Weird History

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

Erin Wisti
Updated August 3, 2020 19.5k views 10 items

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.