Mary Jo Kopechne – Wikipedia

American trainer, secretary, and marketing campaign specialist (1940–1969)

Mary Jo Kopechne

Mary Jo Kopechne.jpg

1962 school yearbook portrait

Born (1940-07-26)July 26, 1940
Died July 18 or 19, 1969 (aged 28)
Trigger of dying Drowning[1][2]
Burial place Larksville, Pennsylvania[1]
Nationality American
Alma mater Caldwell School
Occupation Instructor, secretary, political marketing campaign employee
Recognized for Sufferer of Chappaquiddick incident
Political get together Democratic Occasion
Father or mother(s) Joseph and Gwen Kopechne

Mary Jo Kopechne (; July 26, 1940 – July 18 or 19, 1969) was an American secretary, one of many marketing campaign staff for Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential marketing campaign, an in depth group often known as the Boiler Room Women. In 1969, she died in a automotive accident on Chappaquiddick Island, whereas being pushed by U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

Youth and training[edit]

Kopechne was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania,[3] though she is usually described as being from close by Forty Fort, Pennsylvania.[4][5] She was the one youngster of Joseph Kopechne, an insurance coverage salesman, and Gwen (née Jennings), a homemaker.[3][6][4] Kopechne was of half Polish heritage.[7] Two of her grandparents had been coal miners from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and her household historical past within the Wyoming Valley space of northeastern Pennsylvania goes again 250 years.[5]

When Kopechne was an toddler, the household moved to Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.[3][8] Rising up, she attended parochial faculties.[9] She graduated with a level in enterprise administration from Caldwell School for Girls in 1962.[3][10]

Kopechne was impressed by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural command “Ask what you are able to do in your nation”.[11] After commencement, Kopechne moved to Montgomery, Alabama, for a yr on the Mission of St. Jude,[3] an exercise that was a part of the Civil Rights Motion.[12] She additionally taught at Montgomery Catholic Excessive College.[13] At the highschool she taught typing and shorthand and was additionally an advisor to the college newspaper.[11] One former scholar recalled her as “a petite strawberry blonde with pep in her step. She had confidence and a zest for all times that was intriguing. … She was humble and sort and stood agency in her beliefs. … Powerful however enjoyable within the classroom, creating velocity challenges, anticipating accuracy, and rewarding generously.”[11]

By 1963, Kopechne relocated to Washington, D.C., to work as secretary for Florida Senator George Smathers.[3] She joined New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s secretarial employees following his election in November 1964.[3] For that workplace she labored as a secretary to the senator’s speechwriters and as a authorized secretary to considered one of his authorized advisers.[3] Kopechne was a loyal employee. As soon as, throughout March 1967, she stayed up all night time at Kennedy’s Hickory Hill residence to sort a significant speech towards the Vietnam Conflict, whereas the senator and his aides reminiscent of Ted Sorensen made last-minute modifications to it.[9][14][15] She was additionally an enthusiastic participant on the Kennedy workplace softball group, taking part in catcher.[16]

Throughout the 1968 U.S. presidential election, Kopechne helped with the wording of Kennedy’s March speech that introduced his presidential candidacy.[9] Throughout his marketing campaign, she labored as one of many Boiler Room Women; this was an affectionate nickname given to 6 younger girls whose workplace space was in a scorching, loud, windowless location in Kennedy’s Washington marketing campaign headquarters.[7][9][14][17] They had been important in monitoring and compiling knowledge and intelligence on how Democratic delegates from numerous states had been aspiring to vote; Kopechne’s tasks included Pennsylvania.[14][17] Kopechne and the opposite staffers had been educated politically,[17] and had been chosen for his or her skill to work skillfully for lengthy, hectic hours on delicate issues.[7] They talked every day with discipline managers and in addition helped distribute coverage statements to strategic newspapers.[17] She has been described as hero-worshiping the senator.[16]

Kopechne was devastated emotionally by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968.[18] After working briefly for the Kennedy proxy marketing campaign of George McGovern, she acknowledged she couldn’t return to work on Capitol Hill, saying “I simply really feel Bobby’s presence in every single place. I am unable to return as a result of it should by no means be the identical once more.”[7][14] However as her father later stated, “Politics was her life”,[14] and in September 1968 she was employed by Matt Reese Associates,[19] a Washington, D.C., agency that helped set up marketing campaign headquarters and discipline workplaces for politicians and was one of many first political consulting corporations.[12][20] Within the fall elections of 1968, Kopechne did work on the ultimately shedding re-election marketing campaign of Senator Joseph S. Clark Jr. in Pennsylvania[18] and was assigned to recruit volunteers in Colorado for former Governor Stephen McNichols’s run for the Senate towards the incumbent Senator Peter H. Dominick.[19] McNichols misplaced his run, and Kopechne went again to Washington, D.C. By mid-1969 she had accomplished work for the ultimately profitable mayoral marketing campaign of Thomas J. Whelan in Jersey Metropolis, New Jersey.[18] She was on her option to a profitable skilled profession;[21] one of many political professionals who labored along with her in Jersey Metropolis characterised her as “an exceptionally hard-working and skillful skilled who knew her craft”.[18]

Kopechne lived with three different girls within the Washington neighborhood of Georgetown.[3] She was a fan of the Boston Pink Sox and of fellow Polish-American Carl Yastrzemski.[7] She was a religious Roman Catholic with a demure, severe, “convent college” demeanor and infrequently drank a lot.[7][20][21]

On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a celebration on Chappaquiddick Island, off the east coast of Martha’s Winery, Massachusetts. The celebration was in honor of the devoted work of the Boiler Room Women and was the fourth such reunion of the Robert F. Kennedy marketing campaign staff.[22] Robert’s brother, Senator Ted Kennedy was there; Kopechne didn’t know him nicely.[16] Kopechne reportedly left the get together with Kennedy at 11:15 p.m.; in accordance with his account, he had provided to drive her to catch the final ferry again to Edgartown, the place she was staying.[14] She didn’t inform her shut mates on the get together that she was leaving, and she or he left her purse and keys behind.[14] Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88[23] off a slim, unlit bridge, which lacked guardrails and was not on the path to Edgartown.[14] The car landed on its roof in Poucha Pond. Kennedy extricated himself from the car and survived, however uncared for to tell authorities till the following day.

Assistant Medical expert Donald Mills signed a dying certificates itemizing reason behind dying as unintended drowning. A non-public funeral for Kopechne was held at St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, on July 22, 1969.[24][25] The service was attended by Kennedy, his spouse Joan, his sister-in-law Ethel, and a whole bunch of onlookers.[24] Kopechne was buried in St. Vincent’s Cemetery in Larksville, Pennsylvania,[1] within the parish cemetery on the aspect of Larksville Mountain.[5] She was among the many fifth era of her household interred in that cemetery.[5]

The precise time and reason behind Kopechne’s dying shouldn’t be positively recognized, resulting from conflicting witness testimony on the January 1970 inquest, and lack of an post-mortem.

  • Kennedy claimed the accident occurred shortly after he left the get together at 11:15 p.m. on July 18. However part-time Deputy Sheriff Christopher “Huck” Look testified that he noticed Kennedy’s automotive with Kopechne and Kennedy in it, round 12:40 a.m. on July 19.
  • John Farrar, the fireplace rescue captain who retrieved the physique on July 19, testified he believed that Kopechne stayed alive for as much as half an hour in an air pocket, and in the end suffocated within the submerged car. A petition to exhume the physique for post-mortem was denied by a Pennsylvania court docket.[14]

Kennedy didn’t report the incident to the authorities till the automotive and Kopechne’s physique had been found the following morning.[14] Kopechne’s mother and father stated that they discovered of their daughter’s dying from Kennedy,[3] earlier than he knowledgeable authorities of his involvement.[10] They discovered Kennedy had been the motive force from wire press releases a while later.[10]


Per week after the incident, Kennedy pleaded responsible to leaving the scene of an accident after inflicting harm. He acquired a two-month suspended sentence.[14] On a nationwide tv broadcast that night time, Kennedy stated that he had not been driving “beneath the affect of liquor” nor had he ever had a “personal relationship” with Kopechne.[26] Massachusetts officers pressed for weeks to have Kopechne’s physique exhumed for an post-mortem,[27] however in December 1969 a Pennsylvania choose sided with the mother and father’ request to not disturb her burial website.[1]

The Chappaquiddick incident and Kopechne’s dying grew to become the subject of not less than 15 books, in addition to a fictionalized therapy by Joyce Carol Oates.[28] Even amongst in any other case sympathetic, mainstream biographers, severe questions remained about Kennedy’s timeline of occasions that night time, particularly his actions following the incident.[29][28] The standard of the investigation has been scrutinized, significantly whether or not official deference was given to a strong and influential politician and his household.[29] The occasions surrounding Kopechne’s dying broken Kennedy’s repute and are thought to be a significant motive why he was by no means capable of mount a profitable marketing campaign for President of america.[30]
Nonetheless, Kennedy overcame this and a few lesser private scandals to have a really lengthy profession as a Senator with a prolonged record of main legislative accomplishments.[28]
Kennedy expressed regret over his position in Kopechne’s dying in his posthumously printed memoir, True Compass.[31]

However the disparity of the outcomes remained; Kennedy biographer Peter Canellos has written of the aftermath, “Day by day that he lived was one which Kopechne – a gifted girl with political pursuits of her personal – wouldn’t. It appeared cosmically unfair that he ought to have a second act when she could not even full her first.”[28]

Kopechne’s mother and father acquired a $141,000 settlement from Kennedy’s insurance coverage firm.[4] They subsequently moved to Swiftwater, Pennsylvania.[4] On the 25th anniversary of her dying in 1994 they stated that Kennedy had by no means apologized on to them over his position in it, however that different members of the Kennedy household had written letters to them.[4] Their solely youngster gone, they by no means felt that justice had actually been completed within the case.[5]

Kopechne’s father died in a nursing residence in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, in 2003.[4] Her mom died in a nursing residence in Plains Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, in 2007.[4]

In 2015, two cousins of Kopechne’s in Pennsylvania self-published the e book Our Mary Jo, which sought to emphasise the impression of her life quite than focus on Kennedy or Chappaquiddick.[5] It additionally contains among the a whole bunch of condolence letters that Kopechne’s mother and father acquired.[32] As a result of Kopechne had been a terrific believer in training in addition to her Catholic religion, the relations began a scholarship fund in Kopechne’s identify at close by Misericordia College.[5][32]

In 2017, Kopechne was portrayed by actress Kate Mara in John Curran’s movie Chappaquiddick. Mara provides Kopechne a sympathetic interpretation, though a lot of the movie takes place after her dying.[33]

A full biography, Earlier than Chappaquiddick: The Untold Story of Mary Jo Kopechne, by William C. Kashatus, is deliberate for publication by Potomac Books in 2020.[11] Kashatus has stated that he spent over a decade researching the work, impressed by Kopechne as an exemplar of the tradition of the Wyoming Valley space, “the place the individuals have a robust work ethic, very strongly Catholic at that time frame, and so they raised their youngsters to respect themselves, respect different individuals and work exhausting. And she or he actually represented that to me.”[11]


  1. ^ a b c d “Choose Guidelines Mary Jo Will Not Be Exhumed For Post-mortem”. Lodi Information-Sentinel. United Press Worldwide. December 11, 1969. p. 1.
  2. ^ Authorized ruling, however there was no post-mortem. Fireplace rescue diver John Farrar testified he believed Kopechne died of suffocation, Inquest into the Loss of life of Mary Jo Kopechne, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Edgartown District Court docket. New York: EVR Productions, 1970
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j McFadden, Robert D. (July 20, 1969). “Sufferer Drawn to Politics” (PDF). The New York Instances.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g King, Larry (August 27, 2009). “Pa. girl at heart of Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick scandal”. The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Kalinowski, Bob (April 5, 2015). “Household hopes e book brings Mary Jo Kopechne residence”. Normal-Speaker. Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
  6. ^ Olsen, Jack (1980). The Bridge at Chappaquiddick (revised ed.). Ace Books. p. 178.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Canellos, Peter (2009). Final Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy. Simon & Schuster. pp. 148–150. ISBN 978-1-4391-3817-5.
  8. ^ Santiago, Katherine (August 26, 2009). “U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s profession linked to N.J.” The Star-Ledger.
  9. ^ a b c d Oppenheimer, Jerry (1995). The Different Mrs. Kennedy (4th ed.). Macmillan Books. p. 504. ISBN 0-312-95600-2.
  10. ^ a b c Damore, Leo (1988). Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cowl-Up. Washington: Regnery Gateway. pp. 58–59. ISBN 0-89526-564-8.
  11. ^ a b c d e Cason, Mike (July 19, 2019). “Earlier than Chappaquiddick, Mary Jo Kopechne impressed college students in Alabama”. The Birmingham Information.
  12. ^ a b Kappel, Kenneth R. (1989). Chappaquiddick Revealed: What Actually Occurred. New York: Shapolsky Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 0-944007-64-3.
  13. ^ “Sen. Kennedy Attends Rites for Secretary”. The Montgomery Advertiser. July 23, 1969. p. 1 – through
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j ok Russell, Jenna (February 17, 2009). “Chapter 3: Chappaquiddick: Conflicted ambitions, then, Chappaquiddick”. The Boston Globe. Archived from the unique on February 19, 2009.
  15. ^ Kappel, Chappaquiddick Revealed, p. 189.
  16. ^ a b c Burns, James MacGregor (1976). Edward Kennedy and the Camelot Legacy. New York: W. W. Norton & Firm. p. 164. ISBN 0-393-07501-X.
  17. ^ a b c d Damore, Senatorial Privilege, pp. 118–119.
  18. ^ a b c d “Accident Sufferer A ‘Political Activist“. Courier-Put up. Camden, New Jersey. United Press Worldwide. July 22, 1969. p. 5 – through
  19. ^ a b Glaser, Vera; Stephenson, Malvina (July 27, 1969). “Kennedy Mystique Pushes Mary Jo Into Background”. Tallahassee Democrat. p. 9A – through
  20. ^ a b Clymer, Adam (1999). Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography. New York: Wm. Morrow & Firm. pp. 144–145. ISBN 0-688-14285-0.
  21. ^ a b Leamer, Laurence (2004). Sons of Camelot: The Destiny of an American Dynasty. Wm. Morrow & Firm. pp. 124–125. ISBN 0-06-620965-X.
  22. ^ Damore, Senatorial Privilege, p. 154.
  23. ^ Dangremond, Sam (April 5, 2018). “What Actually Occurred Throughout Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick Incident”. City & Nation.
  24. ^ a b “Kennedy Attends Kopechne Funeral”. The Fort Scott Tribune. Related Press. July 22, 1969. p. 1.
  25. ^ Clymer, Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography, p. 150.
  26. ^ Fenton, John H. (October 31, 1969). “Kennedy Granted a Closed Inquest in Kopechne Case” (PDF). The New York Instances.
  27. ^ “What Did the Post-mortem of Mary Jo Kopechne Reveal?”. Medscape. Retrieved Could 23, 2018.
  28. ^ a b c d Canellos, Peter (April 1, 2018). “Chappaquiddick’: The Trial of Ted Kennedy”. Politico.
  29. ^ a b Clymer, Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography, pp. 152–154.
  30. ^ Barone, Michael; Cohen, Richard E. (2008). The Almanac of American Politics. Washington: Nationwide Journal Group. p. 792. ISBN 978-0-89234-116-0.
  31. ^ “Kennedy memoir reveals regret over Chappaquiddick”. The Detroit Information. Related Press. September 9, 2009.
  32. ^ a b “In Focus: Mary Jo Kopechne earlier than and past Chappaquiddick”. Instances Chief. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. March 25, 2015.
  33. ^ McCarthy, Todd (September 10, 2017). “Chappaquiddick’ Overview”. The Hollywood Reporter.

For Additional Studying[edit]

  • Kashatus, William C. Earlier than Chappaquiddick: The Untold Story of Mary Jo Kopechne and the Kennedy Brothers, Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books, 2020.

Exterior hyperlinks[edit]


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