Editor’s Note: In fall 1960, John F. Kennedy was running for President, and my mother, Mary Gwinn Bowe, hosted a Kennedy campaign event in our apartment living room. The Chicago Tribune photo captured her by our living room piano with JFK’s sisters-in-law, Ethel and Joan Kennedy.
Two months later, my mother appeared with the soon-to-be-elected President at his Chicago campaign office. Also attending were then Mayor Richard J. Daley, and later Mayor Jane Byrne. In the press photograph of that event, my mother ended up standing immediately behind Kennedy as he held Byrne’s infant daughter Kathy in his lap. I wasn’t in Chicago that fall as I was just starting my freshman year in college, and have no recollection at all of my mother ever mentioning this moment to me.
As Tony Bowe began his interview with me about my mother, Mary Gwinn Bowe, I gave him the news that Daisy Janeway Bowe (married to Tony’s brother Rob) had just noticed my mother’s picture in a public television documentary about the first woman mayor of a major American city, Chicago’s Jane Byrne. You can watch the full clip from this interview at my earlier post: Mary Gwinn Bowe, the Kennedys and the Mayor.
After showing Tony the clip I had just uploaded, I told him that my mother and I had first seen the then newly elected Senator John Kennedy on the floor of the Democratic Convention in Chicago’s Amphitheater in 1956. I also recalled that after Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver beat out Kennedy to run as Adlai Stevenson‘s Vice President, Kennedy’s brother Robert Kennedy served as counsel to Kefauver’s Congressional Committee investigating the mob.
This prompted Tony to remember that his mother’s brother-in-law, Edwyn Silberling, served as Assistant Attorney General for Organized Crime and Racketeering when Robert Kennedy was Attorney General during his brother’s presidency. I later found the National Archives has an oral interview transcript with Silberling recalling Bobby Kennedy’s management style at the Justice Department.
When Tony mentioned Chicago mob figure Sam Giancana as someone Silberling and the Department of Justice had an interest in at the time, it reminded me of the news reports that emerged years later. The stories reported that in Las Vegas in 1960, Frank Sinatra had introduced then Senator John Kennedy to a woman named Judith Exner. In her later memoir, (apparently separately supported by FBI reports, Secret Service and White House phone logs, and staff documentation), Exner claimed she had been JFK’s paramour, and that Sinatra later facilitated a similar relationship she had with Giancana.