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|Born||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Died||November 18, 1981
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
|Spouse(s)||Anne Truitt (1947–1971)
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Truitt was raised in a prominent family in Baltimore, Maryland. He served as a Naval officer in the Pacific theatre of World War II, then returned to work for the US State Department. He married his first wife, Anne, in September 1947 in Washington, D.C. In spring 1948 he went to work for Life magazine in New York, then became their Washington correspondent. He spent three years with Life in San Francisco, then he returned to Washington, D.C. in May 1960 to become the personal assistant to Phillip Graham at the Washington Post, where he rose to become vice president. He also worked for Time, served as publisher of Art News, and became vice president of Newsweek in 1964. He sported a crew-cut haircut, was friends with Cord Meyer and James Angleton, and was known for his intelligence, eccentricity, and social graces.
In 1962, Cord Meyer's ex-wife Mary Pinchot Meyer told Truitt that she was having an affair with President Kennedy. Truitt made notes of the conversation, which years later he showed to journalist Jay Gourley. The notes recorded an episode in July 1962 when Mary Pinchot Meyer and President John F. Kennedy smoked marijuana, and include mention of Pinchot Meyer forgetting her slip after one visit and having it mailed back to her in a White House envelope.
In early 1963, Truitt helped extricate Phillip Graham from an ill-advised appearance at a publishers' conference in Arizona, where Graham mentioned Kennedy's affair. Graham committed suicide on August 3, 1963. Katharine Graham assumed ownership of the Washington Post. Later in 1963, Truitt left the Post and moved to Tokyo as the Japan bureau chief for Newsweek. There, Anne Truitt received news that her friend, Mary Pinchot Meyer, had been murdered. Anne called James Angleton to see that Meyer's diary was taken care of, per her wishes. The Truitts later returned to Washington and to the Post.
In the years that followed, James Truitt's mental health allegedly declined. In 1969, Ben Bradlee forced him to resign from the Post, with accusations of mental incompetence. Truitt accepted a settlement in exchange for a signed statement that he would not write anything that was "in any way derogatory" of the Washington Post. Truitt and Anne divorced in 1971, and he moved to Mexico where he married Evelyn Patterson.
In March 1976, Truitt granted an interview to the National Enquirer. Truitt revealed Mary Pinchot Meyer's affair with President Kennedy (as Philip Graham had alleged). Truitt correctly noted that Pinchot Meyer's diary had been found by Angleton after her murder who knew where to find it having been told its location by Anne Truitt from Tokyo. Initially, Bradlee and Angleton denied the story, but it was soon confirmed by Meyer's friends, who spoke to reporters at Time Magazine, the New York Times and Washington Post, and by others.
James Truitt committed suicide on November 18, 1981 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Evelyn later claimed that her husband's papers, including copies of Pinchot Meyer's diary, were stolen by CIA officer Herbert Burrows.
- Deborah Davis, 3rd ed. 1991, p. 154
- Berman, Mark (2009-10-11). "Anne Truitt Became an Art Pioneer From the Friendly Confines of Washington". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
- Interview with James Truitt's widow, Anne Truit
- Nina Burleigh, A Very Private Woman : The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer (Bantam: 1998) (pp. 23, 124, 129, 140-1, 168-9, 171-2, 193, 211-2, 284, 286-8)
- Oberdorfer, Don. "JFK Had Affair With D.C. Artist, Smoked 'Grass,' Paper Alleges." The Washington Post 23 Feb. 1976: pp. A1, A9.
- Bradlee, Benjamin C., A Good Life. Simon & Schuster: New York, 1995. (pp. 270–271, 299).
- Kelly, Tom. The imperial Post: The Meyers, the Grahams, and the paper that rules Washington. 1983 (pp. 120, 157, 213-4)
- Nobilem, Phillip, and Rosenbaum, Ron. "The Circus Aftermath of JFK's Best and Brightest Affair." New Times 9 Jul. 1976: 22-33.
- von Hoffman, Nicholas. "Unasked Questions." The New York Review of Books, 10 June 1976: 3+.
- Ward, Bernie, and Toogood, Granville. "JFK 2-Year White House Romance." National Enquirer 2 Mar. 1976: 1. (Interviews James Truitt, story picked up by Washington Post, NYROB, others.)