Mary Pinchot was born on 14th October, 1920. Her father Amos Pinchot, was a wealthy lawyer who helped fund the radical journal, The Masses. He was also a key figure in the Progressive Party. Her mother, Ruth Pinchot, was a journalist who worked for worked for magazines such as The Nation and The New Republic.
As a child Mary was brought into contact with left-wing intellectuals. People like Mabel Dodge, Crystal Eastman, Max Eastman, Louis Brandeis, Robert La Follette and Harold Ickes were regular visitors at their Grey Towers home in Milford, Pennsylvania.
Mary attended Brearley School and Vassar College. In 1938 she began going out with William Attwood. It was while with Attwood at a dance held at Choate that she met John F. Kennedy for the first time.
While at Vassar Mary became interested in left-wing politics. This did not seem to upset her father, Amos Pinchot, who wrote to his brother Gifford: "Vassar seems to be very interested in communism. And a great deal of warm debating is going on among the students of Mary's class, which I think is an excellent thing. People of that age ought to be radical anyhow."
After leaving Vassar she obtained work as a journalist at United Press. This included writing for magazines such as Mademoiselle. Mary also became a member of the American Labor Party. This insured that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started a file on Meyer's political activities. Mary, like her parents, was also a committed pacifist.
In 1944 Mary met Cord Meyer, a lieutenant in the US Marines who was recovering from serious shrapnel injuries that had resulted in him losing an eye. The couple married on 19th April, 1945. Soon afterwards the couple went to San Francisco to attend the conference that established the United Nations. Cord went as an aide to Harold Stassen, whereas Mary, who was working for the North American Newspaper Alliance at the time, was one of the reporters sent to cover this important event.
Cord Meyer had been shocked by the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war Meyer commissioned a film by Pare Lorentz called The Beginning or the End. Meyer wanted this film to be the definitive statement about the dangers of the atomic age. Cord wrote at the time: "Talked with Mary of how steadily depressing is our full realization of how little hope there is of avoiding the approaching catastrophe of atomic warfare."
The following year Meyer published a book about his war experiences, Waves of Darkness. Meyer expressed pacifist views in the book: "The only certain fruit of this insanity will be the rotting bodies upon which the sun will impartially shine tomorrow. Let us throw down these guns that we hate."
For a while Mary worked as an editor for the Atlantic Monthly. Her first child Quentin was born in 1945. After the birth of Michael in 1947 she became a housewife but still managed to attend classes at the Art Students League in New York City.
Like her husband, Mary became an advocate of world government. In May, 1947, Cord Meyer was elected president of the United World Federalists. Under his leadership, membership of the organization doubled in size. Albert Einstein was one of his most important supporters and personally solicited funds for the organization. Mary wrote for its journal, The United World Federalists.
Mary's third child, Mark, was born in 1950. The family now moved back to Cambridge. Cord was showing signs of becoming disillusioned with the idea of world government. He had experienced problems with members of the American Communist Party who had infiltrated the organizations he had established. It was about this time that he began working secretly for the Central Intelligence Agency.
In 1950 Meyer formed the Committee to Frame a World Constitution with Robert Maynard Hutchins and Elizabeth Mann Borgese. As a result of this work Meyer made contact with the International Cooperative Alliance, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the Indian Socialist Party and the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism. It is almost certain that this had been done on behalf of the CIA.
Allen W. Dulles made contact with Cord Meyer in 1951. He accepted the invitation to join the CIA. Dulles told Meyer he wanted him to work on a project that was so secret that he could not be told about it until he officially joined the organization. Meyer was to work under Frank Wisner, director of the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). This became the espionage and counter-intelligence branch of the CIA. Wisner was told to create an organization that concentrated on "propaganda, economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."
Meyer became part of what became known as Operation Mockingbird, a CIA program to influence the mass media. According to Deborah Davis (Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post): Meyer was Mockingbird's "principal operative".
Mary and the family now moved to Washington where they became members of the Georgetown Crowd. This group included Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, Joseph Alsop, Tracy Barnes, Philip Graham, Katharine Graham, David Bruce, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, Chip Bohlen and Paul Nitze. The Meyers also socialized with other CIA officers or CIA assets James Angleton (Cicely Angleton), Wistar Janney (Mary Wisnar), Ben Bradlee (Antoinette Bradlee) and James Truitt (Anne Truitt).
In August, 1953, Joseph McCarthy accused Cord Meyer of being a communist. The Federal Bureau of Investigation added to the smear by announcing it was unwilling to give Meyer "security clearance". Suspicion also fell on Mary at this time and it was revealed that the FBI had been investigating her activities. However, the FBI refused to explain what evidence they had against the Meyers. Allen W. Dulles and Frank Wisner both came to Meyer's defence and refused to allow him to be interrogated by the FBI.
The FBI eventually revealed the charges against Meyer. Apparently he was a member of several liberal groups considered to be subversive by the Justice Department. This included being a member of the National Council on the Arts, where he associated with Norman Thomas, the leader of the Socialist Party and its presidential candidate in 1948. Meyer was eventually cleared of these charges and was allowed to keep his job.
Cord Meyer became disillusioned with life in the CIA and in January, 1954, he went to New York City and attempted to get a job in publishing. Although he saw contacts he had made during his covert work with the media (Operation Mockingbird) he was unable to obtain a job with any of the established book publishing firms. In the summer of 1954 the Meyer family's golden retriever was hit by a car on the curve of highway near their house and killed. The dog's death worried Cord. He told colleagues at the CIA he was afraid the same thing might happen to one of his children.
In the summer of 1954 the Meyers got new neighbours. John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie Kennedy purchased Hickory Hill, a house several hundred yards from where the Meyers lived. Mary became good friends with Jackie and they went on walks together.
In November, 1954, Meyer replaced Thomas Braden as head of International Organizations Division. Meyer began spending a lot of time in Europe. One of Meyer's tasks was to supervise Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the United States government broadcasts to Eastern Europe. According to Nina Burleigh (A Very Private Woman) Meyer was "overseeing a vast 'black' budget of millions of dollars channeled through phony foundation of a global network of associations and labor groups that on their surface appeared to be progressive".
On 18th December, 1956, Mary's nine-year-old son, Michael, was hit by a car on the curve of highway near their house and killed. It was the same spot where the family's golden retriever had been killed two years earlier. The tragedy briefly brought the couple together. However, in 1958, Mary filed for divorce. In her divorce petition she alleged "extreme cruelty, mental in nature, which seriously injured her health, destroyed her happiness, rendered further cohabitation unendurable and compelled the parties to separate."
Mary continued to live with her two sons in the family home of Langley Commons. She took up art and her sister, Antoinette Pinchot and her husband Ben Bradlee, allowed her to set up a studio in their converted garage. Mary also began a relationship with the abstract artist, Kenneth Noland. Mary also got to know Robert Kennedy, who had moved in to his brother's house, Hickory Hill, after John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy moved out in 1960.
According to Nina Burleigh (A Very Private Woman) James Angleton began bugging Mary's telephone and bedroom after she left Cord Meyer. This information came from an interview with Joan Bross, the wife of John Bross, a high-ranking CIA official. Angleton became a regular visitor to the family home and took Mary's sons fishing.
In October 1961, Mary began visiting John F. Kennedy in the White House. It was about this time she began an affair with the president. Mary told her friends, Ann and James Truitt, that she was keeping a diary about the relationship.
In 1962 Mary made contact with Timothy Leary, the director of research projects at Harvard University. Leary supplied LSD to Mary who used it with Kennedy. Leary also claimed that Mary helped influence Kennedy's views on nuclear disarmament and rapprochement with Cuba. It was later discovered that the FBI was keeping a file on Mary. Later, James Angleton, head of counterintelligence at the CIA admitted that the agency was bugging Mary's telephone and bedroom during this period.
Kennedy aide, Meyer Feldman, claimed in an interview with Nina Burleigh that the president might have discussed substantial issues with her: "I think he might have thought more of her than some of the other women and discussed things that were on his mind, not just social gossip."
In January, 1963, Philip Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post, attended a convention of American newspaper editors in Phoenix. Graham, who was suffering from alcoholism, disclosed at the meeting that John F. Kennedy was having an affair with Mary Meyer. No newspaper reported this incident but Kennedy decided to bring an end to the affair. However, they continued to see each other at social functions.
According to his biography, Flashbacks (1983) Timothy Leary claims that Mary phoned him the day after Kennedy was assassinated: "They couldn't control him any more. He was changing too fast. He was learning too much... They'll cover everything up. I gotta come see you. I'm scared. I'm afraid."
In the summer of 1964 Meyer told friends that she believed someone had been inside her house while she was away. On another occasion she told Elizabeth Eisenstein that "she thought she had seen somebody leaving as she walked in". Mary reported these incidents to the police. Eisenstein said Mary was clearly frightened by these incidents.
On 12th October, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead as she walked along the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath in Georgetown. Henry Wiggins, a car mechanic, was working on a vehicle on Canal Road, when he heard a woman shout out: "Someone help me, someone help me". He then heard two gunshots. Wiggins ran to the edge of the wall overlooking the tow path. He later told police he saw "a black man in a light jacket, dark slacks, and a dark cap standing over the body of a white woman."
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 Marys 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.
Soon afterwards Raymond Crump, a black man, was found not far from the murder scene. He was arrested and charged with Mary's murder. Police tests were unable to show that Crump had fired the .38 caliber Smith and Wesson gun. There were no trace of nitrates on his hands or clothes. Despite an extensive search of the area no gun could be found. This included a two day search of the tow path by 40 police officers. The police also drained the canal near to the murder scene. Police scuba divers searched the waters away from where Mary was killed. However, no gun could be found. Nor could the prosecution find any link between Crump and any Smith and Wesson gun.
Crumps lawyer, Dovey Roundtree, was convinced of his innocence. A civil rights lawyer who defended him for free, she argued that Crump was so timid and feeble-minded that if he had been guilty he would have confessed everything while being interrogated by the police.
No newspaper reports identified the true work of her former husband, Cord Meyer. He was described as a government official or an author. A large number of journalists knew that Meyer had been married to a senior CIA officer. They also knew that she had been having an affair with John F. Kennedy. None of this was reported. In fact, the judge, ruled that the private life of Mary Meyer could not be mentioned in court.
The trial judge was Howard Corcoran. He was the brother of Tommy Corcoran, a close friend of Lyndon B. Johnson. Corcoran had been appointed by Johnson soon after he became president. It is generally acknowledged that Corcoran was under Johnsons control. His decision to insist that Marys private life should not be mentioned in court was very important in disguising the possible motive for the murder. This information was also kept from Crumps lawyer, Dovey Roundtree. Although she attempted to investigate Mary's background she found little information about her: "It was as if she existed only on the towpath on the day she was murdered."
During the trial Wiggins was unable to positively identify Raymond Crump as the man standing over Meyer's body. The prosecution was also handicapped by the fact that the police had been unable to find the murder weapon at the scene of the crime or to provide a credible motive for the crime. On 29th July, 1965, Crump was acquitted of murdering Mary Meyer. The case remains unsolved.
In March, 1976, James Truitt, a former senior member of staff at the Washington Post, gave an interview to the National Enquirer. Truitt told the newspaper that Meyer was having an affair with John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated. He also claimed that Meyer had told his wife, Ann Truitt, that she was keeping an account of this relationship in her diary. Meyer asked Truitt to take possession of a private diary "if anything ever happened to me".
Ann Truitt was living in Tokyo at the time that Meyer was murdered on 12th October, 1964. She phoned Bradlee at his home and asked him if he had found the diary. Bradlee, who claimed he was unaware of his sister-in-law's affair with Kennedy, knew nothing about the diary. He later recalled what he did after Truitt's phone-call: "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."
James Angleton, CIA counterintelligence chief, admitted that he knew of Mary's relationship with John F. Kennedy and was searching her home looking for her diary and any letters that would reveal details of the affair. According to Ben Bradlee, it was Mary's sister, Antoinette Bradlee, who found the diary and letters a few days later. It was claimed that the diary was in a metal box in Mary's studio. 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 article that appeared in the New York Post 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".
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. Were they worried that Meyer had kept a record of these activities? Was this why Mary Pinochet Meyer had been murdered?
After leaving the CIA in 1977 Cord Meyer wrote several books including an autobiography, Facing Reality: From World Federalism to the CIA. In the book Meyer commented on the murder of his wife: "I was satisfied by the conclusions of the police investigation that Mary had been the victim of a sexually motivated assault by a single individual and that she had been killed in her struggle to escape." Carol Delaney, the longtime personal assistant to Meyer, later admitted: "Mr. Meyer didn't for a minute think that Ray Crump had murdered his wife or that it had been an attempted rape. But, being an Agency man, he couldn't very well accuse the CIA of the crime, although the murder had all the markings of an in-house rubout."
In February, 2001, the writer, C. David Heymann, asked Cord Meyer about the death of Mary Pinchot Meyer: "My father died of a heart attack the same year Mary was killed, " he whispered. "It was a bad time." And what could he say about Mary Meyer? Who had committed such a heinous crime? "The same sons of bitches," he hissed, "that killed John F. Kennedy."