A future U.S. attorney general and U.S. senator from one of America’s most prominent political families addressed an agricultural awards dinner audience 60 years ago this week in Grant County, Wis.
Robert F. Kennedy was a congressional lawyer investigating corruption when he spoke in Lancaster in February 1960.
His older brother, John F. Kennedy, was running for the Democratic nomination for president at the time of the visit, but Robert Kennedy avoided speaking about the campaign during his appearance at the annual Outstanding Young Farmer award night.
Instead, Kennedy discussed his own work rooting out corruption as chief counsel for the United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management, colloquially known as the “Senate Rackets Committee.” The committee investigated alleged criminal practices associated with labor-management relations, including allegations against the Teamsters union and its Midwestern leader, Jimmy Hoffa.
Here is how the Telegraph Herald reported on Kennedy’s visit in its Feb. 11, 1960, edition.
ROBERT KENNEDY OPENS NON-POLITICAL TOUR
LANCASTER, Wis. — Robert Kennedy started off the Wisconsin primary election campaign in Grant County Wednesday night for his brother, Sen. John Kennedy, with a non-political speech.
Robert Kennedy told a rural audience of 300 about his activities the past three years as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee. He reviewed his investigations of the International Teamsters Union, which “is riddled with gangsters and hoodlums.”
The young Democrat did not mention his brother’s candidacy for the White House, nor his brother’s battle with Hubert Humphrey for Wisconsin Democratic convention votes this winter.
The banquet, held in the St. Clement’s School gymnasium, was the annual Outstanding Young Farmer award night sponsored by the Lancaster Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Kennedy congratulated Grant County’s 1960 outstanding young farmer, Harvey Kieler, of Cuba City, for his contribution to better farming.
Kennedy cited corrupt unions and businesses and television quiz scandals as examples of the widespread breakdown of morals in this country.
“You are the backbone of this country,” he said. “This greatness of ours in material standards has dulled our moral fiber. Don’t let corruption touch you.”
“This audience is in stark contrast with the people that I have been dealing with the past three years as a Senate investigator,” he said. “You people are giving to society and the people I have been investigating have been trying to tear it down.”