From campaign to tragedy: A look at Robert Kennedy's final days

PHOTO: Presidential contender Bobby Kennedy stops during campaigning to shake hands with delighted young boy, April 1968.PlayBill Eppridge/LIFE Collections/Getty Images
WATCH June 5, 1968: Robert F. Kennedy's last speech

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy seemed to be on the fast track to becoming the next American president.

His campaign started late, announcing his presidential candidacy on March 16, 1968, but his voice was strong and passionate with a message of bringing people together.

In his first campaign speech after announcing his candidacy, Kennedy spoke about building a better America.

I want all of us, young and old, to have a chance to build a better country and change the direction of the United States of America. - Robert Kennedy University of Kansas March 18, 1968

Renowned LIFE photographer Bill Eppridge had been documenting Kennedy since his senatorial campaign days in 1966, capturing Kennedy's every move.

When Kennedy unknowingly made his final speech after winning the California primary at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, Eppridge was right behind him capturing the moment.

PHOTO: Senator Robert Kennedy and wife Ethel stand at the the Ambassador Hotel podium after his California primary election victory, Los Angeles, June 5, 1968. Shortly after leaving the podium, he was shot and died the following day.Bill Eppridge /The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Senator Robert Kennedy and wife Ethel stand at the the Ambassador Hotel podium after his California primary election victory, Los Angeles, June 5, 1968. Shortly after leaving the podium, he was shot and died the following day.

On that fateful night after his speech -- June 5, 1968 -- Kennedy made his way through the hotel's kitchen with Eppridge close behind. Shots rang out and Eppridge, with his camera in hand, found himself documenting Kennedy's last moments, capturing the historic image of a scared busboy, Juan Romero, trying to comfort Kennedy as he lay dying.

Kennedy died the next morning.

Prior to his death in 2013, Eppridge recalled, "I went from being a photographer to a historian at that moment."

PHOTO: Sen. Robert Kennedy sprawled semi-conscious in his own blood after being shot in brain and neck while busboy Juan Romero tries to comfort him, in kitchen at hotel, June 6, 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Sen. Robert Kennedy sprawled semi-conscious in his own blood after being shot in brain and neck while busboy Juan Romero tries to comfort him, in kitchen at hotel, June 6, 1968.

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death Tuesday, here are some exclusive images from his campaigning days. You can see more exclusive images by Bill Eppridge in his book, "A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties," which portrays the passion Kennedy had during his campaign.

Eppridge's images will also be on display at the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe to celebrate his work and Kennedy's life 50 years later.

PHOTO: Sen. Robert Kennedy standing on roof of car as he is swamped by a crowd of welcoming well-wishers while campaigning for a local democratic congressional candidate, in Sioux City, 1966.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Sen. Robert Kennedy standing on roof of car as he is swamped by a crowd of welcoming well-wishers while campaigning for a local democratic congressional candidate, in Sioux City, 1966.

PHOTO: Presidential contender Bobby Kennedy campaigning, 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Presidential contender Bobby Kennedy campaigning, 1968.

PHOTO: Senator Robert F. Kennedy and wife campaigning in Indiana Presidential primary, March 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Senator Robert F. Kennedy and wife campaigning in Indiana Presidential primary, March 1968.

PHOTO: Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, standing on back of convertible car while campaigning during evening hours, 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, standing on back of convertible car while campaigning during evening hours, 1968.

PHOTO: Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in 1968.

PHOTO: Robert F. Kennedy on the campaign trail, March 1, 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Robert F. Kennedy on the campaign trail, March 1, 1968.

PHOTO: Silhouette of Senator Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in Indiana Presidential primary, March 7, 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Silhouette of Senator Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in Indiana Presidential primary, March 7, 1968.

PHOTO: Presidential contender Bobby Kennedy stops during campaigning to shake hands with delighted young boy, April 1968.Bill Eppridge/LIFE Collections/Getty Images
Presidential contender Bobby Kennedy stops during campaigning to shake hands with delighted young boy, April 1968.

PHOTO: Senator Robert F. Kennedy shakes hands with crowd while campaigning in Oregon, June 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Senator Robert F. Kennedy shakes hands with crowd while campaigning in Oregon, June 1968.

PHOTO: Senator Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in California, June 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Senator Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in California, June 1968.

PHOTO: Sen. Robert Kennedy shaking hands with kitchen help en route to podium in ballroom to deliver his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel prior to his assassination, June 5, 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Sen. Robert Kennedy shaking hands with kitchen help en route to podium in ballroom to deliver his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel prior to his assassination, June 5, 1968.

PHOTO: Robert F. Kennedys wife kneeling next to him after he was fatally wounded, June 6, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Robert F. Kennedy's wife kneeling next to him after he was fatally wounded, June 6, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

PHOTO: Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy and his dog, Freckles, running on Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon, May 24, 1968.Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy and his dog, Freckles, running on Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon, May 24, 1968.

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