The 1968 Elections

Lyndon Johnson's dream was to make America a “Great Society.” Coming to office under tragic circumstances, he declared a war on poverty and introduced extensive social legislation, vowing shortly after Kennedy's death that equal rights for Americans needed to become law. The legislation was passed quickly, but turmoil took its toll despite its passage. Race riots flared up in many cities, such as the Watts Riots in Los Angeles. Protests regarding the Vietnam War also escalated to the point that Johnson refused to seek a presidential nomination.

With Johnson out of the running, Robert F. Kennedy, who had left his post as attorney general to become a senator representing the state of New York, sought the Democratic nomination. Kennedy was a champion of the downtrodden, particularly concerned about problems in urban ghettos and Appalachia. After winning the essential California primary, he gave his victory speech and exited through a hotel kitchen where a Jordanian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan waited with a gun. Severely wounded, Kennedy died in a Los Angeles hospital the next day, June 6, 1968. His funeral service was held in New York City's Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and he is buried not far from the grave of his brother at Arlington National Cemetery.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the nomination that summer and was set to run against Richard Nixon, once vice president in the Eisenhower administration. Having been defeated for the high office in 1960, Nixon, who had once pledged to the media that they wouldn't have him to kick around again, returned to politics, vowing to end the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, Governor George Wallace of Alabama mounted a third-party campaign. Nixon, who had named Governor Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland as his running mate, gained a comfortable majority of the electoral votes (though he won by a slim margin of the popular vote).

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