Phelan Beale

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Phelan Beale
Phelan Beale.png
Born(1881-05-23)May 23, 1881
DiedJune 12, 1956(1956-06-12) (aged 75)
Alma materUniversity of the South (1902)
Columbia University (1905)
(m. 1917; div. 1946)

Dorothy D. Durham
(m. 1947)
ChildrenEdith Bouvier Beale
Phelan Beale, Jr.
Bouvier Beale
RelativesJohn D. Phelan (grandfather)

Phelan Beale (May 23, 1881 – June 12, 1956) was an American attorney and sportsman in New York City who was married to Edith Ewing Bouvier, an aunt of Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis. Beale is probably best remembered as the absent father chronicled in the Grey Gardens saga portrayed in a 1975 movie documentary, 2006 Broadway musical, and 2009 HBO film, all of which were named for his home in East Hampton, New York.

Early life[edit]

Beale was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. He was the grandson of John D. Phelan (1809-1879), an Alabama Speaker of the House and Alabama Supreme Court Justice.[1] Beale graduated from the University of the South in 1902 and from Columbia University Law School in 1905.[2]


He formed the law practice of Bouvier and Beale with Jacqueline Onassis's grandfather John Vernou Bouvier Jr.[2] He later served a two-year term as president of the New York Southern Society before he was succeeded by Supreme Court Justice William Harman Black in 1937.[3]


In 1924, Beale and his wife acquired the 28-room Grey Gardens mansion fronting the ocean (the oceanfront parcels were sold much later) in the Georgica Pond neighborhood. Beale and his wife separated in 1931 and were legally divorced in 1946, but continued his presence in East Hampton. As part of the divorce, Edith was given the East Hampton house Grey Gardens.[4]

He owned the Grey Goose Gun Club of Cedar Point, a hunting preserve at what is now Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton. In 1937, he expanded it by buying the abandoned Cedar Island Light on an island next to his property.[2] For four years, he rented out the lighthouse property to Isabel and Winthrop Bradley of Connecticut as a summer retreat and then this couple bought the property in 1943.[5]

Washed up sand during the New England Hurricane of 1938 joined the island to the land via an isthmus. The lodge is now the park foreman's residence just north of the park's general store.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1917, he married Bouvier's daughter Edith Ewing Bouvier (later nicknamed "Big Edie").[6] Ushers at the January 17, 1917, wedding at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City included Jackie's father John Vernou Bouvier III and W. Sergeant Bouvier.[7][8] They had three children:

In 1947, he remarried to Dorothy D. Durham of Poplarville, Mississippi. He died in Pass Christian, Mississippi in 1956.[2] Big Edie died in 1977.[10]


  1. ^ Profile of Phelan Beale Archived 2007-04-23 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed May 16, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e "PHELAN BEALE, 75, RETIRED LAWYER; Former Member of Firm Here Is Dead in Mississippi-- Known as Sportsman". The New York Times. 13 June 1956. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  3. ^ "SOUTHERN SOCIETY ELECTS; Justice Black Succeeds Phelan Beale as President". The New York Times. 18 April 1937. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  4. ^ a b Martin, Douglas (25 January 2002). "Edith Bouvier Beale, 84, 'Little Edie,' Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Cedar Island Light Is On The Mend". Retrieved April 27, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "MISS BOUVIER ENGAGED.; Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John V. Bouvier to Wed Phelan Beale". The New York Times. 17 August 1916. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  7. ^ "MISS BOUVIER WEDS JAN. 17 | Plans for Her Marriage to Phelan Beale in St. Patrick's Cathedral" (PDF). The New York Times. January 6, 1917. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  8. ^ "2,500 AT WEDDING OF MISS BOUVIER; Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.V. Bouvier Marries Phelan Beale In St. Patrick's Cathedral. FATHER MARTIN OFFICIATES Two Sisters of the Bride Among Her Attendants;-Reception for 500 Guests at the St Regis". The New York Times. 18 January 1917. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  9. ^ "KATHARINE R. JONES TO BE WED SATURDAY; St. James Church Will Be Scene of Marriage to Bouvier Beale". The New York Times. 7 December 1942. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  10. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (7 February 1977). "Edith Bouvier Beale, Recluse, Dead at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2020.