Pamela Turnure Timmins, press secretary to Jackie Kennedy, dies at 85


A earlier picture on the high of this text, which was offered by Getty Photographs, was flipped and depicted Pamela Turnure at proper within the picture. The picture has been up to date.

Pamela Turnure Timmins, who served Jacqueline Kennedy as the primary press secretary ever employed by a primary woman, burnishing the Camelot picture of sophistication and glamour whereas serving to to usher in a media-savvy new period for the East Wing of the White Home, died April 25 at her dwelling in Edwards, Colo. She was 85.

The trigger was lung most cancers, stated her half brother O. Burtch Drake.

Mrs. Timmins, then referred to as Pam Turnure, was solely 23 when she started working for the Kennedy White Home in January 1961, days earlier than the president’s inauguration. Not like her colleague Pierre Salinger, the debonair press secretary to the president himself, she had no expertise in journalism, except for a summer season spent working at {a magazine} put out by her stepfather, the writer of Harper’s Bazaar.

However she did have the religion and belief of the Kennedy household, whom she had recognized since 1957, when she met then-Sen. John F. Kennedy on the marriage ceremony of Jacqueline Kennedy’s stepsister.

Mrs. Timmins was employed as an assistant within the senator’s workplace and went on to work on his presidential marketing campaign, serving to sort speeches, arrange state marketing campaign headquarters in Wisconsin and West Virginia, and arrange an ox roast for supporters. The night time of the election, she was working the telephones on the Kennedy household compound on Cape Cod, gathering data on the outcomes.

By some accounts, her relationship with John F. Kennedy prolonged past politics. Presidential chroniclers together with Robert Dallek, Seymour Hersh and Barbara Leaming reported that Mrs. Timmins was one in all a lot of ladies with whom Kennedy had affairs, an assertion her household rejected.

Mrs. Timmins by no means commented on these allegations, in line with her half brother and half sister, Deedee Howard. In interviews, they stated that Mrs. Timmins had solely a platonic relationship with the person she described as “probably the most selfless individual I’ve ever recognized,” and added that she was genuinely dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy, persevering with to work as her press secretary for a number of years after the president’s assassination in 1963.

“She solutions each query precisely as I might,” the primary woman wrote in a 1962 letter to a pal. “I do know she’s going to do it accurately,” she added, “so we don’t even talk for weeks on finish.”

From her second-floor workplace within the East Wing, Mrs. Timmins helped form interviews, luncheons, state dinners and different public appearances by the primary woman, working carefully with Salinger and with Letitia Baldrige and Nancy Tuckerman, who served as successive White Home social secretaries.

Mrs. Timmins was the primary individual to formally serve within the press secretary position, though different officers had beforehand helped first girls cope with the media.

“As fashionable communications took off, there was a necessity for the primary woman to have a media presence,” stated Barbara A. Perry, a Jacqueline Kennedy biographer and presidential scholar on the College of Virginia. In a cellphone interview, she added that the primary woman relied on Mrs. Timmins each “to feed the beast,” by selling her husband’s presidency to reporters, and to “hold the beast at arm’s size,” sustaining privateness round her marriage and younger kids.

That angle was summed up by a non-public memo Jacqueline Kennedy despatched to Mrs. Timmins earlier than the inauguration, explaining that “everyone seems to be attempting to get at us — however you may be there as a buffer.”

“My press relations,” she added, “might be minimal data given with most politeness.”

Mrs. Timmins carried out that edict with allure and occasional bluntness, saying that she rapidly found the worth of phrases like “no remark” and “for background solely.”

At occasions she fielded 50 calls a day from reporters asking concerning the presidential household, together with answering letters asking for the primary woman’s image, autograph or favourite recipe. She pleaded with photographers to cease taking footage of the couple’s kids enjoying outdoors the White Home; traveled to Europe with the primary woman and president; and as soon as launched the media to the household’s new pet, a grey cat referred to as Tom Kitten.

She additionally attracted media consideration in her personal proper, together with in newspaper profiles that emphasised her “hazel-eyed magnificence” and “darkish lustrous locks.” Society columnists famous she had as soon as dated Aly Khan, the ex-husband of Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth. “Let’s say he had a lot of mates, and I used to be one in all them,” Mrs. Timmins remarked.

For probably the most half, she saved the highlight on her boss. When Jacqueline Kennedy determined to concentrate on restoring the White Home, successfully turning the constructing right into a museum of U.S. historical past, Mrs. Timmins inspired the primary woman to take part in a tv particular showcasing the venture. She spent about 4 months serving to her put together for the 1962 special, which introduced an estimated 80 million TV viewers contained in the White Home.

Mrs. Timmins later sought to make sure the primary woman’s privateness throughout moments of tragedy, together with when the Kennedys’ new child son Patrick died in August 1963. Three months later, Mrs. Timmins was driving within the presidential motorcade in Dallas when she heard what “appeared like firecrackers,” as she later put it.

Solely when her bus arrived on the Dallas Commerce Mart did she be taught from a reporter that the president had been shot.

“You have to be kidding,” she recalled saying. “After all it’s not true. We’ve simply been within the motorcade with him.”

In a 1964 oral historical past launched by the JFK Library after Mrs. Timmins’s loss of life, Mrs. Timmins stated that she made her method to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the place she joined the primary woman outdoors the working room. Throughout a interval of “agonizing ready,” she noticed somebody carrying a paper bag, apparently bearing the president’s private results. Another person carried the pink pillbox hat that the primary woman had torn off her head after her husband was shot.

Contained in the hat, in line with Mrs. Timmins, was a “a hair pin and a big strand of hair,” which the primary woman had by accident pulled out of her head whereas speeding to assist her husband.

That afternoon, Mrs. Timmins and different officers had been taken aboard Air Power One, the place they watched as Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president. The airplane’s window shades had been drawn shut, and the plane appeared “sealed off from the surface world,” Mrs. Timmins recalled.

“You knew issues had been happening, different individuals’s lives had been happening,” she stated. “However on that airplane time had actually stopped.”

Pamela Harrison Turnure was born in Manhattan on Nov. 20, 1937. Her father, Lawrence Turnure, was a banker, and her dad and mom divorced when she was only a few years previous. She was raised by her mom, the previous Louise Gwynn, and her stepfather, journal writer Frederic Drake.

After graduating from the Bolton ladies’ college in Westport, Conn., she studied at Colby Junior Faculty in New Hampshire and Mount Vernon Junior Faculty in Washington, D.C., the place she bought a job as a receptionist on the Belgian Embassy. Then she met John F. Kennedy, then a married senator, who reportedly grew to become a frequent customer at her residence.

In his 1996 e-book “Jack and Jackie: Portrait of an American Marriage,” journalist Christopher Andersen wrote that Mrs. Timmins’s landlords, Florence and Leonard Kater, first realized about Mrs. Timmins’s late-night visitor “after they heard somebody tossing pebbles at her second-floor window about 1 a.m. ‘We regarded out,’ Florence Kater stated, ‘and noticed Senator Kennedy standing in our backyard yelling, ‘If you happen to don’t come down, I’ll climb up by your balcony.’ So she let him in.”

Mrs. Timmins’s landlords sought to discredit Kennedy throughout his presidential marketing campaign, circulating {a photograph} that allegedly confirmed the senator leaving their residence constructing late at night time. Their efforts attracted little media consideration, nevertheless, and Mrs. Timmins remained shut with Jacqueline Kennedy after she left the White Home, serving to to handle the widowed first woman’s personal workplace in New York.

When Mrs. Timmins married Canadian-born funding banker Robert N. Timmins in 1966, the marriage reception was held at Kennedy’s Fifth Avenue residence. Kennedy married delivery magnate Aristotle Onassis two years later, and Mrs. Timmins went on to work as an inside decorator. After her husband’s death in 1990, she settled in Colorado.

Along with her half siblings Drake and Howard, survivors embody one other half brother, William Drake.

Not like a lot of her colleagues, Mrs. Timmins by no means wrote a memoir about her time within the White Home. However she nonetheless had vivid reminiscences of these years, starting with the night time of the inauguration, when she discovered herself driving journalist Joseph Alsop dwelling after the inaugural ball.

Invited inside for a celebration, she helped her host cook dinner a late-night meal of scrambled eggs and terrapin when the brand new president dropped by unannounced.

“It was instantly not the senator or Jack, no matter individuals might have known as him, however Mr. President,” she recalled. “And I can’t actually adequately describe the electrical feeling that was in that room.”

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