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

Pamela Turnure Timmins, who served Jacqueline Kennedy as the primary press secretary ever employed by a primary girl, 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 generally known 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. In contrast to her colleague Pierre Salinger, the debonair press secretary to the president himself, she had no expertise in journalism, apart from a summer time 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 wedding 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 kind speeches, arrange state marketing campaign headquarters in Wisconsin and West Virginia, and set up an ox roast for supporters. The evening of the election, she was working the telephones on the Kennedy household compound on Cape Cod, gathering info 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 variety of ladies with whom Kennedy had affairs, an assertion her household rejected.

Mrs. Timmins by no means commented on these allegations, in accordance 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 particular person 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 girl wrote in a 1962 letter to a buddy. “I do know she is going to do it appropriately,” 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 girl, working intently with Salinger and with Letitia Baldrige and Nancy Tuckerman, who served as successive White Home social secretaries.

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

“As trendy communications took off, there was a necessity for the primary girl 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 girl 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 personal memo Jacqueline Kennedy despatched to Mrs. Timmins earlier than the inauguration, explaining that “everyone seems to be attempting to get at us — however you can be there as a buffer.”

“My press relations,” she added, “shall be minimal info 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 girl’s image, autograph or favourite recipe. She pleaded with photographers to cease taking photos of the couple’s kids taking part in outdoors the White Home; traveled to Europe with the primary girl and president; and as soon as launched the media to the household’s new pet, a grey cat generally known 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 variety of mates, and I used to be one in all them,” Mrs. Timmins remarked.

For probably the most half, she stored the highlight on her boss. When Jacqueline Kennedy determined to give attention to restoring the White Home, successfully turning the constructing right into a museum of U.S. historical past, Mrs. Timmins inspired the primary girl 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 girl’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 using 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 study 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 dying, Mrs. Timmins stated that she made her solution to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the place she joined the primary girl 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 girl had torn off her head after her husband was shot.

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

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

“You knew issues have been occurring, different folks’s lives have been occurring,” she stated. “However on that aircraft 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 just some years outdated. 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 received 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 condo.

In his 1996 ebook “Jack and Jackie: Portrait of an American Marriage,” journalist Christopher Andersen wrote that Mrs. Timmins’s landlords, Florence and Leonard Kater, first discovered about Mrs. Timmins’s late-night visitor “once they heard somebody tossing pebbles at her second-floor window about 1 a.m. ‘We appeared 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 condo constructing late at evening. 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 girl’s non-public 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 condo. Kennedy married transport 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 embrace one other half brother, William Drake.

In contrast to lots 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 evening 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 immediately not the senator or Jack, no matter folks 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.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button