Who were the Kennedy Brothers that served in government?

The Kennedy brothers (Left to Right): Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy, and President John F. Kennedy in 1963

The Kennedy family, originating from Irish-American roots, is often viewed as the closest thing the U.S. has to a “royal family” due to its members’ significant influence, high public profiles, and the tragedies they endured. Throughout the 20th century, many members of the Kennedy family held public office, but three brothers stand out for their prominence in national politics:

John F. Kennedy (JFK): 35th President of the United States

JFK assassination

John F. Kennedy (JFK) challenged the nation to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, a traumatic event that has been the subject of numerous investigations and conspiracy theories.

Before his presidency, JFK served in both the U.S. House of Representatives (from January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1953) and the U.S. Senate, representing the state of Massachusetts (from January 3, 1953 – December 22, 1960).

As president, he faced several major events, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the establishment of the Peace Corps, and the initiation of Project Apollo.

His tenure as president was tragically cut short when he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, in 1963.

READ MORE: Notable Accomplishments of John F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy (RFK): U.S. Attorney General, U.S. Senator from New York

Robert F. Kennedy was United States Senator from New York from January 3, 1965 – June 6, 1968. As Attorney General, RFK played a significant role in the civil rights movement, pushing for desegregation and voter rights. And similar to his brothers, John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, he was a notable figure in the Democratic Party and a symbol of contemporary American liberalism.

As Attorney General, RFK was a strong advocate for civil rights and was instrumental in the fight against organized crime. After serving as Attorney General (tenure: January 21, 1961 – September 3, 1964), he was elected as a U.S. Senator from New York, serving from January 3, 1965 – June 6, 1968.

RFK was known for his commitment to addressing poverty and inequality. However, as attorney general, he permitted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct limited wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

On June 5, 1968, RFK won the California primary, a significant step towards securing the Democratic nomination for the presidential election.

His promising political career was tragically ended when he was assassinated (on June 6, 1968) in Los Angeles during his 1968 presidential campaign.

The shooter, Sirhan Sirhan, was a 24-year-old Palestinian. It’s believed that Sirhan’s motive for the assassination stemmed from RFK’s support of Israel, particularly after the Six-Day War in 1967.

Despite immediate medical attention, RFK’s injuries were too severe, and he succumbed to them 25 hours after being shot.

Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy: U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy’s longstanding and influential role in American politics, both as a member of the iconic Kennedy family and through his extensive tenure in the U.S. Senate. He represented the state of Massachusetts in the Senate from November 7, 1962 – August 25, 2009.

Ted Kennedy (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009) was the younger sibling of President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, who served as both U.S. Attorney General and Senator. He was also the father of U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy.

He served in the U.S. Senate for 47 years, making him one of the longest-serving senators in history. The Massachusetts senator played a pivotal role in the passage of major legislation in areas such as health care, civil rights, education, and immigration.

In 1980, he sought the Democratic presidential nomination but was defeated by the sitting president, Jimmy Carter.

Ted Kennedy passed away in 2009 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near his brothers John and Robert. His legacy continues through the numerous pieces of legislation he championed and his impact on American politics. He earned the nickname “Lion of the Senate” for his dedication to public service and his ability to collaborate across party lines.

Belonging to the Democratic Party and the influential Kennedy political dynasty, he held the position of the Senate’s second most senior member at the time of his passing.

The Harvard connection

The Kennedy brothers – John F. Kennedy (JFK), Robert F. Kennedy (RFK), and Ted Kennedy – all attended Harvard University.

JFK graduated in 1940. While at Harvard, JFK wrote a senior thesis about British participation in the Munich Agreement, which was later published as a book titled “Why England Slept.”

RFK graduated from Harvard in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. After completing his undergraduate studies, he went on to earn his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Ted completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard College, graduating in 1956. Like his brother RFK, he also pursued law, but he attended the University of Virginia School of Law.

It’s worth noting that Harvard’s influence on the Kennedy family extends beyond just the brothers. Several other members of the Kennedy clan, both from the older and younger generations, attended Harvard as well. The family’s legacy at the university remains strong.


There is no doubt whatsoever that Kennedy Brothers played pivotal roles in shaping U.S. policies and political discourse during the 20th century. Their contributions, as well as their shared tragedies, have left an indelible mark on American history.

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