Fox 11 Archives: An Election Night Victory Turns Tragic - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Fox 11 Archives: An Election Night Victory Turns Tragic

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I was too young to vote in the 1968 presidential election, but old enough to attend some of the local rallies and campaign-related events. It was the first time many of my generation had shown an interest in national politics, and 1968 was an exciting year for those following the presidential campaign. President Johnson had announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, and in Southern California Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy were in a tight primary race. One day in late May, while I was at the L.A. Farmers Market, Kennedy made a short campaign stop; one of several southland visits that day. The senator wasn’t there long, and before I could get close enough to see him in the flesh, and maybe snap a photo or two, he and his entourage rolled out of the parking lot.

I watched television coverage of Kennedy’s visit on the news that evening, and about a week later on election night caught his victory speech, broadcast live from the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard. I must have turned off the set right after his speech, because I don’t remember seeing anything about the assassination that night. The next morning, it was all over the news. The focus was on the alleged killer, a guy with two first – or last – names, Sirhan Sirhan.

The school campus was unusually quiet that day. I think people were in shock. Only two months earlier the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot to death in Memphis. Now Kennedy was dead. The two murders just knocked the wind out of people, especially young people, and suddenly 1968 – and perhaps the future – seemed very dark. A teen’s world view tends to be either bright or bleak.

The Ambassador Hotel closed in 1989 and was demolished several years ago. I went to the auction of hotel remnants that was held there right before the demolition. It was eerie to walk into the kitchen pantry, near the passageway where Sirhan ambushed Kennedy. After the auction there was talk of preserving that portion of the hotel, but that didn’t happen. I recall that even the Kennedy family had no interest in such a project. In time, the L.A. Unified School District built six schools on the site. Fittingly, LAUSD named the campus The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.

I’ve included two rare video clips of Channel 11’s coverage of events at the Ambassador that night 46 years ago, along with a shot of the next day’s newspaper headline.



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