Rare Photos Emerge of RFK Landing at Orange County Airport the Week of His Assassination

We named Luis F. Fernandez of the SanTana Public Library OC's Best Local Historian last year for a reason: because he is. The Garden Grove resident, of course, is the guy who unearthed the Doss v. Bernal housing segregation case, and will be one of the co-authors on a coming history book on Mexican-American baseball in la naranja. At the SanTana History Room, Fernandez has embarked on an ambitious project to digitize all of the library's photographs and put them online.

And that's how he came across never-before-seen photos of Robert F. Kennedy landing in Orange County Airport, just days before his tragic assassination in Los Angeles in 1968.

The mariachi and a folk group greeting RFK
The mariachi and a folk group greeting RFK
Agnes L. Soto Collection, Santa Ana History Room

On June 2, 1968, RFK landed at Orange County Airport to begin the final campaign push in his race to be the Democratic Party presidential nominee. There at the airport was Agnes L. Soto, a resident of SanTana's Logan Barrio and RFK campaign volunteer. Fernández is still sifting through the thousands of photographs that she took of Orange County Latino life and donated to the library--but the RFK series was the one that immediately caught his attention.

As you can see from the photos above (and per the recollections of Soto's daughter, Anna Marie), OC's Latino political leaders hired a mariachi to greet Kennedy. That day, RFK would hold a rally at Bolsa Grande High School (Fernandez's alma mater), swing by the Strawberry Festival, and even try to go to Disneyland (and supposedly dining at the legendary Club 33) before spending the night at the Ambassador Hotel and flying off to San Francisco.

He never had the chance to return to Orange County--on June 5, Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Kennedy.

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