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Spokane Author Writes About MLK and RFK Relationship

Claire Rudolf Murphy

Spokane author Claire Rudolf Murphy has written a new book about the relationship between the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior and Robert Kennedy.

Its release this month is timely, given the 50th anniversary of their respective assassinations passed earlier this year.

Murphy’s book is written for young people. On Wednesday, her reading and book signing event at Auntie’s will include a panel of local students. They’ll dig into how King’s and Kennedy’s legacies affect the way they view the world.

When Claire Murphy grew up in the 1960s, she was surrounded by talk of the politics of the day.

“My brother John had a JFK campaign headquarters in our house in 1960. So we were steeped in the Kennedys and Democratic politics,” Murphy said.

And she says, while she knew of Martin Luther King, she was more familiar with the Kennedys.

“Years later, at the end of my mother’s life, we watched a documentary called 'A Ripple of Hope.' It’s about Bobby Kennedy’s life, but it focuses on that speech, inspiring, dramatic, courageous speech he gave the night Dr. Martin Luther King was killed," she said.

That speech inspired Murphy to do more research about the circumstances around Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis on the night of April 4, 1968. He was to make a campaign appearance as he was running for president. Instead, as he stood on a makeshift stage, he announced King’s death to a stunned audience. It led to her writing this book.

“I wrote it against the backdrop of today and the divisive politics. It was divisive back then. We were divided over the Vietnam War. We were divided on what we should do about poverty and civil rights, but not as divided as know. The inspiring words of King and Kennedy, who asked every audience they spoke to, they asked them to do something, to give, to appeal to their better angels, as President Lincoln would say," Murphy said. "I long for that right now. I don’t think we have it in our leaders.”

At the time, Claire Murphy was roughly the age Celia Vigil is now. Vigil is in the Running Start program, a senior in high school who is also pursuing her associate’s degree at Spokane Falls Community College. She hopes to study political science and go on to law school.

“I’ve grown up in history class, learning about Dr. King’s legacy since elementary school, but to be honest, I had no knowledge of Bobby Kennedy, who he was, what he did. I only knew the name John F. Kennedy," Vigil said. "So it was fascinating to read through this book and realize there’s a whole story here that I never learned about. I had no idea these two men worked so closely together and Bobby Kennedy’s story and his fight for justice alongside Dr. King.”

Vigil will be part of the student panel at Claire Murphy’s reading on Wednesday evening.

“I want to connect it to today. What does history teach us? What does it mean to these young people like Celia and then where do we go now? What are you doing? What do you think matters in leadership? I am delighted to be joined by all of them,” Murphy said.

Vigil says she sees parallels in today’s world to the politics of the 1960s.

“Throughout the challenges that we face, I think it’s important to come together as much as we can and really encompass what these two men stood for, which is justice and working for people, not for their own gain,” she said.

Wednesday’s event featuring Claire Murphy and the panel will begin at 7 at Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane.

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