Behind the Picture: JFK and RFK, Los Angeles, July 1960 – TIME

If you were alive in 1963, you remember where you were when you heard that Kennedy had been shot.

I was seven years old and in the swimming pool at The Homestead Hotel.  The lifeguard came over to my bother and they started talking in very quiet and serious tones — like adults do when they don’t want the kiddies to hear what’s being said.

I didn’t know at that moment what they were talking about, but I found out later that night on television.  And four the next four days, I joined all Americans in being glued to the TV set.

In July 1960, Democratic delegates from all around America gathered in Los Angeles to nominate the party’s candidate for president. While a number of experienced and respected Democrats had their hats in the ring including Missouri’s Stuart Symington, Hubert Humphrey, Adlai Stevenson (the party’s nominee in ’52 and ’56) and Lyndon Johnson ultimately it was the young senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, who won the nomination on the first ballot, and went on to beat Richard Nixon (by the very slimmest of margins) in the general election.

Here, LIFE.com remembers Hank Walker’s famous photograph of JFK and RFK conferring in a Los Angeles hotel suite during the 1960 Democratic convention a photograph that speaks volumes about the bond between these two intensely ambitious and pragmatic brothers. In fact, Walker made his picture at the very moment when that brotherly bond and the vaunted Kennedy pragmatism clashed head-on.

In John Loengard’s excellent book, Life Photographers: What They Saw, Walker described the scene playing out in front of his lens a scene far more fraught and tense than a cursory glimpse at the photo might suggest:

All these years later, knowing the awful fate in store for both of these complicated men, this quiet moment shared, through Walker’s tough, sensitive artistry, with the rest of us this moment feels like the end of something.

At the time it was made, though, Walker’s evocative photograph and the significance of the moment it depicts probably felt like the very beginning.

Ben Cosgrove is the Editor of LIFE.com

Hank WalkerTime & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Well, so where were you when you heard the news.  Let us know in the comment section below

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Featured ExpatBased in Argentina, Jerry writes about social justice issues throughout the world and his work has been picked up by major media outlets globally.

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