NEBRASKA CITY – Robert Kennedy brought his presidential campaign to Nebraska City 50 years ago today and his visit is still remembered here.
Gregg Niday of Syracuse was a one-year-older among the 2,000 people who attended a rally at the Otoe County Courthouse lawn.
His mom and grandmother came down from Kearney Hill to the courthouse. They often retold the story of how they met Kennedy and how he gave Niday a kiss as he was held in his mother’s arms.
Niday: “I always remember my mom telling me the story that Robert Kennedy kissed me on the courtyard, at the courthouse. It was a big moment in her life, just being able to meet him.”
He said growing up his family would sit on the courthouse lawn during Arbor Day and AppleJack Parades and retell the story about the presidential hopeful.
Niday: “it was just something special that I will never forget. It’s such a tragedy that after a month later he passed and got assassinated.”
At a Los Angeles hotel, Kennedy went to meet the kitchen staff. In a crowded passageway he was shot and mortally wounded by Sirhan Sirhan.
Niday said his high school friends celebrated the campaign kiss.
Niday: “You always called me the blessed one because I was kissed by a Kennedy, but I don’t know how true that is.”
Kennedy had campaigned in Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon and South Dakota in the spring of 1968. Local news accounts noted that Kennedy felt a victory in the Nebraska primary would give him momentum going into the California primary.
The civil rights leader was considered popular among working class whites, blacks, Hispanics and farm workers.
Nebraska City Mayor Rober McKissick bestowed honorary citizenship on Sen. Kennedy.