Tuesday, 8 June 2021


My obit of F Lee Bailey is in today's Guardian; it went online yesterday and you can link to that here.

The paper had hoped for a somewhat shorter piece, of course highlighting the OJ trial, but as it was I tried to hold myself down to just him more famous/important trials, and each time felt it was necessary to explain them at least briefly for an audience who probably don't even recognise the name Patty Hearst, much less Sam Sheppard or Albert DeSalvo.

I mentioned that, in light of the Medina court martial, William Calley was the only officer convicted in the My Lai massacre. I didn't mention that the major who didn't find anything unusual in the action that day, nor when questioned by someone from the Inspector General's office the following year, was Colan Powell, whose recollection of that questioning in his own memoirs doesn't jibe with the IG's tape of it.

It would have been nice to delve further into a couple of the stories: Sam Sheppard became a professional wrestler after finally winning his release from prison, and died young not long after. Efforts to win compensation for false imprisonment have failed. Hearst (and William and Emily Harris) were not with the rest of the SLA when six died as the LAPD trapped them in a house, but Patty had shot during an earlier robbery to protect them. Bill, aka General Teko, Emily and two other SLA members lived second lives until arrested in 2002. There's a Robert Redford movie, The Company You Keep, which, while based on the life underground of ex-Weathermen members, covers similar ground.   

There was one interesting thread that did get lost; his marriages. Because Bailey and his first wife, Florence Gott, married in 1960 and divorced in 1961, but had two sons. I could not find anywhere a date for his second marriage, to his secretary, Froma Portney, with whom he had a third son. I was constructing a scenario to explain these circumstances, but there was no way of my proving any of it true. However the idea he divorced Froma in 1972 and immediately married his third wife, Lynda Hart (who didn't make the paper, sadly) would be what lawyers might call evidence of a pattern of behaviour. He divorced Hart in 1980 but didn't marry Patricia Shires until 1985, and they stayed married until her death in 1999. I probably should have mentioned, as well as his failure to win admission to the Maine bar, and before his later bankruptcy and finally move into a hospice near one of his sons in Atlanta, he ran a consulting business from an office above his girlfriend, Debbie Elliott's hair salon in Portland.


No comments :