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South Coast Journalist Recalls Assassination Of Robert F. Kennedy As 50th Anniversary Is Marked

It was June 4th, 1968, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy had just won the California Presidential primary.

The biggest victory of his career would turn to tragedy minutes later, when Kennedy was shot, and fatally wounded as he was leaving the Los Angeles ballroom where he made his victory speech. That night is history for most of us, but for a Ventura journalist, it’s a memory.

Ivor Davis was a young reporter for the London Daily Express newspaper who had been assigned to cover Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

For nearly two weeks, Davis followed him up and down the state. Kennedy’s California campaign even included a stops in Santa Barbara, Oxnard and Ventura.

By Election Day, June 4th, 1968, the young candidate was exhausted. It wasn’t until after midnight that the results were clear enough that Kennedy stepped into the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel to claim victory. He spoke for a few minutes to supporters. He then left the ballroom, headed to a press conference.

The entourage cut through the hotel’s kitchen and pantry area. That was where a 24 year old man was waiting with a gun. He fired a volley of shots, hitting Kennedy three times. Davis was trailing behind the group. He heard some pops, which he thought were balloons popping. As he entered the pantry area, he saw Kennedy on the ground, bleeding, and chaos as a group of people struggled to get a pistol away from the gunman, Sirhan Sirhan.

Kennedy died 26 hours later.

Davis covered Sirhan’s trial. He was convicted and sentenced to death, but a few years later a State Supreme Court ruling negated California’s death penalty, turning it into life with the possibility of parole. Sirhan is now 74, and remains in state prison for the killing.

Davis admits it’s hard to believe it’s been a half century, but says it was a tragedy you can’t forget.  Davis will speak about that fateful night in a Museum of Ventura County event. The talk, called “The Night Bobby Died” will take place Wednesday night at 6:30, at the Museum in downtown Ventura.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.