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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

An Evening with Ted Kennedy

Posted August 26, 2009 8:24 a.m. EDT

It was a steamy evening in McLean, Virginia in May of 1983. The air conditioning at Hickory Hill was not working very well. Ethel Kennedy brought about a bunch of breeze box fans to cool the dinner guests at her sprawling home. I was there with a handful of journalists. We had been invited for "An Evening with the Kennedys."

I was news director for WRAL FM at the time and served as executive producer for a multi-part news series titled "Five Faces of Poverty." This series won first place in the annual Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards competition in the radio category. It was an evening I will never forget.

After nervously sipping a glass of wine and nibbling on some hors d'oeuvres I felt a hearty slap on my back. I turned around and there he was. "Bill, I'm Senator Ted Kennedy and I wanted to personally congratulate you and the crew at WRAL in Raleigh for an outstanding series on the problems with poverty in your state." We went on to discuss North Carolina politics including his running battles with Senator Jesse Helms. While he disagreed with Helms on most political issues Kennedy said "I do admire his (Helms') tenacity."

There were six of us from WRAL Radio at Hickory Hill. Each of us received an impressive bronze bust of Bobby Kennedy for our news series. Bobby's brother Ted handed out the busts. Mine is still prominently displayed at my home in Cary.