James Truitt was born in Chicago, but grew up in Baltimore. He served in the United States Navy during the Second World War. In 1945 James Truitt met Anne Dean: "Toward the end of the war, one of the other people - I went in to have tea with her one afternoon. We used to have tea on Sunday afternoon and drink tea with a little rum in it and listen to the chamber music. I went in and there was this extremely attractive young naval officer just back from the Pacific. He had blue eyes and yellow hair and he looked like me. He looked like my brother. And he was born in Baltimore - or born in Chicago but grew up in Baltimore, and he went to Ocean City when he was a child, just as I did... And he was a restless - a restless, vibrant, curious, intellectual, entertaining man." (1)
In September, 1947, James Truitt married Anne. At the time he was working in the State Department but in 1948 he went to work for Life Magazine. He spent three years with the magazine in San Francisco before moving to Washington. During this period she gave birth to three children Alexandra, Mary and Sam. (2) At this time James Truitt was described as "physically compact, he wore his sandy hair in an extremely short brush cut... charming and genteel, cigarette always in hand, he gave the impression of a man of street savviness and constant movement." (3)
Anne Truitt was a talented artist who came under the influence of Kenneth Noland. Her closest friend was Mary Pinchot Meyer, the wife of Cord Meyer, a senior figure in the CIA. Mary was also an artist. Cicely Angleton, the wife of James Jesus Angleton, was also interested in art. According to Nina Burleigh, the author of A Very Private Woman (1998): "The Angletons, Truitts, and Meyers grew very close, and they were especially bound together by their mutual interest in art and culture." (4)
During this period the Truitts became friends with a group of people living in Georgetown. This included Mary Pinchot Meyer, Cord Meyer, Frank Wisner, George Kennan, Dean Acheson, Thomas Braden, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, James Jesus Angleton, Cicely Angleton, Wistar Janney, Joseph Alsop, Tracy Barnes, Philip Graham, Katharine Graham, David Bruce, Ben Bradlee, Antoinette Pinchot Bradlee, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, Chip Bohlen and Paul Nitze. They were mainly journalists, CIA officers and government officials. Nina Burleigh has pointed out: "The younger families - the Meyers, Janneys, Truitts, Pittmans, Lanahans, and Angletons - spent a great deal of leisure time together. There were evening get-togethers, and sometimes the families took weekend camping trips to nearby beaches or mountains when husbands could get away... On Saturday mornings in the fall, the adults got together and played touch football in a park north of Georgetown while their children biked around the sidelines, then all retired to someone's house for lunch and drinks... The Janneys had a pool, and on hot summer nights the parties were aloud, drunken affairs, filled with laughter, dancing, and the sound of breaking glass and people being pushed into the pool." (5)
Anne was a talented artist and according to Matt Schudel: "As early as the 1960s, she was considered a leader in the minimalist school of art, a label she reluctantly accepted even though her work defied simple classification... In 1961, she discovered her mature style, creating standing rectangular sculptures painted in subtle, precisely shaded colors. Set on slightly recessed bases, they appear to hover just above the floor. She was immediately identified with the emerging minimalist movement." (6)
In May 1960 James Truitt become the personal assistant to Philip Graham at the Washington Post, where he rose to become vice president. (7) A close friend, David Middleton recalled: "Truitt was incredibly smart, incredibly well read." He also knew a great deal about art: "Truitt had sophisticated and broad tastes in art. He collected Korean art and Japanese primitive art. He was eccentric and experimental. He kept an alligator in the bathtub of his Georgetown house for a time." Truitt became close to Mary Pinchot Meyer: "Eventually he came to regard Mary Meyer as his spiritual sister, probably because her experimental nature was so like his own." This caused problems for Anne Truitt: "Her relationship with Mary was complicated. She adored and admired her, but she was eventually hurt by her husband's attention to her friend." (8)
Anne Truitt disliked the idea of being under the financial control of her husband and this caused problems in their marriage: "I had actually eaten food earned by someone else. I tasted something slimy and rotten in my mouth and felt a kind of servitude utterly familiar. With the force of a blow to my solar plexus, I felt clearly the position I had placed myself in. I had been beholden to James for the food in my mouth... I owed him something because he kept me and the children - and that's the truth, I owed him." (9)
In January, 1962, Mary Pinchot Meyer began a sexual relationship with President John F. Kennedy. (10) Charles Bartlett, a journalist who ran the Washington bureau of the Chattanooga Times, and a close friend of Kennedy's became concerned about the affair: "I really liked Jack Kennedy. We had great fun together and a lot of things in common. We had a very personal, close relationship... Jack was in love with Mary Meyer. He was certainly smitten by her, he was heavily smitten. He was very frank with me about it, that he thought she was absolutely great.... It was a dangerous relationship." (11)
White House gate logs show Mary Meyer signed in to see the president at or around 7.30 p.m. on fifteen occasions between October 1961 and August 1963, always when Jacqueline Kennedy is known to have been away from Washington, with one exception when her whereabouts are not verifiable by White House records or news reports. "The gate logs do not tell the entire story of who was in the White House, because there were other entrances and many occasions when people have said they were inside the White House without being signed... The fact that Mary Meyer's name is so often entered means she was not hidden and was probably there more often than the logs indicate." (12) Kenny O'Donnell told Leo Damore, that in October 1963 Kennedy told him that he "was deeply in love with Mary, that after he left the White House he envisioned a future with her and would divorce Jackie." (13)
Mary Meyer told Anne and James Truitt about her relationship with Kennedy. "Mary apparently told the Truitts about her meetings with the president while they were happening, and Truitt kept notes with dates, times, and details. It is unclear whether Mary knew of or approved of Truitt's note-taking, although she did tell a female friend during this period that she regarded her trysts with Kennedy as interesting history." (14) Mary also told them that she was keeping a diary about the relationship and asked the Truitts to take possession of a private diary "if anything ever happened to me".
In 1963 James Truitt was sent to Tokyo in order to become the Japan bureau chief for Newsweek. Anne was with James when Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead as she walked along the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown on 12th October, 1964. Mary appeared to be killed by a professional hitman. The first bullet was fired at the back of the head. She did not die straight away. A second shot was fired into the heart. The evidence suggests that in both cases, the gun was virtually touching Mary’s body when it was fired. As the FBI expert testified, the “dark haloes on the skin around both entry wounds suggested they had been fired at close-range, possibly point-blank”. (15)
Ben Bradlee points out that the first he heard of the death of Mary Pinchot Meyer was when he received a phone-call from Wistar Janney, his friend who worked for the CIA: "My friend Wistar Janney called to ask if I had been listening to the radio. It was just after lunch, and of course I had not. Next he asked if I knew where Mary was, and of course I didn't. Someone had been murdered on the towpath, he said, and from the radio description it sounded like Mary. I raced home. Tony was coping by worrying about children, hers and Mary's, and about her mother, who was seventy-one years old, living alone in New York. We asked Anne Chamberlin, Mary's college roommate, to go to New York and bring Ruth to us. When Ann was well on her way, I was delegated to break the news to Ruth on the telephone. I can't remember that conversation. I was so scared for her, for my family, and for what was happening to our world. Next, the police told us, someone would have to identify Mary's body in the morgue, and since Mary and her husband, Cord Meyer, were separated, I drew that straw too." (16)
Peter Janney, the author of Mary's Mosaic (2012) has questioned this account of events provided by Bradlee. "How could Bradlee's CIA friend have known 'just after lunch' that the murdered woman was Mary Meyer when the victim's identity was still unknown to police? Did the caller wonder if the woman was Mary, or did he know it, and if so, how? This distinction is critical, and it goes to the heart of the mystery surrounding Mary Meyer's murder." Janney even questions if it really was his father who phoned Bradlee. He points out that Wistar Janney had died a year before Bradlee published his account of events. (17)
That night Antoinette Pinchot Bradlee received a telephone call from Anne Truitt. She told her that it "was a matter of some urgency that she found Mary's diary before the police got to it and her private life became a matter of public record". (18) Mary had apparently told Anne that "if anything ever happened to me" you must take possession of my "private diary". Ben Bradlee explains in The Good Life (1995): "We didn't start looking until the next morning, when Tony and I walked around the corner a few blocks to Mary's house. It was locked, as we had expected, but when we got inside, we found Jim Angleton, and to our complete surprise he told us he, too, was looking for Mary's diary." (19)
James Jesus Angleton later claimed that he had also received a telephone call from Anne Truitt. His wife, Cicely Angleton, confirmed this in an interview given to Nina Burleigh. (20) However, an article by Ron Rosenbaum and Phillip Nobile, in the New Times on 9th July, 1976, gives a different version of events with the Angleton's arriving at Mary's house that evening to attend a poetry reading and that at this stage they did not know she was dead. (21)
Joseph Trento, the author of Secret History of the CIA (2001), has pointed out: "Cicely Angleton called her husband at work to ask him to check on a radio report she had heard that a woman had been shot to death along the old Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown. Walking along that towpath, which ran near her home, was Mary Meyer's favorite exercise, and Cicely, knowing her routine, was worried. James Angleton dismissed his wife's worry, pointing out that there was no reason to suppose the dead woman was Mary - many people walked along the towpath. When the Angletons arrived at Mary Meyer's house that evening, she was not home. A phone call to her answering service proved that Cicely's anxiety had not been misplaced: Their friend had been murdered that afternoon." (22)
Ben Bradlee sacked James Truitt in 1969. As part of his settlement he took $35,000 on the written condition that he did not write anything for publication about his experiences at the Washington Post that was "in any way derogatory" of the company. Anne Truitt began to drink heavily and this had an impact on their marriage. The couple were divorced in 1971. Anne blamed the Second World War for the changes that had taken place in her husband. "Confronted by the probability of their own deaths, it seems to me that many of the most percipient men of my generation killed off those parts of themselves that were most vulnerable to pain, and thus lost forever a delicacy of feeling on which intimacy depends. To a less tragic extent we women also had to harden ourselves with them." (23)
James Truitt gave an interview to the National Enquirer that was published on 23rd February, 1976, with the headline, "Former Vice President of Washington Post Reveals... JFK 2-Year White House Romance". Truitt told the newspaper that Mary Pinchot Meyer was having an affair with John F. Kennedy. He also claimed that Mary had told them that she was keeping an account of this relationship in her diary. Truitt added that the diary had been removed by Ben Bradlee and James Jesus Angleton. (24)
The newspaper sent a journalist to interview Bradlee about the issues raised by Truitt. According to one eyewitness account, Bradlee "erupted in a shouting rage and had the reporter thrown out of the building". Nina Burleigh claims that it was Watergate that motivated Truitt to give the interview. "Truitt was disgusted that Bradlee was getting credit as a great champion of the First Amendment for exposing Nixon's steamy side in Watergate coverage after having indulgently overlooked Kennedy's hypocrisies." Truitt was also angry that Bradlee had not exposed Kennedy's affair with Mary Pinchot Meyer in his book, Conversations with Kennedy. Truitt had been close to Meyer during this period and had received a considerable amount of information about the relationship. (25)
Ben Bradlee, who had gone on holiday with his new wife, Sally Quinn, gave orders for the Washington Post to ignore the story. However, Harry Rosenfeld, a senior figure at the newspaper, commented, "We're not going to treat ourselves more kindly than we treat others." (26) However, when the article was published it included several interviews with Kennedy's friends who denied he had an affair with Meyer. Kenneth O'Donnell described her as a "lovely lady" but denied that there had been a romance. Timothy Reardon claimed that "nothing like that ever happened at the White House with her or anyone else." (27)
Ben Bradlee and James Jesus Angleton continued to deny the story. Some of Mary's friends knew that the two men were lying about the diary and some spoke anonymously to other newspapers and magazines. Later that month Time Magazine published an article confirming Truitt's story. (28) In an interview with Jay Gourley, Bradlee's former wife, and Mary's sister, Antoinette Pinchot Bradlee admitted that her sister had been having an affair with John F. Kennedy: "It was nothing to be ashamed of. I think Jackie might have suspected it, but she didn't know for sure." (29)
Two journalists, Ron Rosenbaum and Phillip Nobile, decided to carry out their own investigation into the case. After interviewing James Truitt and several other friends of Mary Pinchot Meyer, including the Angletons, they published an article, entitled, "The Curious Aftermath of JFK's Best and Brightest Affair" in the New Times on 9th July, 1976. According to this version, the search for the diary took place on Saturday, 17th October, five days after her murder. As well as Antoinette (Tony) Bradlee, James and Cicely Angleton, Cord Meyer and Anne Chamberlain, were also present. The search party found nothing. (30)
Later that same day, Tony Bradlee was said to have discovered a "locked steel box" in Mary's studio. Inside it was one one of Mary's artist sketchbooks, a number of personal papers and "hundreds of letters". Peter Janney, the author of Mary's Mosaic (2012) points out: "Tony Bradlee later claimed that the presence of a few vague notes written in the sketchbook - allegedly including cryptic references to an affair with the president - persuaded her that she'd found her sister's missing diary. But Mary's artist sketchbook wasn't her real diary. It was just a ruse." (31) The contents of the box were given to Angleton who claimed he burnt the diary. Angleton later admitted that Mary recorded in her diary that she had taken LSD with Kennedy before "they made love".
Leo Damore claimed in an interview with Peter Janney in 1992 that the reason Angleton and Bradlee were looking for the diary was that: "She (Meyer) had access to the highest levels. She was involved in illegal drug activity. What do you think it would do to the beatification of Kennedy if this woman said, 'It wasn't Camelot, it was Caligula's court'?" Damore also said that a figure close to the CIA had told him that Mary's death had been a professional "hit". Damore told Janney that certain forces within the government had targeted her for "termination". (32)
There is another possible reason why both Angleton and Bradlee were searching for documents in Meyer's house. Meyer had been married to Cord Meyer, a leading CIA operative involved in a variety of covert operations in the early 1950s. This included the highly secret Operation Mockingbird, a CIA program to influence the mass media. Angleton and Bradlee were both involved in this project. Were they worried that Meyer had kept a record of these activities? Was this why Mary Pinochet Meyer had been murdered?
On 18th November 1981, James Truitt committed suicide with a gunshot to the head in Mexico while his son, Sam Truitt was visiting from Washington. According to Nina Burleigh, the author of A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer (1998), Truitt's wife, Evelyn Patterson Truitt, claimed that her husband's papers, including copies of Mary's diary, had been stolen from the home by an CIA agent called Herbert Burrows. (33)
On February 23, 1976, the National Enquirer published a frontpage story headlined "Former Vice President of Washington Post Reveals JFK 2-Year White House Romance." The article included prominent pictures of James Truitt in a black turtleneck, vaguely resembling James Coburn, and appearing to be rolling a cigarette; Mary Meyer looking young and plump and also with a cigarette in her hand; Angleton sporting a sly smile beneath the rim of a felt hat; and half of a photo of the Bradlees and the Kennedys on a White House couch, showing only JFK and Tony Bradlee. The story's biggest bombshell was Truitt's allegation that the president and Mary had smoked marijuana joints that Truitt had provided. The story also revealed that Kennedy had hidden "one of Mary's undergarments in the Presidential safe." Truitt claimed Mary loved Kennedy but realized their romance would never be more than an illicit affair. To report the story, the tabloid sent reporters down to San Miguel de Allende to interview Truitt. The tabloid also contacted Tony Bradlee and Angleton and tried to talk to Ben Bradlee.
Bradlee was furious. When the National Enquirer sent a reporter to talk to him in his Post office, the editor erupted in a shouting rage and had the reporter thrown out of the building. Bradlee and Truitt went way back together, socially and professionally, and Truitt's betrayal hit Bradlee especially hard. Both had worked in the Washington bureau of Newsweek and both had been right-hand men to Phil Graham. When the newspaper fired Truitt, as part of his settlement he took $35,000 on the written condition that he not write anything for publication about his experiences at the Post that was "in any way derogatory" of the Post company, Phil Graham, or the Graham family. Because he had been an assistant to Graham as well as a party buddy, it was presumed he had knowledge of a great deal of the publishing family's dirty laundry.
No one knows exactly what motivated Truitt to sell Mary's story. Some journalists who talked to him believed he wanted to embarrass Bradlee in the wake of his 1976 bestseller, Conversations with Kennedy. Truitt was disgusted that Bradlee was getting credit as a great champion of the First Amendment for exposing Nixon's seamy side in Watergate coverage after having indulgently overlooked Kennedy's hypocrisies. He wrote Bradlee a letter when he heard about Bradlee's plans to publish his Kennedy book and demanded to know whether Bradlee would expose Kennedy's affair with his sister-in-law. At the time the Post was running editorials demanding the White House "let it all hang out" in the Watergate matter. Bradlee mentioned Mary five times in his book, never divulging a hint of the true nature of her relationship with the president, with the coy exception of the comment that Kennedy had once noted that "Mary would be hard to live with." Truitt also might have wanted to hurt his ex-wife, Anne. He probably did not betray Mary for the money: The National Enquirer paid him just one thousand dollars for his story in 1975 and didn't run it until after the revelations about Judith Campbell Exner's affair with Kennedy were made public during House hearings into the Kennedy assassination the following year.
Advance word of the upcoming tabloid scoop provoked the Washington Post to cover it. Ben Bradlee was vacationing in the Virgin Islands with his new wife, Sally Quinn. Reached there, Bradlee objected to running the story until he could get a "clear focus" on it, but the editors vetoed waiting. "We're not going to treat ourselves more kindly than we treat others," one of the editors, Harry Rosenfeld, said.
A Post reporter was dispatched to see Truitt in Mexico, where Truitt again recounted the details of Mary's private life. The Post ran an article on page one filled with the denials of Kennedy aides. One of them, Timothy Reardon, told the Post "nothing like that ever happened at the White House with her or anyone else." Kenneth O'Donnell called Mary "a legitimate, lovely lady" and denied that there had been a romance. Angleton told the Post he had assisted the Meyer family in a purely private capacity and said Mary had been a "cherished friend" of his wife. He refused to say whether there had been a diary.
Mary's women friends were angered by the National Enquirer story and horrified that the husband of one of their own had been the source of the disclosures. Their efforts to counter the revelations came in the form of unsourced quotes later found in small items in venues such as Time. While not denying the sex outright, they tried to put it in a more ladylike context, away from the insinuating tabloid sordidness. "She was not the kind of person to get into a dalliance," insisted "one old friend of the Meyer family" to Time. "This wasn't some tawdry affair."
The least horrified person involved seemed to be Mary's sister, Tony Bradlee, who matter-of-factly confirmed the fact of the romance but insisted that it be described as a "fling," not an affair. "Neither the relationship of Mary with JFK nor the existence of the diary has ever been made public before," Tony told National Enquirer reporter Jay Gourley. "It was nothing to be ashamed of. I think Jackie might have suspected it, but she didn't know for sure." Later she told the Post that the tabloid had taken her words out of context "to make it appear that I corroborated their story." But she denied none of it.
Two telephone calls that night from overseas added new dimensions to Mary's death. The first came from President Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, in Paris. He expressed his particular sorrow and condolences, and it was only after that conversation was over that we realized that we hadn't known that Pierre had been a friend of Mary's. The second, from Anne Truitt, an artist/sculptor living in Tokyo, was completely understandable. She had been perhaps Mary's closest friend, and after she and Tony had grieved together, she told us that Mary had asked her to take possession of a private diary 'if anything ever happened to me.' Anne asked if we had found any such diary, and we told her we hadn't looked for anything, much less a diary. We didn't start looking until the next morning, when Tony and I walked around the corner a few blocks to Mary's house. It was locked, as we had expected, but when we got inside, we found Jim Angleton, and to our complete surprise he told us he, too, was looking for Mary's diary.
It is only a matter of time, Angleton feels, until Bradlee makes a serious mistake, as he eventually does with the publication of Conversations with Kennedy, in which he mentions that Mary Meyer was murdered, but only in a footnote. A former Post editor named James Truitt is enraged at this; according to Truitt, Bradlee has forced him out of the paper in a particularly nasty fashion, with accusations of mental incompetence, and now Truitt decides to get back at Bradlee by revealing to other newspapers his belief that Bradlee's story on the Cord Meyers in Conversations with Kennedy was not the whole story; that Mary Meyer had been Kennedy's lover and that the day of her murder, James Angleton of the CIA searched her apartment and burned her diary. Their feud unnecessarily implicates Angleton, to his disgust and bitterness.
Add another chapter to John Kennedy's lengthening Lothario legend. The central figure this time is Mary Pinchot Meyer, an attractive, well-connected Washington artist who was the sister-in-law of Washington Post Executive Editor Benjamin Bradlee. As former Post Vice President James Truitt recently told the National Enquirer, Kennedy's liaison with Meyer while he was President lasted nearly two years and even included some pot smoking in the White House bedroom. "She was not the kind of person to get into a dalliance," insists one old friend of the Meyer family. "This wasn't some tawdry affair." Meyer was killed in 1964 at the age of 43, the victim of a Georgetown mugging. According to Truitt's account, James Angleton, then CIA counterintelligence chief, managed to find and destroy the artist's diary before it could cause any trouble.
Last week Truitt, now 54 and living in Mexico, added an occult dimension to the Kennedy-Meyer story. Four years after her death, Truitt says, he took Meyer's sister and brother-in-law, Toni and Ben Bradlee, to the small Maryland town of Westminster. There the trio allegedly made contact with the deceased artist with the help of a local medium. As Truitt tells it, Meyer described her burial place in Milford, Pa., then told her audience: "Jack is here. Bobby is here now"—meaning Robert Kennedy, who was killed earlier that year. If Meyer did talk, however, the Bradlees will not; so far both have refused to comment on Truitt's latest tale.