Andy Williams and Robert F. Kennedy

Marking the passing of Andy Williams, The Atlantic’s David A. Graham has a great piece on the singer’s friendship with Robert F. Kennedy. On the night of June 5, 1968, it often has been reported that Williams was in Kennedy’s suite at the Ambassador Hotel waiting for the senator to return after giving a victory speech to supporters in the ballroom below. But according to an interview he gave to the Daily Telegraph, Williams was not at the hotel but waiting to meet up with Kennedy later, watching the speech on TV along with his then-wife Claudine Longet.

The Daily Telegraph: “On the June night in 1968 that Bobby Kennedy won the election for
California’s delegates to the Democratic presidential convention, the
senator concluded his televised victory speech with a secret signal to
Andy and [his then-wife] Claudine, who were watching at home.

‘It was almost midnight and we were going to meet up at the Factory,
which was a very trendy disco. Claudine and I were half-dressed and were
lounging on the bed waiting for Bobby to make the little hand gesture
that was the signal to leave for the Factory. He made it, then walked
away from the podium and we started to get dressed.’

“Williams was looking in the mirror putting on his tie when he heard
chaotic noises coming from the television speakers. He ran to the set
and discovered to his horror that his friend had been shot. Almost
immediately after Kennedy left the ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel in
Los Angeles, he was met by a Jordanian gunman — Sirhan Sirhan — who
fired several shots, gravely wounding the senator in the head.”

At Kennedy’s funeral, Williams sang “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” “I started singing it and then everybody in the church just joined in,
and it was the most moving moment I have ever experienced,” Williams said.

Williams considered himself a Republican, and several years ago said that President Obama was following “Marxist theory.” But as Graham points out, he also performed at a campaign event for the 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern.

Williams rendition of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” at Kennedy’s funeral is below.

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