Letter to Her Likely Lover, Roswell Gilpatric, Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Signed by Jacqueline Kennedy

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KENNEDY, JACQUELINE. (1929-1994). First Lady; married President John F. Kennedy and then shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. ALS. (“Jackie”). 1p. 8vo. Chilmark, June 20 (1992). To ROSWELL GILPATRIC (1906-1996), Presidents Kennedy and Johnson’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, with whom she was intimately involved.

Jackie Kennedy with Roswell Gilpatric

I was so impressed by your Op Ed piece and so glad you sent it to me. I just hope someone pays attention and does what you suggest.

I loved our lunch and seeing you again. Last week I saw Joao Hafers [a sculptor whom Jackie met while traveling with Gilpatric in Mexico] thanks to you. It made me very happy. That unquenchable love of life still going strong though you can tell he has been saddened.

When everyone is back from summer we must all have dinner together next fall.

Until then – be very happy! Much love…”

A protégé of Harry Truman’s secretary of defense, Robert A. Lovett, Gilpatric was hand-picked by President Kennedy to join his administration. As deputy secretary of defense under Robert McNamara, Gilpatric advised Kennedy during the anxious days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Beginning in 1964, Gilpatric chaired President Johnson’s Task Force on Nuclear Proliferation.

On February 10, 1970, the announced auction of four personal letters Jackie wrote to Gilpatric between April 18, 1963 and November 13, 1968 hit the news and caused a world-wide scandal, becoming the subject of public curiosity and private anguish. Stolen by Theodore Donson, a former employee at Gilpatric’s law firm of Cravath, Swain & Moore, Donson consigned the letters to Manhattan autograph dealer Charles Hamilton, who paid him an advance of $500. Gilpatric had been notified by The Washington Post that the newspaper intended to publish the letters’ contents and, despite the threat of legal action, did so on February 10, 1970, under the headline “Jackie and the Purloined Letters,” by Maxine Cheshire. Cheshire reported that according to Hamilton, who had originally tipped her off to the story, “Mr. Gilpatric sounded as if he were weeping when he called…his voice was shaking and he was concerned that the sale, if it went through, would ruin his friendship with Mrs. Onassis.” Ultimately, the “Dear Ros” letters were handed over to the Manhattan District Attorney, and returned to Gilpatric, but not before their publication led to widespread speculation about the pair’s relationship. Ros’ friendship with Jackie may have caused the final breakup of his third marriage (of five) to Madelin Thayer Gilpatric; in fact, Mrs. Gilpatric set their divorce in motion the same day the letters were seized under subpoena. She was quoted as saying, “They were very, very close. I have my own feelings about that, but I won’t go into them. Just say it was a particularly warm, close, long-lasting relationship,” (New York Post, February 11, 1970). The scandal also distressed Jackie, as revealed in the February 12, 1970, New York Daily News front-page headline: “‘Dear Ros’ Fuss Upsets Jackie.” Extremely reserved, Jackie avoided public scrutiny and initiated several lawsuits against the paparazzi who invaded her privacy.

Following JFK’s death, Jackie devotedly preserved his legacy and, with her brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy (with whom she reputedly engaged in a 4-year love affair), famously sued to block publication of The Death of a President, William Manchester’s authorized account of the assassination. The June 1968 assassination of Robert, while campaigning for president, dealt her another blow. It was Gilpatric who drove a shocked and grieving Jackie to the airport to fly to California upon hearing the news, but after Robert’s death Jackie was also consoled by wealthy Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who had long been infatuated with the former first lady, and whose sister had once been his lover. The two married on Onassis’ private island Skorpios on October 20, 1968, much to the dismay of Jackie’s friends, family and the public. However, their relationship was damaged by the publication of Jackie’s letters to Gilpatric, one of which was written aboard Onassis’ yacht during their honeymoon and expressed Jackie’s apology to and lingering feelings for Gilpatric. The letter’s contents suggested a close, possibly intimate, relationship between the pair while Gilpatric served as a member of Kennedy’s administration and both were married. When Aristotle Onassis read about the letters, it reportedly refueled his relationship with opera diva Maria Callas and led to his estrangement from Jackie.

After Onassis’ death in 1975, the former first lady moved to New York City where, in addition to her arts and historical preservation advocacy, she was prominent in the book world, working first for Viking Press and then as a book editor at Doubleday.

Our letter, written from Jackie’s home in Martha’s Vineyard, indicates the continuing warm feelings between Jackie and Gilpatric despite the publication of their earlier intimate letters. The year has been added in pencil the upper right corner in an unidentified hand. Normal folding and in excellent condition.

Letter to Her Likely Lover, Roswell Gilpatric, Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Signed by Jacqueline Kennedy

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