Kennedy family controversies: Flaps over RFK's papers, famed compound

Robert Kennedy while he was U.S. attorney general in the administration of his brother, President John Kennedy

(CBS News) -- The Kennedy family is making headlines on two fronts. Family members are divided over changes at the legendary Kennedy family compound at Hyannis Port, Mass. And some historians would like access to more than 60 boxes of Robert F. Kennedy's files, covering historic moments of his brother John's White House administration.

One of the defining moments of John F. Kennedy's presidency was the Cuban Missile Crisis. In a now famous Oct. 22, 1962, speech, the president announced, "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States."

Photos: The Brothers Kennedy

Mr. Kennedy was guided through that nuclear stalemate by his brother and closest confidante, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, whose portfolio went beyond that of most attorneys general.

Historian: RFK papers will be released -- eventually

Presidential historian Douglas Wead points out that, "As chairman of this executive committee during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that would involve the State Department, the Defense Department, the national security adviser -- what's the attorney general doing in there?"

For that reason, Wead can't wait to take a look at Robert Kennedy's papers. There's only one problem: He can't.

According to The Boston Globe, that treasure trove of documents is stashed away at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. After Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968, the National Archives agreed to let his widow, Ethel Kennedy, take control of them.

"So what we'll find in these Kennedy papers, we don't know," Mead says. "We'll know it when we see it. It's what she's hanging on to. She knows what's hidden there, and that's why she doesn't want to release it."

Down the coast from the JFK Library, a fight is also brewing over another piece of Kennedy lore: the main family compound in Hyannis Port.

The Kennedys have been coming to the house since the 1920s. It was made famous by some of the iconic images of Camelot -- the family playing football on the lawn, or sailing just offshore.

"This was our royalty," Wead observes. "We identified with them and their joy of their ascent to power. We identified with family."

Photos: Secrets of Camelot

The home was where Sen. Ted Kennedy spent his final years, battling cancer. After his death, his widow, Vicky Kennedy, donated it to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

Now, other Kennedy family members must pay to use the property.

Recently, the institute denied a request by country music star Taylor Swift to stay overnight at the compound. She is reportedly dating Robert Kennedy's grandson, Connor Kennedy.

Wead says the tussles over Robert Kennedy's papers and the Kennedy compound show just how much the family is still fighting to protect the Kennedy legacy and keep it from receding into history.

"As long as they've got his papers, and people are knocking on the door wanting them, he's still, in a way, living. He's still there. As long as we can go back playing football on the lawn, it's still there," Wead notes.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.