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JFK, Kilgallen, Earl and Florence Smith


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John,

The man standing with JFK is Earl Smith. Smith was Ambassador to Cuba. He was married to Florence Smith aka Florence Pritchett. Pritchett was a columnist of sorts and a collegue of Dorothy Kilgallen - Pritchett appeared as a guest panelist on Kilgallen's 'What's My Line'. Pritchett died a few days after Kilgallen.

Some food for speculation there.

James

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The man standing with JFK is Earl Smith. Smith was Ambassador to Cuba. He was married to Florence Smith aka Florence Pritchett. Pritchett was a columnist of sorts and a collegue of Dorothy Kilgallen - Pritchett appeared as a guest panelist on Kilgallen's 'What's My Line'. Pritchett died a few days after Kilgallen.

Some food for speculation there.

James

This information provides an interesting insight into the death of Kilgallen. Dorothy died on 5th November, 1965. Her friend, Florence died two days later.

It was later claimed that when Dorothy got the interview with Jack Ruby she gave her notes to Florence. These were never found. Could it be that the information that she thought would "break the case wide open" came from Florence's husband. Dorothy appears to have been well-informed about Cuba. She was the first person to suggest that the CIA and Mafia were working together in order to assassinate JFK.

All the books that refer to the Kilgallen case always refer to her friend as Mrs Earl Smith. None, as far as I can see, even give her name as being Florence Smith. I have found this is a common problem with books on the assassination of JFK. The fact that her husband was the ambassador to Cuba seems highly significant.

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For sometime I have thought that an article published by Dorothy Kilgallen in the New York Journal American on 15th July, 1959, could be significant.

If our state department heads in Washington deny they're gravely worried over the explosive situation in Cuba and nearby Latin American countries, they're either giving out false information for reasons of their own or playing ostrich, which might prove to be a dangerous game. US intelligence is virtually nonexistent if the government isn't aware that Russia already has bases in Cuba, and Russian pilots in uniform are strutting openly in Havana... Fidel Castro is the target for so many assassins they're apt to fall over each other in their efforts to get him. The Mafia want to knock him off. So do the Batista sympathizers, of course, and then there are his own disillusioned rebels, just for starters. He has machine guns and other ammunition mounted on every key rooftop near his base of operations, but the smart money doubts if any amount of precaution can change his status as a clay pigeon.

I initially believed that this information came from Senator George Smathers of Florida. For example, Smathers was suspected of leaking information to Kilgallen about JFK's relationship with Marilyn Monroe (another Kilgallen scoop). However, thanks to James Richards, we now know that Kilgallen was friends with Florence Smith, the wife of Earl Smith, the Ambassador to Cuba in 1959. Maybe it was Smith who gave the information to Kilgallen?

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I have been doing some research on Florence Smith (Pritchett) as a result of the evidence provided by James Richards.

Unfortunately there is little on the web about the woman. Born in 1920 she became a journalist and worked for Hollywood magazines such as Silver Screen. This is where she probably met Dorothy Kilgallen. Florence Smith, died two days after Kilgallen of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was only 45 years old.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKsmithF.htm

However, I was able to find out a great deal about her husband, Earl E. T. Smith. Much of this came from testimony he gave to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 27th August, 1960.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKsmithET.htm

You can get the full testimony from here:

However, here is an extract from the testimony:

F. W. Sourwine: Mr. Smith, when you were appointed Ambassador to Cuba, were you briefed on the job?

Earl E. Smith: Yes; I was.

F. W. Sourwine: Who gave you this briefing?

Earl E. Smith: I spent 6 weeks in Washington, approximately 4 days of each week, visiting various agencies and being briefed by the State, Department and those whom the State Department designated.

F. W. Sourwine: Any particular individual or individuals who, had a primary part in this briefing?

Earl E. Smith: The answer is, in the period of 6 weeks I was briefed by numbers of people in the usual course as every Ambassador is briefed.

F. W. Sourwine: Is it true, sir, that you were instructed to get a briefing on your new job as Ambassador to Cuba from Herbert Matthews of the New York Times?

Earl E. Smith: Yes; that is correct.

F. W. Sourwine: Who gave you these instructions?

Earl E. Smith: William Wieland, Director of the Caribbean Division and Mexico. At that time he was Director of the Caribbean Division, Central American Affairs.

F. W. Sourwine: Did you, sir, in fact see Matthews?

Earl E. Smith: Yes; I did.

F. W. Sourwine: And did he brief you on the Cuban situation?

Earl E. Smith: Yes; he did.

F. W. Sourwine: Could you give us the highlights of what he told you?...

Earl E. Smith: We talked for 2 1/2 hours on the Cuban situation, a complete review o£ his feelings regarding Cuba, Batista, Castro, the situation in Cuba, and what he thought would happen.

F. W. Sourwine: What did he think would happen?

Earl E. Smith: He did not believe that the Batista government could last, and that the fall of the Batista government would come relatively soon.

F. W. Sourwine: Specifically what did he say about Castro?

Earl E. Smith: In February 1957 Herbert L. Matthews wrote three articles on Fidel Castro, which appeared on the front page of the New York Times, in which he eulogized Fidel Castro and portrayed him as a political Robin Hood, and I would say that he repeated those views to me in our conversation....

F. W. Sourwine: What did Mr. Matthews tell you about Batista?

Earl E. Smith: Mr. Matthews had a very poor view of Batista, considered him a rightist ruthless dictator whom he believed to be corrupt. Mr. Matthews informed me that he had very knowledgeable views of Cuba and Latin American nations, and had seen the same things take place in Spain. He believed that it would be in the best interest of Cuba and the best interest of the world in general when Batista was removed from office.

F. W. Sourwine: It was true that Batista's government was corrupt, wasn't it?

Earl E. Smith: It is true that Batista's government was corrupt. Batista was the power behind the Government in Cuba off and on for 25 years. The year 1957 was the best economic year that Cuba had ever had.

However, the Batista regime was disintegrating from within. It was becoming more corrupt, and as a result, was losing strength. The Castro forces themselves never won a military victory. The best military victory they ever won was through capturing Cuban guardhouses and military skirmishes, but they never actually won a military victory.

The Batista government was overthrown because of the corruption, disintegration from within, and because of the United States and the various agencies of the United States who directly and indirectly aided the overthrow of the Batista government and brought into power Fidel Castro.

F. W. Sourwine: What were those, agencies, Mr. Smith?

Earl E. Smith: The US Government agencies-may I say something off the record?

(Discussion off the record.)

F. W. Sourwine: Mr. Smith, the pending question before you read your statement was: What agencies of the US Government had a hand in bringing pressure to overthrow the Batista government, and how did they do it?

Earl E. Smith: Well, the agencies, certain influential people, influential sources in the State Department, lower down echelons in the CIA. I would say representatives of the majority of the US Government agencies which have anything to do with the Embassy...

F. W. Sourwine: Mr. Smith, when you talked with Matthews to get the briefing before you went to Cuba, was he introduced to you as having any authority from the State Department or as being connected with the State Department in any way?

Earl E. Smith: Let me go back. You asked me a short while ago who arranged the meeting with Mr. Matthews.

F. W. Sourwine: And you said Mr. Wieland.

Earl E. Smith: I said Wilham Wieland, but Wilham Wieland also had to have the approval of Roy Rubottom, who was then Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs. Now, to go back to this question, as I understood it, you said - would you mind repeating that again?

F. W. Sourwine: I asked if, when you were, sent to Mr. Matthews for this briefing, he was introduced to you as having any official connection with the State Department or any authority from the Department?

Earl E. Smith: Oh, no. I knew who he was, and they obviously knew I knew who he was, but I believe, that they thought it would be a good idea for me to get the viewpoint of Herbert Matthews, and also I think that Herbert Matthews is the leading Latin American editorial writer for the New York Times. Obviously the State Department would like to have the support of the New York Times...

James Eastland: Mr. Smith, we have had hearings, a great many, in Miami, with prominent Cubans, and there is a thread that runs through the whole thing that people connected with some Government agency went to Cuba and called on the chiefs of the armed forces and told them that we would not recognize the government of the President-elect, and that we would not back him, and that because of that the chiefs of the armed forces told Batista to leave the country, and they set up a government in which they attempted to make a deal with Castro. That is accurate, isn't it, Tom?

Thomas Dodd: I would say so, yes...

James Eastland: Let me ask you this question. As a matter of fact, isn't it your judgment that the State Department of the United States is primarily responsible for bringing Castro to power in Cuba?

Earl E. Smith: No, sir, I can't say that the State Department in itself is primarily responsible. The State Department played a large part in bringing Castro to power. The press, other Government agencies, Members of Congress are responsible...

James Eastland: You had been warning the State Department that Castro was a Marxist?

Earl E. Smith: Yes, sir.

James Eastland: And that Batista's government was a friendly government. That is what had been your advice as to the State Department?

Earl E. Smith: Let me answer that this way, which will make it very clear. When I went to Cuba, I left here with the definite feeling according to my briefings which I had received, that the U.S. Government was too close to the Batista regime, and that we were being accused of intervening in the affairs of Cuba by trying to perpetuate the Batista dictatorship.

After I had been in Cuba for approximately 2 months, and had made a study of Fidel Castro and the revolutionaries, it was perfectly obvious to me as it would be to any other reasonable man that Castro was not the answer; that if Castro came to power, it would not be in the best interests of Cuba or in the best interests of the United States....

In my own Embassy there were certain ones of influence who were pro-26th of July, pro-Castro, and anti-Batista.

James Eastland: Who were they?

Earl E. Smith: Do I have to answer that question, Senator?

James Eastland: Yes, I think you have to. We are not going into it unnecessarily.

Earl E. Smith: I don't want to harm anybody. That is the reason I asked.

I would say the Chief of the Political Section, John Topping, and the Chief of the CIA Section. It was revealed that the No. 2 CIA rnan in the embassy had given unwarranted and undue encouragement to the revolutionaries. This came out in tke trials of naval officers after the Cienfuegos revolution of September I957...

James Eastland: He (Batista) didn't have to leave. He had not been defeated by armed force.

Earl E. Smith: Let me put it to you this way: that there are a lot of reasons for Batista's moving out. Batista had been in control off and on for 25 years. His government was disintegrating, at the end due to corruption, due to the fact that he had been in power too long. Police brutality was getting worse.

On the other hand there were three forces that kept Batista in power. He had the support of the armed forces, he had support of the labor leaders. Cuba enjoyed a good economy.

Nineteen hundred and fifty-seven was one of the best years in the economic history of Cuba. The fact that the United States was no longer supporting Batista had a devastating psychological effect, upon the armed forces and upon the leaders of the labor movement. This went a long way toward bringing about his downfall.

On the other hand, our actions in the United States were responsible for the rise to power of Castro. Until certain portions of the American press began to write derogatory articles against the Batista government, the Castro revolution never got off first base.

Batista made the mistake of overemphasizing the importance of Prio, who was residing in Florida, and underestimating the importance of Castro. Prio was operating out of the United States, out of Florida, supplying the revolutionaries with arms, ammunition, bodies and money.

Batista told me that when Prio left Cuba, Prio and Alameia (Aleman) took $140 million out of Cuba. If we cut that estimate in half, they may have shared $70 million. It is believed that Prio spent a great many millions of dollars in the United States assisting the revolutionaries. This was done right from our shores....

From this testimony it is clear that Earl Smith would have become very hostile to JFK's policy towards Cuba in 1963. Yet it is claimed that Smith spent a great deal of time with JFK during this period. I wonder if he knew what JFK was involved in talks with Castro.

Smith lived in Florida and was director of the Bank of Palm Beach and Trust Corporation and the U.S. Sugar Corporation.

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John,

Smith did indeed criticize William Wieland who he believed promoted Castro and actively blocked US action against him.

There was quite some stir here in Australia when Wieland was appointed Supervisory Consul General at the US Embassy during the mid 1960's. He was painted as a Communist even though he had obvious clearance by the US government which gave Australia no real option but to accept him.

It was suggested that Wieland's appointment was an attempt by the State Department to get Wieland out of the way by sticking him way down under.

I can remember reading an old newspaper clipping here where the RSL accused Wieland of being the one responsible for the Bay Of Pigs fiasco because of his lack of information regarding Castro and his rise to power. FWIW.

James

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Has anyone got a copy of Lee Israel's book, Kilgallen? It is not available in the UK. Does Israel say anything about the death of Florence Smith? Does he confirm that Dorothy Kilgallen passed her notes onto Florence. I believe Kilgallen visited Miami just before her death to appear on the Larry King television show. Earl and Florence Smith were living in Miami at the time. Maybe this was when Kilgallen passed on the notes to Florence.

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Earl E. T. Smith gave evidence to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on 27th August, 1960. In this passage he makes a very interesting comment about what the Soviets might do concerning Cuba. He was spot on.

F. W. Sourwine: Is there any doubt in your mind that the Cuban Government, under Castro, is a Communist government?

Earl E. Smith: Now?

F. W. Sourwine: Yes.

Earl E. Smith: I would go further. I believe it is becoming a satellite.

The logical thing for the Russians to do would be to move into Cuba which they had already done, and to take over, which they would do by a mutual security pact.

Then, when the United States objects, all they have to say is:

"We will get out of Cuba when you get out of Turkey."

Thomas Dodd: You are not suggesting-

Earl E. Smith: That is a speech I made in February.

Thomas Dodd: Yes, but you are not suggesting that the Communists will cease and desist from their activities in Cuba and Central and South America, or anywhere else, if we get out of these other places?

Earl E. Smith: Out of Turkey?

Thomas Dodd: Yes.

Earl E. Smith: It would mean a great deal to them if we got out of Turkey. I am no expert on Turkey.

Thomas Dodd: You do not have to be an expert on Turkey, but you ought to be a little bit of an expert on the Communists to know this would not follow at all.

Every time we have retreated from one place, they have moved into new areas.

Earl E. Smith: Senator, I did not say what they would do.

Thomas Dodd: I know, but...

Earl E. Smith: That they would move into Cuba to retaliate with us.

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Good stuff on this history, fellows.

Smathers/Smith/Kilgallen relationship is interesting. Read Annie Geyer's excellent "Guerilla Prince" for her scholarly take on the history.

James, the About Us part of that new site doesn't seem to say who the Us is-have I missed something? Thanks.

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Good stuff on this history, fellows.

Smathers/Smith/Kilgallen relationship is interesting.  Read Annie Geyer's excellent "Guerilla Prince" for her scholarly take on the history.

I have just ordered the book. I don't suppose you have copies of Penn Jones series of books: Forgive My Grief I (1966), Forgive My Grief II (1967), Forgive My Grief III (1974), and Forgive My Grief VI (1976). If so, does he say anything about Smathers/Smith/Kilgallen.

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James, the About Us part of that new site doesn't seem to say who the Us is-have I missed something?  Thanks.

Hi Christy,

These guys have all been a part of the fight against Communism in some shape or form. All I can say is check in regularly because as the site develops, there will be some fascinating information made available.

The truth is out there. <_<

James

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I don't suppose you have copies of Penn Jones series of books: Forgive My Grief I (1966), Forgive My Grief II (1967), Forgive My Grief III (1974), and Forgive My Grief VI (1976). If so, does he say anything about Smathers/Smith/Kilgallen.

John:

Here’s some stuff from Penn Jones and Lee Israel regarding Kilgallen....

I’ve checked the back-of-the-book indices of all four of Penn Jones’s Forgive My Grief volumes, and find only a couple of references to Kilgallen/Smith. (I’ve found some holes in the FMG indexing, and can’t say for sure that there aren’t other references to these ladies found elsewhere in the Jones books.) These are verbatim excepts from FMG Vols. I and II, and please keep in mind that dear old Penn seemed to have an aversion to use of hyphens and identifying his sources. Also keep in mind that others have disputed his reporting of the Kilgallen-Ruby meeting.

Although Jones said the private meeting lasted 30 minutes, his lawyer, Tonahill, told Lee Israel it was more like eight minutes (see final excerpt below). Penn Jones’s critics have jumped all over that Tonahill remembrance, saying that Ruby didn’t have much time to say anything to Kilgallen. (Of course, it wouldn’t have taken Ruby very long to tell her, “I shot him for Marcello,” would it?)

Bob Cox

The following excerpts are from Vol. I of FMG, Chapter One:

Now we can add to that list of strange deaths that of Miss Dorothy Kilgallen. Miss Kilgallen joins Bill Hunter, Jim Koethe, Tom Howard and others. Miss Kilgallen is the only journalist who was granted a private interview with Jack Ruby since he killed Lee Oswald. Judge Joe B. Brown granted the interview during the course of the Ruby trial in Dallas – to the intense anger of the hundreds of other news people present.

[some copy skipped...]

[Headline:] Was It A Mickey?

(This was the editorial in The Midlothian Mirror [published by Jones] on November 25, 1965)

I have a concern for the strange things happening in America in recent months.

With the passing of the second anniversary of the murder of President Kennedy, we take not of some of the strange things which continue to plague those around the principals.

Miss Dorothy Kilgallen joins the growing list of persons who have died after a private interview with one of the two members of the Jack Ruby-George Senator team. We have printed the strange deaths of Bill Hunter and Jim Koethe after they had a private interview with George Senator and Ruby’s attorney, Tom Howard.

Hunter and Koethe were murdered. Lawyer Tom Howard died under strange circumstances.

[some copy skipped]

Now Miss Kilgallen dies under clouded circumstances. During the Ruby trial in Dallas, Judge Joe B. Brown granted Miss Kilgallen a privilege given no other newsman. She had thirty minutes alone in a room with Jack Ruby. Even the guards were outside the door. Miss Kilgallen told some of what went of during the interview in her columns. But was someone afraid she knew more?

Is she another victim of possibly knowing the secret that still moves in the troubled mind of Jack Ruby?

[some copy skipped]

What is happening in our land?

How many murders of persons connected in some way with the assassination principals can go unnoticed by our people? How many lies must we prove on The Warren Commission before a demand for reopening becomes a commanding one?

The following excerpt is from Vol. II of FMG, Chapter Two:

Tom Howard knew too much from Ruby and he knew too well how the Dallas power structure and Police Department worked. Howard had to die.

At the Ruby trial in Dallas during March of 1964, Dorothy Kilgallen had a private interview during one of the noon recesses with Judge Joe B. Brown. This was immediately followed by a thirty minute private interview with Jack Ruby in Judge Brown’s chambers. Even Ruby’s bodyguards were kept outside the Judge’s chambers. Joe Tonahill and others thought the meeting room in the jail was “bugged,” but it is doubtful if the Judge’s own chambers would be bugged. Judges have the power of contempt of court for such irregularities.

This then, was the second person Ruby had talked to who could know for whom Ruby was acting; therefore Miss Kilgallen had to be silenced along with Tom Howard.

Shortly before her death, Miss Kilgallen told a friend in New York that she was going to New Orleans in 5 days and break the case wide open. Miss Kilgallen 52, died November 8, 1965, under questionable circumstances in her New York home. Eight days after her death, a ruling was made that she died of barbiturates and drink with no quantities of either ingredient being given.

Also strangely, Miss Kilgallen’s close friend, Mrs. Earl E.T. Smith, died two days after Miss Kilgallen. Mrs. Smith’s autopsy read that the cause of death was unknown.

Many skeptical newsmen have asked: “If Miss Kilgallen knew anything, surely as a journalist wouldn’t she have left some notes?” This is a legitimate question. Possibly Mrs. Smith was the trusted friend with the notes. No one will ever know now.

Following excerpts from Chapter 26 of “Kilgallen,” by Lee Israel.

During one of her [Kilgallen’s] visits – sometime in March, before the verdict – she prevailed upon Joe Tonahill to make arrangements through Judge Brown for a private interview with Jack Ruby.

...

Brown, awestruck by Dorothy, acceded readily to Tonahill’s request. The meeting room in the jailhouse was bugged, and Tonahill suspected that Brown’s chambers were as well. Brown and Tonahill chose a small office off the courtroom behind the judge’s bench. They asked Ruby’s ubiquitous flank of four sheriff’s guards to consent to remain outside the room.

Dorothy was standing by the room during a noon recess. Ruby appeared with Tonahill. The three entered the room and closed the door. The defendant and Dorothy stood facing each other, spoke of their mutual friend, and indicated that they wanted to be left alone. Tonahill withdrew. They were together privately for about eight minutes, in what may have been the only safe house Ruby had occupied since his arrest.

Dorothy would mention the fact of the interview to close friends, but never the substance. Not once, in her prolific published writings, did she so much as refer to the private interview. Whatever notes she took during her time alone with Jack Ruby in the small office off the judge’s bench were included in a file she began to assemble on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

[in the next chapter (27), page 370, Israel says] “It was Penn Jones, a newspaperman from Midlothian, Texas, who first revealed the meeting between Dorothy and Ruby, Tonahill and Belli, as reported earlier, have confirmed that the meeting did occur...”

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Bob. I really appreciate all the work you put into that. It seems from this that it was pure speculation by Penn Jones that Kilgallen passed her notes onto Florence Smith. However, there is evidence that Kilgallen did meet Smith a few days before she died. One source says that Kilgallen went to Miami to appear on a television show just before she was found dead. Florence Smith was living in Miami at the time. Maybe it was at this time that Kilgallen passed on her notes to Smith. However, I suspect Smith was also passing information to Kilgallen.

I am surprised that Penn Jones says that it is not known how Smith died. The obituary in the New York Journal American (9th November, 1965) makes it clear she died of a cerebral hemorrhage. This was the cause of death that also appeared in the New York Times. Earl Smith later claimed that she was suffering from leukaemia but he kept it a secret from her.

Penn Jones also does not appear to know that Florence was a long-term lover of JFK. That is probably because she was known by the name Florence Pritchett rather than as Florence Smith.

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According to Donald Nolen, in a review of Lee Israel's Kilgallen (1979).

There was no pill bottle on the bedside table or anywhere else in the death scene. Dorothy had fallen "asleep" while reading a new novel by Robert Ruark, even though she had said in her newspaper column four months earlier that the protagonist of the book dies in the end. She had discussed said novel with her hairdresser Marc Sinclaire some weeks before cops and doctors found the book in her dead hand. She had told Mr. Sinclaire that she had enjoyed the work after having finished reading it.

That's what you will find in this book. Now I'll add the two things I've seen while sight seeing. First, you can find Dorothy Kilgallen's death certificate at the National Archives in Maryland, a popular tourist site. In the section where the doctor makes the classification of natural causes, suicide, homicide, etc., the thing says "undetermined pending further investigation." Strangely, the deputy medical examiner of Brooklyn signed it "for James Luke," the chief medical examiner. Kilgallen died in the borough of Manhattan, and Dr. Luke had no reason not to sign it. He visited the death scene for 45 minutes, according to the Washington Post obituary. That Brooklyn deputy M.E., Dominick Di Maio, is still alive.

The second thing I've seen that's not in the book is a video interview with criminal defense attorney Joe Tonahill preserved at Lamar University in Texas. On it he says his last telephone conversation with Dorothy Kilgallen happened a short time before she died, "maybe a week before." They planned to participate in a radio talk show about the JFK assassination, but she died before the plans could materialize. Shortly before that conversation, Dorothy visited Miami to discuss Oswald, etc. on the talk show of a young Larry King. The same Larry now on CNN.

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