Share this article

print logo

Sept. 8, 1964: Bobby Kennedy wows crowd at Kleinhans

10 months after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, his brother Bobby got the blessing of New York Democrats to run for the U.S. Senate.

On Sept. 8, 1964, a crowd of 6,000 jammed into Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, giving the candidate a rock star's welcome.


The Buffalo Evening News article about the Kleinhans rally (excerpt) by Jack Meddoff, The News' political reporter for 40 years: 

6,000 Jam Kleinhans, Go Wild Over Bobby and Memory of JFK

By Jack Meddoff

Kleinhans Music Hall bulged Tuesday night like never before as deafening shouts and roars bounced off the walls in a tumultuous welcome to Robert F. Kennedy on his first Buffalo visit as the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator.

Seldom, if ever, has a first-time candidate for high public office come to Buffalo and raised such a storm of shrieking and screaming humanity.

The approximately 6,000 persons sandwiched tightly in the main hall and overflowing into the Mary Seaton Room threw aside all restraint and gave vent to pent-up emotions as though they had come more to see the brother of late President John F. Kennedy than to hear him speak as a candidate.

Bobby Kennedy gets a rock star welcome at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo on Sept. 8, 1964. (News file photo)

Bobby Kennedy gets a rock star welcome at Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo on Sept. 8, 1964. (News file photo)

Speaks Without Notes

Mr. Kennedy sensed this and aroused the crowd almost to a frenzy with nostalgic references to the human aspirations and hopes of the martyred President. His own expressed hope of carrying on in the Senate the objectives of the late President brought more ear-shattering outbursts.

Tired after a grueling day of campaigning, his clothing showing the wear and tear of being grasped by well-wishers at almost every step, Mr. Kennedy stood on the crowded stage of Kleinhans and spoke without notes, easily and conversationally, as though talking informally with a group of friends.

First he spoke in a light vein, then on a more somber note.


Recalls Progress

After jesting and quipping a bit, Mr. Kennedy turned serious, as part of a broad speech in which he touched on a number of subjects:

"The November election is a critical and crucial one. In 1960 John F. Kennedy thought a crucial election was ahead and he called for those who felt that the U.S. could do better to support him on the basis that he could get America moving again.

"We made progress in the last three and a half years by realizing that there were problems to be solved and by facing up to them. And that's what I think this election is about.

Traces Accomplishments

"In 1900 we had the slowest growth of any industrial nation in the world and now we have the fastest. That didn't just happen, it was made to happen. Here in Buffalo, you had 10 percent unemployment, now it's down to 3 percent but it's still too high."

Mr. Kennedy swiftly traced the accomplishments of the last three and a half years in national and international affairs, the buildup of the defense structure, firmness of meeting the Russian threat in Cuba, forward strides at home in economic and human-welfare fields, all of which, he declared, were "possible because of the leadership of President Kennedy and the Democratic administration."

Bobby Kennedy arrives at the Buffalo airport for a campaign stop in his bid to represent New York state in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 8, 1964. (News file photo)

Bobby Kennedy arrives at the Buffalo airport for a campaign stop in his bid to represent New York state in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 8, 1964. (News file photo)

Calls Issue "Fundamental"

"We still have problems," Mr. Kennedy went on as he switched to his own candidacy. "We have [hundreds of thousands] unemployed, a shortage of 15,000 school classrooms, a shortage of teachers, transportation is not what it should be, over a million people living in overcrowded housing, two million over 65 and more than one million of them with inadequate incomes.'"

"This election comes down to a fundamental question. On one hand you have the Republican Party - 'Stand Pat with McKinley' and 'Back to Normalcy with Harding' and 'Keep Cool with Coolidge.'"

Mr. Kennedy paused a moment, looking quizzically at the audience, and added:

"I don't know doing what with Goldwater."

Outburst Is Hysterical

The crowd roared approval.

"On the other side," Mr. Kennedy resumed, "You have Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy."

This mention of his brother's name sent the crowd into another hysterical outburst, the thousands rising simultaneously and yelling until exhausted.

"The question is, " Mr. Kennedy went on when able, "whether we want to continue with that kind of effort, or go back. I saw in the last three and a half years the importance of one person. One person can make a tremendous difference."

"If there was anything that president Kennedy stood for, it was the idea that everybody should participate in government. With the major problems facing us all over the world, it really requires the participation of all of us. We all have a responsibility to become involved."

"What is required in this country is responsibility of individuals. Those of us who are comfortable should think of our neighbors in this state and all around the world who don't have an easy time. We don't turn our backs just because we happen to be comfortable."







There are no comments - be the first to comment