The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy fractured the nation just two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and five years after his brother John F. Kennedy was killed. But RFK’s funeral, particularly the train that took his body from New York City, following a funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, to Washington, D.C., brought the country together: An estimated 2 million ordinary Americans gathered beside railroad tracks to honor him as the train passed by.
On board the train that day, on assignment for LOOKmagazine, was staff photographer Paul Fusco, who ended up taking thousands of photographs of mourning faces, tributes, and patriotic displays along the way. The photos show Americans of all colors and classes. Catholic schoolgirls, field hands, firefighters, blue-collar workers and housewives in their bonnets create a tableau of those who came to say farewell to the man many knew simply as “Bobby.” Some climbed fence posts to get a better view. Some saluted. Others stood rock-ribbed straight. Some waved American flags or handmade posters: “So Long Bobby.” Others turned from work to see what was happening as the maroon train car holding his coffin rolled by en route to Washington, and from there to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
This collection of photographs ended up becoming more than a document of Kennedy’s final journey; they became a powerful collective portrait of America at a pivotal moment in history. Gathered in this article, images of that trip from the LOOK Magazine Collection in the Library of Congress.
(Photo credit: Paul Fusco / Library of Congress).