An unknown hero: Rosey Grier


Marshall Greenlaw

A photo of Rosey Grier (center), Diana Ross (left), and Danny Thomas (right).

The oldest member of Fearsome Foursome who made a living disrupting the pocket, who hosted his own television show in Los Angeles, who dabbled in needlepoint canvas work, who accompanied Bob Hope on “Operation Holly,” was the muscle that outshined the evil aurora of June 5th, 1968. On June 5th, 1968, Rosey Grier sank his fingers into the ground and bull rushed the last demon lined up across from him.

Grier’s mission was simple that night: protect Ethel Kennedy, and the baby in her womb while her husband addressed the people of California after his monumental victory in the California presidential primary. Being a part of the Kennedy pedigree was one thing. Being the wife of one of Grier’s dearest friends—presidential candidate Robert Kennedy—was another. Grier simply could not allow anything to happen to his best friend’s wife. In a swift turn of events, Grier soon realized that Ethel’s safety wasn’t his biggest worry.

“My thanks to all of you. Now it’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there,” erupted John Kennedy.


What sounded like celebratory fireworks one second morphed into a triad of .22 caliber Iver-Johnson Cadet revolver gunshots the next. Before Grier knew what all of the pandemonium was about, he escorted Ethel to safety and plunged into the eerie assassination scene inside the Ambassador Hotel’s ballroom. Once fear turned into adrenaline, Grier reverted back to his days in the NFL as a defensive tackle; days in which he would team up with other teammates to slay the overarching opponent. This time, however, tangible lives were on the line. Seconds turned into minutes as a group of hero’s struggled with the shooter for control of his firearm. Right in the center of the scuffle over life and death was long time journalist, George Plimpton. Earlier on in the night, Plimpton’s face was engulfed in his notebook of quotes from Robert Kennedy. Now his face was staring down the barrel of a lethal revolver with Robert Kennedy’s blood traced all over it. In an effort to strip the gun away from the assailant, Grier and Olympic decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson wrestled Plimpton away from harm’s way, and they wrestled with the shooter for what probably seemed like hours. If there was a time for a higher power to aid someone, this was the perfect time. As if he was a superhero with a cape draped around us shoulders, Grier and others stripped the pin out of the gun to prevent any more loss of life to innocent civilians. To many bystander’s surprise, Grier reached far down his soul to protect the shooter from—credibly—vexed individuals, conjuring up emotions that only people who just experienced trauma can relate to. In the end, Grier opted to dig down to his empathetic center to ensure that no more violence would erupt that night from both sides of the aisle.

Nearly 26 hours went by until Robert Kennedy was officially pronounced dead from extensive bullet woods to his brain and other vital organs. Whether or not Kennedy survived, Rosey Grier still went out of his way to expose himself to a violent killer’s deranged trigger finger. On June 5th, 1968, Rosey Grier sank his fingers into the ground and bull rushed the last demon lined up across from him: Sirhan Sirhan.