The Death of Mary Meyer, JFK’s Partner, Explained

Mary Meyer
Mary Meyer, JFK’s friend and lover, in May 1963

In the Daily Beast ace reporter Christopher Dickey concisely explains the fascinating figure of Mary Meyer, aspiring painter, ex-CIA wife, and spiritual/romantic partner of President John F. Kennedy. Eleven months after her lover JFK was gunned down in Dallas, Meyer was killed on the deserted tow path of the C&O canal in Washington DC.

There are many conspiracy theories about Meyer’s death. While reviewing a new novel on Meyer, Dickey parses the theories with care.

Was her killing a random coincidence, or one more fatal element in a vast conspiracy that stretched from the Grassy Knoll in Dallas to the overgrown edge of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in D.C.? She supposedly had smoked dope with the president, perhaps even dropped acid with him (she was friends with LSD guru Timothy Leary), and she may have learned of JFK’s alleged plans to thwart the military-industrial complex. She may even have encouraged them. After Kennedy’s death, was she killed to tie up loose ends?

Dickey says no, and I agree. As I recount in my biography of James Angleton, the CIA’s counterintelligence chief knew of Meyer’s affair with JFK. Angleton’s creative intellect was a natural fit with Meyer’s artistic free spirit. They were friends, not enemies. Angleton was close both to Meyer and her ex-husband Cord Meyer, a senior colleague at the agency. They mixed in the same social crowd. JFK had lusted after Meyer since they were in college. She had a knack for attracting men of power. After she was killed, Angleton took possession of an artist’s sketchbook in which Meyer recorded thoughts and impressions.

But there is an important point that is often overlooked. Angleton took the sketchbook at the request of her friends who knew of her affair with the late president. They wanted to keep it private for personal reasons. Angleton surely had his own reasons for wanting the sketchbook. Mary was reportdly skeptical about the official story of JFK’s murder and no one had more to lose from a serious JFK investigation than Angleton. The counterintelligence chief later said he destroyed the book.

The circumstances were extraordinary and fraught with with intrigue but if Meyer suspected conspiracy in JFK’s death, that is not evidence she was killed for her views. There is no evidence that Meyer was the victim of anything but a random street crime. Although the man charged with the crime was acquitted for lack of evidence, he remains the most likely culprit.

Dickey concludes:

Like so much that touches on the Kennedy assassination, what Mary Meyer wrote about her love affair with the president may never be established as solid fact. It exists now, for better or worse, mainly in the realm of the imagination.

The best book on Mary Meyer is Nina Burleigh’s 1998 study, A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer. Burleigh makes a convincing case there probably was no conspiracy.

Source: The JFK Mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer Was Gunned Down in Cold Blood. Why?

5 Replies to “The Death of Mary Meyer, JFK’s Partner, Explained”

  1. Unless Timothy Leary was lying, Mary understood the forces that killed JFK. Do you think Angleton’s “friendship” with Mary (and was it really a friendship? “No Knock” Angleton worked all the time, super strange, ugly, devious man: I have a hard time believing they were such good friends) would prevent the CIA from murdering her because of her threat to expose? I don’t. I also don’t agree with Nina Burleigh’s conclusions. The man they arrested was too drunk at the time to have committed the crime. I also don’t think Ben Bradley was ever, really the Kennedy man he pretended to be.

    1. I do think Angleton’s friendship was really a friendship. Certainly Mary’s closest female friends understood it as such. That is why they wanted Angleton to have the sketchbook/diary after Mary’s death. To keep it safe. That’s not to say Angelton wasn’t a devious fellow. One of his skills was precisely to ingratiate himself with people whose interests he did not have at heart. I explain my view of the case in THE GHOST, avaialble here.

  2. Utterly ridiculous article by Jeff Morley. His article is rife with factual errors which he continues to promote, the worst of which is stating, “The best book on Mary Meyer is Nina Burleigh’s 1998 study.” Morley COMPLETELY glosses over Ben Bradlee’s testimony at Meyer’s murder trial in 1965. Bradlee, according to sworn testimony, entered Mary’s art studio on the night of the murder with no problem, yet 25 years later he tells us that he had no key to the studio when he discovered Angleton picking the lock the next day. Bradlee’s entire “fish story” in his memoir “A Good Life” contradicts his sworn testimony. How did Bradlee get into the studio on the night of the murder? Jim Angleton was with him and likely picked the lock. It is documented that Angleton was at Bradlee’s house on the night of the murder when Anne Truitt called the house looking for Angleton and informed the Bradlees that Mary had a diary that needed to be immediately found.

    Mary Meyer’s artist sketchbook was NOT her real diary. The entire story is a ruse! It was likely concocted by Angleton to keep the public from finding out about the real diary. Angleton absconded with the diary on the night of the murder, likely taken from Meyer’s studio or from her bedroom later that evening.

    1. Let’ just stick to the facts. The discrepancies between Bradlee’s testimony and his book don’t prove that there was a conspiracy to kill Mary Meyer. They show he had something to hid–he did. He sought to make Angleton the bad guy of the story, which made him look better. The claim that Meyer had a diary and sketchbook is not confirmed by any of Meyer’s closest female friends. I urge readers compare Burleigh’s book, A Very Private Woman, and Janney’s book, Mary’s Mosaic. Burleigh is a veteran reporter and less prone to speculation. But don’t take my word for it. Decide for yourself.

  3. “A delicious, gripping recreation of a compelling mystery told in a voice full of secrets and charm. Jesse Kornbluth has written a page-turner brought alive by expert social detail and poignant insights.”
    – Tina Brown

    Read the new novel about Mary Meyer….

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