Recap: E21 Mary Pinchot Meyer

Mary Pinchot Meyer, a well-known member of Georgetown society, is shot and killed in 1964 while walking down a path she traversed every day along the C&O Canal in Washington, D.C. Born in New York to a wealthy and well-connected lawyer father who was a key figure in the Progressive Party and a mother who wrote for The Nation and The New Republic, Mary grew up in a very left-wing household.

Among many things, Mary became a journalist, a pacifist and a suspected Communist. She also became a wife, a mother, an editor, and an artist, but despite of her many personal and professional accomplishments, she became best known for her affair with President John F. Kennedy.

On Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories, show hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie question whether Mary was the victim of random street crime or a conspiracy involving the most prominent men in the capital.

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As he changes a flat tire, a mechanic is chatting with the driver when they both hear a gunshot. Mary Pinchot Meyer yells for help, and they run to her aide. Seeing she had been shot, they call the police.

When Mary is just a little girl, her parents introduce her to left-wing intellectuals they often hosted at parties, including Mabel Dodge, Robert LaFollette Senior, Harold Ickes and Louis Brandeis. She goes to all the best schools and is just a teenager when she is briefly introduced to John F. Kennedy at a dance.

At Vassar College, once an Ivy League just for women, Mary meets Cicely d'Autremont and the two become fast friends. Six months after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Mary graduates and finds work writing for the United Press syndicate and other well established publications. Mary also begins a relationship with her future husband Cord Meyer, a Marine lieutenant who shares her pacifist views. They both attend the UN Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, during which the United Nations was founded.

Even when she marries Cord and has two sons, being a homemaker is far from all Mary does. Taking up classes at the Art Students League of New York and writing for the journal published by her husband’s organization, the United World Federalists, Mary stays busy and politically active.

In 1951, Cord is recruited by Allen Dulles, the man overseeing the CIA’s entire covert operations, to handle public relations for the agency full-time. Mary helps them move their family to Washington, D.C. where they become highly visible members of Georgetown society and befriend powerful, influential people.

Two years later, Cord is publicly accused of being a Communist by Senator Joe McCarthy. The FBI opens an investigation until Allen Dulles, now the Director of the CIA, intervenes and vouches for Cord’s loyalty. The case closes but trouble brews at home. Cord often travels for work and is rarely home, which is hard on his wife and sons.

In 1956, a friend runs into the Meyer household to tell Mary that one of her sons was hit and killed by a car. The tragedy briefly brings Mary and Cord closer together but in 1958 Mary files for a divorce. In the wake of her failed marriage, she throws herself into painting in a converted garage studio at the home shared by her sister Tony and noted journalist brother-in-law Ben Bradlee. Some of her work is displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires.

One day in 1961, a secret service agent shows up to chauffer Mary to the White House in a limousine. She is met by the President and given a grand tour that ends in the bedroom. Their affair continues up until his death, and it is suspected that Mary was privy to state secrets.

When news breaks about JFK’s assassination, Mary’s son Mark finds his mother in tears and tries to comfort her. He does not know she mourns a lover.

Flashing forward to October 12th, 1964, a Washington Post reporter overhears the radio dispatcher at police headquarters directing cruisers to the site of a homicide along the C&O Canal. The reporter arrives at the scene before the police and asks the mechanic and driver what happened. The police are none too happy to see the reporter when they arrive.

Ray Crump, found along the canal, becomes a prime suspect in Mary’s murder. He lies to police about what he was doing there and why his clothes are wet. His story of falling in while fishing quickly turns into falling in while drinking when the police find his fishing pole in his apartment across town.

Later that night, Mary’s friend Anne Truitt calls Ben Bradlee and asks for James Angleton, Cicely d’Autremont’s husband and chief of the CIA’s Counterintelligence Staff. Ben tells her he’s not with him but offers his help. Anne comments that while she doesn’t know what’s written in Mary’s diary, it’s important that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Ben promises to look for it discreetly.

In July of 1965, Ray Crump is put on trial for the murder of Mary. The prosecution brings a number of witnesses to the stand whose testimonies seem to implicate Ray in the murder, but his attorney Dovey Johnson Roundtree points out crucial flaws and the fact that there is no forensic evidence linking Crump to Mary or the crime scene. The jury finds Ray Crump not guilty.

If not Ray, who killed Mary Pinchot Meyer?

On next week’s episode, Carter and Wenndy learn more about Mary’s affair with President John F. Kennedy, the victim’s suspicions about the assassination and the Warren Commission Report, Ben Bradlee’s cover up and James Angleton’s activities after Mary was killed.