James Rowley

James Rowley

James Jose Rowley was born in New York City on 14th October, 1908. Both of his parents were Irish immigrants. A Roman Catholic, Rowley was educated at Our Savior School and the George Washington High School.

After the death of his father in 1926, Rowley went to work for the New York State Banking Department. He continued his education at St. John's University in Brooklyn. He obtained a law degree in 1936 and soon afterwards went to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Rowley was assigned to the FBI office in Charlotte, North Carolina. After eight months he was transferred to Boston.

In October, 1938, Rowley joined the United States Secret Service. Based in New York City, Rowley spent his early years investigating the counterfeiting of currency and Social Security identification cards. The following year he was transfered to Washington and in 1939 was assigned to protect President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was a member of the advance team and helped arranged Roosevelt's trips during the Second World War. He also was in the advance team for meeting with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill in Posdam.

By 1946 Rowley had become supervising agent at the White House. During the presidency of Harry S. Truman, Rowley became what was called "agent in charge of the White House detail." He also was involved in protecting Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

In August, 1961, Rowley was promoted to become chief of the Secret Service. According to Jim Marrs (Crossfire: The Plt That Killed Kennedy), Abraham Bolden was personally selected by Kennedy "in an attempt to integrate the previously all-white Secret Service detail".

Bolden spent only three months working for Kennedy. He complained about the "separate housing facilities for black agents on southern trips". At a meeting with Rowley, Bolden criticized the "general laxity and the heavy drinking among the agents who were assigned to protect the President". As a result of these complaints, Bolden was sent back to the Chicago office and assigned to routine anti-counterfeiting duties.

James Jose Rowley retired from the United States Secret Service in 1973. He died in 1992.

Primary Sources

(1) James J. Rowley, interviewed by Niel M. Johnson, Harry S. Truman Library (20th September, 1988)

Niel M. Johnson: Mr. Rowley, I'm going to begin by asking you to tell us when and where you were born and what your parents' names are.

James J. Rowley: I was born in the Bronx, New York on October 14, 1908. My father was James J. Rowley; my mother's maiden name was McTeague--Bridget Theresa McTeague. Both of them were immigrants from Ireland. They met in New York City and were married in Manhattan. We lived in the upper Bronx, as we called it, around Fordham Road where the university is, in that general area.

Niel M. Johnson: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

James J. Rowley: Yes, I have a brother, a Jesuit priest, and a sister.

Niel M. Johnson: What's his name?

James J. Rowley: Father Francis Rowley, S.J., and my sister is Marge Borise. Of interest though, the parish we entered, when we moved up to the upper Bronx, was Our Savior Parish, whose pastor was the famous Father Duffy of the Fighting 69th. And of further interest is that when he returned from World War I - it was a rainy Sunday and there was a parade coming up Washington Avenue towards the church - all of the parishioners were outside the church waiting for him. And also there, on horseback, was General Bill Donovan. Remember Colonel Bill Donovan?

Niel M. Johnson: Wild Bill?

James J. Rowley: Yes. I mentioned that for the reason that during the early part of World War II I ran across him aboard the Potomac when he was the guest of President Roosevelt. I happened to be on duty on the aft deck of the presidential yacht, and he came out one morning and we got talking. I mentioned to him that I remembered when he came up Washington Avenue with Father Duffy and the retinue. He was very much interested. Then, years later I ran into him overseas when I did the advance work for the conferences abroad.

(2) James J. Rowley, interviewed by Leodis Matthews for the House Select Committee of Assassinations (19th September, 1978)

Leodis Matthews: At the time you made that assignment to Inspector Kelley, did you give him any specific instructions of what he should do when he reached Dallas?

James J. Rowley: I did not speak to him, but I am quite sure that Deputy Chief Paterni did. Paterni told him to take charge of the investigation, which was also my thought at the time we decided to send him there.

Leodis Matthews: Soon after Inspector Kelly arrived in Dallas and began his investigation, you received a communique through the mail, an office report, indicating that there had been a Chicago investigation of some Cubans?

James J. Rowley: I did not get that.

Leodis Matthews: Mr. Rowley, let me just call your attention to JFK F-419, a document I believe that I have supplied you earlier.

James J. Rowley: Yes.

Leodis Matthews: Have you had occasion to read through that report?

James J. Rowley: Yes, sir.

Leodis Matthews: That report indicates that you received it shortly after the assassination. It was entitled, "Possible Involvement by Quentin Pino Machado in a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK." Did you review that report?

James J. Rowley: I do not think I reviewed that report. I did not see my initials on it, so therefore I have to assume I did not review it.

Leodis Matthews: I also call your attention to JFK F-422, a document which you also have in your possession, entitled, "Chicago Investigation of Cuban Groups Alleged To Be Involved in the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy." Do you have any recollection of having received and reviewed that report?

James J. Rowley: I think my initials are on that report which would indicate that I did read it, but I have no immediate recollection.

Leodis Matthews: Did you receive any report about the agents' performance in Dallas?

James J. Rowley: We did receive reports from time to time on Dallas, but which specific report are you referring to?

Leodis Matthews: Well, did you receive a report indicating how the agents had performed at the time that the shooting episode occurred in Dealey Plaza?

James J. Rowley: The report indicated that they performed adequately under the circumstances. The action of Agent Clint Hill, that he was attempting to take some action, is indicative of the agent's response.

Leodis Matthews: Did you play any role in supervising the investigation itself?

James J. Rowley: No, sir.

Leodis Matthews: I want to call your attention to what has been marked as JFK F-423, "Secret Service Organizational Chart," off to your right. In your opinion, would the Service have been organized in substantially the same manner in November of 1963?

James J. Rowley: Yes.

Leodis Matthews: Would Mr. Kelley's position on the chart have indicated that he had authority in the field office to direct that the agents conduct whatever investigation he felt was necessary?

James J. Rowley: Yes, sir, he had that authority...

Leodis Matthews: When the Warren Commission was established, you selected Mr. Kelley to be the liaison person?

James J. Rowley: Yes, sir.

Leodis Matthews: Why did you make that selection?

James J. Rowley: Why? Because it was a natural selection, inasmuch as he was in Dallas to conduct the investigation, and would be familiar with what might be required by the Warren Commission, and therefore would be of great assistance to them.

Leodis Matthews: As Chief of the Secret Service, did you ever make any attempts to meet with the person in charge of the FBI and formulate a strategy for investigation?

James J. Rowley: I did meet with Mr. Hoover and, we reaffirmed the longstanding cooperative relationship between our two agencies.

Leodis Matthews: Did you have any input on a strategy of investigation for the Warren Commission?

James J. Rowley: I think we did prepare something for the Warren Commission. Specifically I do not recall, but I have in the back of my mind such a report.

Leodis Matthews: Mr. Kelley has already testified to some exhibits I would like to identify for the record which you have a copy of: of JFK F-414, of JFK F-415, of JFK F-416, JFK F-417, and JFK F-418, a series of reports which his testimony has indicated involved the Secret Service investigation of the Cuban plot to assassinate the President. Were you aware of those reports during the course of the Warren Commission investigation?

James J. Rowley: No, I have no recollection of them.

Leodis Matthews: Do you have any recollection of having reviewed those documents?

James J. Rowley: No, sir. You mean at that time, or recently?

Leodis Matthews: At the time that the documents were generated.

James J. Rowley: No.

Leodis Matthews: Did you work out any agreement as to which files would be supplied to the Warren Commission?

James J. Rowley: That was left up to Inspector Kelley, since he was the one most familiar with what documents. In fact, he was directed to comply with all the requests that were made by the Commission to the Secret Service for reports...

Harold E. Ford: You mentioned a minute ago to the counsel that you met with the Director, Mr. Hoover, and in talking with him, did you ever discuss the line of investigation and the exchange of intelligence?

James J. Rowley: That was worked out right after the assassination, Mr. Congressman, but we already had their cooperation to the extent that they were able to provide us with intelligence information prior to that time.

Harold E. Ford: You mentioned earlier that you assigned Inspector Thomas Kelley.

James J. Rowley:Yes, sir.

Harold E. Ford: To Dallas for the investigation. Again for the record, why did you assign Mr. Kelley, dispatch him to the Dallas-Fort Worth area?

James J. Rowley: I assigned Mr. Kelley because he was the nearest inspector to Dallas at that time. As I explained previously since time was of the essence, I wanted to send an inspector as quickly as possible, and Mr. Kelly was the closest one. One of the responsibilities of an inspector is to do precisely what Mr. Kelly did in Dallas, direct the investigation and the activities.

Harold E. Ford: Was he there to investigate who may have been involved in the assassination or to review the performance of the Secret Service in connection with the assassination?

James J. Rowley: He was there to become involved in the investigation to determine the facts surrounding the assassination.

Harold E. Ford: Mr. Rowley, you testified before the Warren Commission June 18 of 1964. At that time in your testimony you were asked by Senator Cooper the following questions, and I quote: "Do you have any information based upon any facts that you know based upon any information given to you by persons who claim to have personal knowledge that there were persons engaged in a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy." And your response was, "I have no such facts, sir." He then asked you the following additional question, and I quote:

"I address the same question as to whether you have any information that the killing of President Kennedy had any connection with any foreign power." Your response was, and I quote: "I have no such information."

We have heard testimony from Mr. Kelley indicating that there were assassination plots investigated by the Secret Service in early 1963. Were you aware of those investigations at the time of your testimony before the Warren Commission?

James J. Rowley: I would have to look at the reports themselves, Mr. Congressman, to see whether my initials were on them. In the reports that you speak of, it was established that there was not any activity directed against--or of interest to us as it affected the President of the United States.

Harold E. Ford: Going back to the first question, you said, "I have no such facts, sir." " The second question you also said, I have no such information." I am asking now, were you aware of those investigations at the time you appeared before the Warren Commission?

James J. Rowley: Well, if I made that statement, then I was not aware of those facts.

Harold E. Ford: I would like counsel to give the witness JFK F-416, F417, F-418, and ask the witness whether his initials appear upon the face of these reports.

James J. Rowley: Yes, sir.

Harold E. Ford: Chief Rowley, why did you not call it to the Warren Commission's attention back in 1964 when you appeared before the Commission?

Chief Rowley. This information at the time was handled either by the PRS or through Mr. Kelley, and I can only assume, Mr. Congressman, that these reports were furnished to the Warren Commission.

Harold E. Ford: The reports in your hand were reported?

James J. Rowley: That is right. It was an ongoing investigation, as I see it, in which case there would be a relationship with the FBI and the CIA, and in the ultimate I would think that the report itself would establish whether or not it affected the safety of the President of the United States.

Harold E. Ford: But you had initialed these reports or documents prior to the June 18, 1964 appearance before the Warren Commission; is that correct?

James J. Rowley: That is correct, sir.