, Newburyport, MA


April 15, 2013

These were the darkest days I can remember


Several days later as King was being buried in Atlanta, I traveled to Philadelphia to meet our local sales representative for some business calls on customers. After a morning visit to Scott Paper we drove to Wilmington, Del., to have lunch with a purchasing agent at Hercules and lunch at the Hotel Dupont. As we sat over lunch trying to talk about business, but consumed with other domestic issues, we heard shouting and sirens outside the hotel.

It was suggested that we leave town immediately! We drove out of the garage and were confronted by hundreds of teens running, shouting and throwing stones at cars. This was their response to King’s assassination by what turned out to be a white man. We sped up trying to avoid hitting anyone. Several rocks hit the side and back of the car, but luckily nothing hit the windshield. We doubled back to Philadelphia, where I caught an early flight back to Newark, N.J. What was happening to our country, I remember thinking?

It was only two months later, shortly after midnight June 5, 1968, that Robert Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California and South Dakota primaries. We watched his speech late that night when he ended it with, “And now, it’s on to Chicago” and his party’s presidential nomination. His run ended in a hotel kitchen where he was shot in the head. Chicago’s convention became the focus later that year for one of the worst riots in our nation’s history.

There is no need to ask me, “What were the darkest days you remember?” The year was 1968! I shudder to think of what is happening today, not only with the Afghan War, but of political inaction. Nothing good is coming out of Washington, D.C., it appears, as senators and representatives seem totally incapable of placing the nation’s interests first and foremost.

To paraphrase the poet and philosopher, George Santayana, “If good men do nothing to correct evil, they are doomed to the future.” I’m afraid we are in a repetitive mode, but hopefully and prayerfully it will not be as bad as 1968.


Robert D. Campbell, an essayist from Newburyport, prefers humorous themes, but this 45th anniversary proved overwhelming in its scope.

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