Kennedy, Robert Francis, Jr. (1954 – ) American Environmental Lawyer
Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. (1954 – )
American environmental lawyer
Robert "Bobby" Kennedy Jr. had a very controversial youth. Kennedy entered a drug rehabilitation program, at the age of 28, after being found guilty of drug possession following the South Dakota incident. He was sentenced to two years probation and community service.
Clearly the incident was a turning point in Bobby's life. "Let's just say, I had a tumultuous adolescence that lasted until I was 29," he told a reporter for New York magazine, which ran a long profile of Kennedy in 1995, entitled "Nature Boy." The title refers to the passion which has enabled Kennedy to emerge from his bleak years as a strong and vital participant in environmental causes.
A Harvard graduate and published author, Kennedy serves as chief prosecuting attorney for a group called the Hudson Riverkeeper (named after the famed New York river) and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council . Kennedy, who earlier in his career served as assistant district attorney in New York City after passing the bar, is also a clinical professor and supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace University School of Law in New York.
While Kennedy appeared to be following in the family's political footsteps, working, for example, on several political campaigns and serving as a state coordinator for his Uncle Ted's 1980 presidential campaign, it is in environmental issues that Bobby Jr. has found himself. He has worked on environmental issues across the Americas and has assisted several indigenous tribes in Latin America and Canada in successfully negotiating treaties protecting traditional homelands. He is also credited with leading the fight to protect New York City's water supply, a battle which resulted in the New York City Watershed Agreement, regarded as an international model for combining development and environmental concerns.
Opportunity was always around the corner for a young, confident and intelligent Kennedy. After Harvard, Bobby Jr. earned a law degree at the University of Virginia. In 1978, the subject of Kennedy's Harvard thesis—a prominent Alabama judge—was named head of the FBI. A publisher offered Bobby money to expand his previous research into a book, published in 1978, called Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.: A Biography.
Bobby did a publicity tour which included TV appearances, but the reviews were mixed. In 1982, Bobby married Emily Black, a Protestant who later converted to Catholicism. Two children followed: Robert Francis Kennedy III and Kathleen Alexandra, named for Bobby's Aunt Kathleen, who died in a plane crash in 1948.
The marriage, however, coincided with Bobby's fallout through drug addiction. In 1992, Bobby and Emily separated, and a divorce was obtained in the Dominican Republic. In 1994, Bobby married Mary Richardson, an architect, with whom he would have two more children.
During this time Bobby emerged as a leading environmental activist and litigator. Kennedy is quoted as saying: "To me...this is a struggle of good and evil between short-term greed and a long-term vision of building communities that are dignified and enriching and that meet the obligations of future generations . There are two visions of America. One is that this is just a place where you make a pile for yourself and keep moving. And the other is that you put down roots and build communities that are examples to the rest of humanity." Kennedy goes on: "The environment cannot be separated from the economy, housing, civil rights. How we distribute the goods of the earth is the best measure of our democracy. It's not about advocating for fishes and birds. It's about human rights."
Young Kennedys: The New Generation. Avon, 1998.
Biography Resource Center Online. Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group. 2002.