RIP: Harris Wofford, Aide to Kennedy and King

Wofford, who passed January 21 at the age of 94, was a lawyer and political operative close to both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

What Wofford wrote in his 1980 memoir, Of Kennedy and Kings, underscores the importance of the recent open letter from MLK III, RFK Jr. and some 60 other luminaries calling for a reopening of the investigation of four most important assassinations of the 1960s.

Wofford wrote:

From the findings of the Senate committee, we could begin to understand the burden of knowledge – even of guilt – that Robert Kennedy was carrying in the last years of his life. Together with the findings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979, these facts can account for the grief beyond ordinary grief with which Robert Kennedy wrestled for long months and years. They do not prove that John Kennedy was killed as a result of a conspiracy, but they do suggest that it was not a tragedy without reason.

Robert Kennedy must have considered the story those facts told to be worse than the most terrible fiction. Adding to his burden was the obligation he felt to keep all the key facts secret from most, if not all, of his family and friends, and to try to withhold them forever from the people of this country and the world. Those secrets provided motives for Castro, or the Mafia, or the ClA’s Cuban brigade, or some people in the CIA itself to have conspired to kill the President, yet to preserve the good name of John Kennedy and of the government of the United States they had to be kept from the Warren Commission and from the eyes of history. Also weighing on Robert Kennedy’s mind must have been the risks of blackmail against the government and the family of the murdered President which threatened to make a special hostage of the Attorney General.

From the reconstruction of the record made possible by the Senate and House reports, and from everything we know about the character of Robert Kennedy, I believe that the shock of these discoveries and his realization of what violence, crime, and secret conspiracies can lead to were significant factors in his transformation. Thus, in order to understand Robert Kennedy and his times, the truth about these stories must be sorted out and the painful facts faced. That is what I believe Robert Kennedy did.

h/t John Simkin

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