The Kennedy Legacy

Not just politics as usual

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr


January 17, 1954

”We protect nature not for nature’s sake but for our own sake because it’s the infrastructure of our communities, and if we want to meet the obligations of our civilization and our culture which are to create communities for our children that provide them with the same opportunities for dignity and enrichment as the communities that our parents gave us, we’ve got to start by protecting that infrastructure; the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the landscapes that enrich us.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was born on January 17, 1954, in Washington, D.C., to Ethel Skakel Kennedy and former New York senator and U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy. One of 11 children born to Ethel and Robert F. Kennedy—a Democrat senator for New York and U.S. attorney general, who was assassinated in 1968—Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the nephew of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy and former U.S. senator Ted Kennedy. At a young age, he was taught to value a strong education and political activism.

After graduating from Millbrook Academy in Gloucestershire, England, Kennedy attended Harvard University and the London School of Ethics, receiving a bachelor’s degree in American history and literature in 1976. He went on to obtain doctorate and master’s degrees in law from the University of Virgina and Pace University, respectively, and began working for Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the Hudson River, soon after.

Personal Life

Kennedy married Emily Ruth Black in 1982, and nearly one year later, he was arrested for heroin possession at a Rapid City, South Dakota, airport. Police reportedly found 183 milligrams of heroin in his luggage. Kennedy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years’ probation, drug testing and treatment, and several hours of community service. Not long after, the charge was expunged from his record.

Kennedy and Emily had two children, Robert and Kathleen, before divorcing in March 1994. Less than one month later, Kennedy married Mary Richardson during a ceremony that was held aboard a ship on the Hudson River. They had four children, Conor, Kyra, William and Aiden. On May 12, 2010, Kennedy filed for divorce from Mary Richardson Kennedy, and shortly after, she was arrested for drunk driving on two separate occasions. Mary Kennedy was found dead in her home on May 16, 2012, and it was later determined that she had died of asphyxiation due to hanging.

Environmental Activism

In 1998, Kennedy co-founded a bottled water company, Tear of the Clouds LLC, with Chris Bartle and John Hoving. In 2004, he became a co-host—along with Mike Papantonio and Sam Seder—of Ring of Fire, a syndicated U.S. talk radio show that focuses on American politics.

In the mid-2000s, Kennedy’s work centered on advocating for renewable energy development and encouraging citizens to protect their local waterways. In May of 2010, he was named a “Hero for the Planet” by for his work with Riverkeeper, helping to restore the Hudson River. Kennedy’s environmental activism also includes writing two books and several articles on issues affecting the environment.