Gish, editor of the Mountain Eagle, the local newspaper that his son, Ben, now runsThe one detail that they failed to plan for was the crush of reporters who followed Kennedy, forming a caravan of 30 or 40 cars that clogged the winding roads. “We should have had a bus, but it never occurred to us,” said Edelman, now 80, a Georgetown University law professor, who can remember journalists desperately trying to keep up with the senator, arriving at stops just as Kennedy was departingThey fumed that they were missing their story, the words for which they dictated over the phone to rewrite desks back at their offices. Greider, who would later write for The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and the Nation, said he was “put off by the theatrics and manipulation” as he approached the trip, a sense that Kennedy was stringing along the public and the press, which was awaiting word on whether he would run. Yet Greider said he saw something during those two days in Kentucky that “captured me and changed my mind a little bit about Bobby Kennedy.” It occurred at a schoolhouse, where the senator and his entourage arrived to find six or eight students and their teacher “who were in shock when we stormed inTerrifiedThey didn’t know what this was, they had never heard of Bobby Kennedy or national politics.” “These kids were hunkered down at their desks, hoping that this storm would pass, and he grasped immediately that this was a horror show,” Greider said“He went around, one by one, kneeling by their desksHe didn’t say very muchHe nodded at them, talked to them in whispers, held their handsIt was such a human responseThis was a side of the politician you don’t see very often.” Semantic approach is to add css styling --> SenRobert FKennedy, center, shook hands with Governor A.BHappy Chandler after arriving at Lexington’s Blue Grass Field, Feb 13, 1968, before beginning a two-day tour of poverty areas in Eastern KentuckyAt left is Harry Sykes, Lexington’s first black city commissioner Herald-Leader Not everyone embraced the senator’s visit, particularly those who objected to an outsider parachuting into their community as if they could not help themselvesEdward Murphy, a Kentucky state lawmaker, claimed that the senator had “insulted” the state by focusing on poverty and conveying to the nation a negative impression of the state. But the articles and photographs that appeared in the newspapers told another story - “Senator Kennedy was cheered as if he were a candidate,” reported the New York Times, which described “cries of ‘Please run for president.’ “ “It showed people that we had somebody in Washington who cared what was happening to us,” Ben Gish said. A month after his visit, Kennedy announced his candidacy for presidentHe was assassinated three months later, news that Ben Gish learned by turning on his parents’ television the following morning, the announcer’s somber pronouncements freezing him. Gish had already lived through John FKennedy’s assassination, after which he recalls he and his friends somehow being afraid that the airplanes flying over eastern Kentucky were actually Russian bombers about to attack the United StatesFive years later, he had no such fears as he learned of the senator’s deathInstead, he felt a sadness that lingers half a century later. “It was very confusing and upsetting,” he recalled“It just blew me away.” SenJohn Sherman Cooper, center with hat in hand, introduced Robert FKennedy, center right, at Blue Grass Field Feb13, 1968, in LexingtonKennedy came to Kentucky for a two day tour of poverty areas in Eastern KentuckyBehind Kennedy at center is Tom Hammond, then working for WVLK, Pat Prosser, WLAP and Lexington Leader photographer Frank Anderson,right JOHN CWYATT LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER lazyLoadingModule("inlinegallery-template-201806589", "inlinegallery-target-201806589", "gallery",500, undefined, undefined, undefined, "undefined", 201806589 , 1 ); Suggested for you lazyLoadingModule("zerg-template", "zerg-target", "zerg",500, undefined, undefined, undefined, "53301", undefined , undefined );   Comments   Needs to be visible to set the correct height of the comment componentI'm hiding it on document readyAppending it later did not work--> jQuery(document).ready(function () { mi.commentingFaceboook.init(); }); Videos SHARE COPY LINK More Videos Video Link copy Embed Code copy Facebook Twitter Email wpsRequire([ 'legacy-video' ], function ( video ) { return[{"id":"202172229","publication":"kentucky","brightcoveId":"","asset_type":"videoIngest","url":"","duration":"0:21","poster":"//","title":"Deer runs through downtown Louisville and dives into Ohio River","description":"Deer runs through downtown Louisville and dives into Ohio River 0:21","displayDescription":"A woman taking flooding pictures near the Galt House downtown was surprised when a running deer showed up and plunged into the Ohio River.","videographer":"","credit":"Facebook/Samantha Moore","published":1519667622,"sources":[{"src":"//","type":"video/mp4"},{"src":"//","type":"video/mp4"},{"src":"//","type":"application/x-mpegURL"}],"ads":[{"publication":"kentucky","tag":"//","lang":"en","sz":"400x300","vpos":"preroll","cust_params":"sect=state&id=202172229&eid=201806609&vidlength=short&pl="}],"langCode":"en","brightcoveData":{"account":"","policyKey":"BCpkADawqM0t4aWUwOHWSCwx3mgmeRyLa66dBNb1WQQSVL4VoBk7TLqUVm-_2_XIJhjy8rw3EPc7KWWbmGrCe1IJcQZdJB-sshOfgKxpuWUEPqhgyq9Bs914AR5wr4xzGafgwPHIJAYafmQM"}},{"id":"202191359","publication":"kentucky","brightcoveId":"","asset_type":"videoIngest","url":"","duration":"2:18","poster":"//","title":"Aerial view of Louisville and Cincinnati flooding","description":"Aerial view of Louisville and Cincinnati flooding 2:18","displayDescription":"The Ohio River, seen from a drone on Sunday, when it crested at 60.53 feet, the highest river level since March 1997Shown here are views from along the river at Louisville and Cincinnati.","videographer":"Ben Childers","credit":"","published":1519673570,"sources":[{"src":"//","type":"video/mp4"},{"src":"//","type":"video/mp4"},{"src":"//","type":"application/x-mpegURL"}],"ads":[{"publication":"kentucky","tag":"//","lang":"en","sz":"400x300","vpos":"preroll","cust_params":"sect=ece_incoming&id=202191359&eid=201806609&vidlength=long&pl="}],"langCode":"en","brightcoveData":{"account":"","policyKey":"BCpkADawqM0t4aWUwOHWSCwx3mgmeRyLa66dBNb1WQQSVL4VoBk7TLqUVm-_2_XIJhjy8rw3EPc7KWWbmGrCe1IJcQZdJB-sshOfgKxpuWUEPqhgyq9Bs914AR5wr4xzGafgwPHIJAYafmQM"}},{"id":"201741199","publication":"kentucky","brightcoveId":"","asset_type":"videoIngest","url":"","duration":"1:17","poster":"//","title":"'We're all getting shorted money.' 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