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Spokane Author Writes about MLK/RFK Relationship

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Claire Rudolf Murphy/Chicago Review Press
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Throughout her professional career, Claire Rudolf Murphy has written stories for children and young adults. The latest is “Martin and Bobby: A Journey Toward Justice.”

In some ways, it’s a very personal book for her. She grew up in Spokane, part of a family that admired then-President John F. Kennedy. Dr. King was killed when she was 17. It was a formative event in her life, she says. The night of King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy gave a short, but moving, speech in Indianapolis that many believe kept that city from rioting.

Through the years, Murphy became more interested in the King-Kennedy relationship.  

“Martin Luther King really did help create a transformation in Bobby. The greatest one was the death of his brother and it was like, OK, we do not rule the world. We have tragedy. What do I do now? I am not my brother’s keeper. How do I find my own way?” she said.

During the time after his brother’s death, Murphy says Kennedy morphed from the tough-minded attorney general whose job was to fight the mob and protect his brother to a man who opened his eyes and truly saw the problems of his nation.

“And as senator from New York, he began traveling around the country to the farmworkers on strike in California to the inner cities and Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York and to Appalachia, the famous photos of him in Appalachia reaching out. He was so emotionally moved that he came from the trip in the spring of ’67 and said to his children, that large family of his, you must do something,” she said.

King, meanwhile, had also expanded his vision after passage of the federal Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

“He was absolutely radical. He believed there should be a fixed income for people below the poverty line, that we should give allotments,” Murphy said.

Whether the relationship was a genuine friendship or more on a professional basis, Murphy doesn’t speculate. But she says it seems there was mutual respect both ways.

Because this book was written for young people, Murphy said she wrote shorter and simplified the history lessons.

“My editor kept saying, ‘What will they know about this?’", Murphy said. "You have to remember they don’t have the history that those of us adults reading will have some background of Martin Luther King, maybe less on the Kennedys, depending on who you are and how old you are. But I had to keep remembering that I had to build a story that did not assume they knew much, but also didn’t talk down.”

Claire Rudolf Murphy’s book, “Martin and Bobby: A Journey Toward Justice”, will be published in October.