Childhood & Early Life
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was born on January 17, 1954, in Washington, D.C., United States of America. He is the third-born child of Ethel Skakel Kennedy and Robert Francis Kennedy. He spent his childhood at the famous ‘Hickory Hill’ in Virginia, along with his siblings.
Though he was born into a family of famous politicians, Kennedy Jr. had a tough childhood as he had to witness the assassination of his uncle and that of his father at a very young age. While John F. Kennedy was murdered when Kennedy Jr. was just nine years old, his father Robert Francis Kennedy was killed when he was in his early teens.
Young and disturbed, Kennedy Jr. took to the streets post his father’s death and was eventually arrested in Hyannis, Massachusetts for possessing marijuana. However, he quickly got his act together and managed to secure his diploma from ‘Palfrey Street School.’
He then went to the famous ‘Harvard College,’ from where he graduated with a ‘Bachelor of Arts’ degree in 1976. He also attended ‘The University of Virginia School of Law’ to earn himself ‘The Juris Doctor’ degree. He also has a ‘Master of Laws’ degree, which he earned from ‘Pace University.’
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Kennedy Jr. began his career in 1983, when he started serving as the Assistant District Attorney. In 1984, he joined the famous non-profit environmental organization, ‘Riverkeeper.’ After joining as an investigator, he became the senior prosecuting attorney of the organization and was eventually admitted to the New York bar.
A good percentage of the total environmental enforcement lawsuits of ‘Riverkeeper’ was litigated and supervised by Kennedy Jr. He also served as a board member of another organization called ‘Long Island Soundkeeper.’ As a part of these environmental organizations, he had to fight against the administration of many cities and industries.
Kennedy Jr. played a crucial role in ending the practice of shooting lead shots into the Long Island Sound, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean. The act, which was practiced by ‘Skeet Gun Club’ and ‘Remington Arms Trap,’ was ended after Kennedy’s landmark victory.
He filed lawsuits to shut down ‘New York Athletic’ clubs and Pelham Bay landfill, claiming the facilities were causing troubles to those who visit Long Island Sound. He also filed a number of lawsuits against municipalities and industries that were discharging pollution into the environment.
In 1987, Kennedy Jr. came up with ‘Environmental Litigation Clinic’ and made it a part of ‘Pace University School of Law.’ He then served as the supervising attorney and co-director of the program for the next three decades. The clinic then became responsible for prosecuting a number of companies and governments for polluting Hudson River and Long Island Sound.
Apart from cleaning up various cities and minimizing the damage caused to the environment, ‘The Pace Clinic’ also serves as an inspiration to many other environmental-friendly law clinics like ‘Golden Gate,’ ‘Boalt Hall,’ ‘Widener,’ and ‘Rutgers.’
In 1991, Kennedy Jr. represented environmentalists in a number of lawsuits against New York State and New York City. He even wrote many reports and articles claiming that New York State was failing to fulfil its responsibility. In 1996, he played a critical role in finalizing the $1.2 billion ‘New York City Watershed Agreement,’ which was covered by ‘New York Magazine’ under the title ‘The Kennedy Who Matters.’
In the same year, Kennedy Jr. met the then Cuban President Fidel Castro to try and persuade him to defer his proposal of constructing a nuclear power plant. Throughout the late 90s, he played a prominent role in helping Mexican fishermen by halting Mitsubishi’s plan of building many facilities in Mexico that could have caused serious hindrance to the fishermen community. He even met the then Prime Minister of Japan Keizo Obuchi as part of his campaign against the Japanese company’s proposal.
In 1999, Kennedy Jr. and his followers gathered in Southampton, Long Island to help create ‘Waterkeeper Alliance,’ which now runs 320 licensed programs across 38 countries. Kennedy Jr. is currently serving as the president of ‘Waterkeeper Alliance’ and oversees its fundraising programs among other things.
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In 2000, Kennedy Jr. joined hands with a lawyer named Kevin Madonna to come up with a law firm called ‘Kennedy & Madonna, LLP.’ The law firm represents private plaintiffs, who choose to act against polluters. The following year, Kennedy and Kevin Madonna formed a team of their own to act against the pollution caused from industrial poultry and pork production.
Kennedy Jr. and his team also work towards improving the conditions and lifestyle of the poor and those belonging to minority communities. In fact, Kennedy’s first case dealt with a lawsuit, which was against the proposal of building a garbage transfer station in Ossining, New York, a neighborhood packed with minority groups.
Over the years, Kennedy Jr. has been a major critic of the Army and the Navy. He and hundreds of Puerto Ricans were arrested for trespassing ‘Camp Garcia Vieques,’ a US Navy base. They were arrested for protesting against the usage of Island of Vieques for training purposes.
Apart from filing many cases against the US Army and Navy, Kennedy also wrote an article accusing the federal government and the Department of Defense. In the article, which was published by ‘The Chicago Tribune’ in 2003, he had also claimed that the Pentagon had already contaminated more than 21,000 sites and that the army may have contaminated 40 million acres of land across the United States.
In 2017, ‘Kennedy & Madonna, LLP’ was responsible in securing a $670 million settlement for more than 3,000 residents whose drinking water was polluted by a toxic chemical, which was released by a company named ‘DuPont.’
Kennedy Jr. and his team continue to fight against factory farms, oil industries, mining practices, hydro projects, and nuclear power plant proposals among many other practices that cause serious damage to our environment.
In Popular Culture & Other Works
Thanks to Kennedy’s heroic acts and noble intention, many film-makers have come up with numerous films and documentaries based on Kennedy’s works. In 1998, a film-maker named Les Guthman directed a movie titled ‘The Hudson Riverkeepers,’ which focuses on Kennedy and his environmental works.
In 2000, Guthman directed another movie titled ‘The Waterkeepers,’ which was similar to ‘The Hudson Riverkeepers.’ In 2008, Kennedy Jr. appeared in an IMAX documentary film titled ‘Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk.’ In the film, Kennedy Jr. appears along with his daughter and his anthropologist.
In 2004, Kennedy Jr. appeared in another documentary film titled ‘Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable,’ which was directed by his sister and film-maker, Rory Kennedy. Apart from writing articles for various leading publications, he has also written or edited at least 10 books, including three children’s books. Two of his books have made it to the list of ‘New York Times bestsellers.’
Awards & Achievements
Kennedy Jr. has won many prestigious awards in his illustrious career so far. Not surprisingly, most of the awards won by him talks about his contribution towards cleaning up our environment.
After winning the ‘Green Star Award’ in 1995, he managed to win ‘Thomas Berry Environmental Award’ in 1997. He also won the ‘EPA Environmental Quality Award’ the same year and then backed it up by winning ‘Water Watch Award’ in 1998.
In 1999, Kennedy Jr. was named one of the ‘Heroes of the Planet’ by ‘Time Magazine.’ The following year, he was named ‘Champion of the Environment’ by New York State. In 2004, he won the prestigious ‘Marshall P. Madison Award.’
In 2008, he won a couple of awards, namely ‘Theodre Gordon Flyfishers Conservation Award’ and ‘USC Dornsife Sustainability Champion Award.’ In 2017, he won multiple awards, including ‘Moms Across America Healthy Communities Award’ and ‘Earth Justice Mountain Heroes.’
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was married to Emily Ruth Black from 1982 to 1994. Together, they had two kids, namely Robert Francis Kennedy III and Kathleen Alexandra Kennedy. Kennedy Jr. later married Mary Kathleen Richardson and had four children with her. Mary was found dead on May 16, 2012 and her death was later confirmed to be a suicide. On August 2, 2014, Kennedy Jr. married Cheryl Hines and the two have been living together ever since.
Kennedy Jr. is a licensed falconer, who has been training hawks from a very young age. He is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and raptor propagator and has served as the president of ‘New York State Falconry Association.’ He is also an expert whitewater kayaker and has organized many white-water expeditions, including the ones to unexplored rivers, such as The Apurímac River.