On October 12, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer, the glamorous sister-in-law of Ben Bradlee and sometime lover of Jack Kennedy, was shot to death while walking along the C & O Canal in Georgetown. And in the hours that followed, the search for Meyer’s scandalous diary would find the future Washington Post editor in a race with one of the Cold War’s most legendary spies.
Bradlee, who died Tuesday at age 93, is rightly lionized as a master journalist. But he was also a key figure in a Washington establishment that arguably no longer exists—the kind of guy who advised presidents even as he reported on them, and counted some of the CIA’s top officers as personal friends.
The day Meyer died, these roles converged. After Bradlee had returned home from identifying Meyer’s body at the city morgue, he and his wife Tony received a call from the Tokyo-based artist and sculptor Anne Truitt. “She had been perhaps Mary’s closest friend,” Bradlee recounts in his memoir, A Good Life, “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.”