JFK's Father-In-Law Was A Hard-Drinking, Hard-Partying Gambler Nicknamed "Black Jack"

It's no secret that the Kennedy family has many skeletons in their collective closet, but not many realize Jackie Kennedy came from a not-so-stellar background herself. Jackie O's dad, John Vernou Bouvier III, was a hard drinking, gambling, and womanizing man notorious for his unstable behavior. Nicknamed "Black Jack" Bouvier due to his dark complexion, he became a notorious figure during the Kennedy's age of Camelot.

Despite initial disagreements, JFK and Black Jack Bouvier came to get along. In fact, the two were such great pals they ended up sharing women and drinking heavily together. Bouvier lived hard and ended up succumbing to liver cancer due to years of binge drinking. He left quite the legacy behind, remembered as a polarizing figure in the United States political scene.

  • He Was A Womanizer Who Bragged About His Affairs And Shared Women With His Son-In-Law

    John Bouvier had a string of infidelities and affairs during his marriage to Janet Lee. He even bragged about his sexual escapades to his daughter Jackie. While attending Parents’ Day at his daughter's prep school, he discreetly pointed out all of the moms he had slept with.

    Like his father-in-law, John Kennedy was known for having a slew of affairs during his marriage. Bouvier didn't seem bothered by his son-in-law's infidelities - in fact,  according to Danforth Prince and Darwin Porter in their biography of Jacqueline Kennedy, the two men slept with some of the same women. In a story recounted by musician Cole Porter, Bouvier and Kennedy got very drunk together one night and invited a showgirl over. Both men seduced her that evening.

  • His Father Invented A Noble Background For The Bouvier Family

    Major John Bouvier II, John Bouvier III's father, was obsessed with prestige and nobility. Jackie Bouvier was raised in a house designed to look like an English country manor - its architecture was supposed to invoke and reflect the Bouvier family's noble, centuries-old roots. 

    In reality, the lineage was a complete invention. The Bouviers had no ties to the French aristocracy. Their ancestors were skilled laborers, like cabinet-makers and iron-workers.

  • He Was Handsome, Vain, And Meticulous About His Appearance

    John Bouvier III was stylish and obsessed with his physical appearance. His nickname, “Black Jack,” came from the fact he had very dark, bronzed skin. He maintained his tan by spending hours each week sunbathing under a tanning lamp or outdoors. He also maintained a muscular physique by spending hours at the gym and kept this hair meticulously groomed.

    Bouvier had a mustache that was similar to Clark Gable’s. People actually thought Bouvier was Gable on occasion. It was not uncommon for movie fans to ask Bouvier for an autograph, mistaking him for the Gone With the Wind star.

    Bouvier was known for his vanity and liked to adorn walls with photographs of himself.

  • His Financial Problems - Exacerbated By A Love Of Gambling - Eroded His Marriage

    John Bouvier III was born into money but squandered his fortune through gambling and poor financial decisions.

    Bouvier developed his love of gambling from a young age: he was kicked out of Phillips Exeter for it. In adulthood, he frequented the racetrack.

    As an investment banker, Bouvier's love of gambling encouraged him to take unwise risks in the stock market, which ultimately led to poor investment decisions and a depletion of his funds - he spent what he earned.

    This – in addition to his infidelity and unstable behavior – was a major causal factor in his divorce from his wife Janet Norton Lee. She would go on to remarry the more financially stable investment banker Hugh Dudley Auchincloss in 1942.

  • He Was An Indulgent Father, And His Daughters Worshipped Him

    Despite his philandering, alcoholism, and gambling, John Bouvier was an indulgent father to his daughters Jackie and Lee. As his niece Kathleen Bouvier recalled:

    He devoted himself to making sure every day was special for them, whether it was gifting them with a new dog - and there were plenty in the household already - or taking them to the park, just spending time with them, there was no limit to what he would do for them. [His wife] Janet was more of a disciplinarian than Jack so, naturally, they gravitated toward him. Janet felt he spoiled the girls. Maybe so, but it was out of love.

    Lee acknowledged that she and her sister worshipped their father: "To be with him when we were children meant joy, excitement and love."

    John Bouvier was especially close to Jackie, whom everyone - including Lee - believed was his favorite child. He would frequently praise Jackie for her looks and accomplishments. The family joked that Bouvier's compliments to Jackie were doses of “Vitamin P” - the “P” standing for praise.

  • He Was A Heavy Drinker And Got So Drunk On Jackie's Wedding Day That He Couldn't Escort Her Down The Aisle

    John Bouvier III was known as an alcoholic. His own wife even called him "that no-good drunk."

    At Jackie Bouvier's wedding to John F. Kennedy in 1953, he became so intoxicated that he couldn't escort her down the aisle - her stepfather instead escorted her. Rather than blame her father, however, Jackie held her mother responsible - she believed her father's drunkenness was a result of her mother excluding him from the rehearsal dinner the night before.

    John Bouvier eventually died of liver cancer, likely brought on by his heavy drinking.