Binghams of Louisville

David Chandler, Author MacMillan Publishing Company $21.11 (0p) ISBN 978-0-02-523640-0
An influential Kentucky family, the Binghams last year sold the Louisville Courier-Journal, foundation of their 455 million fortune. In this lively, absorbing expose, Chandler (Henry Flagler, etc.) explores the mysterious circumstances under which Robert Worth Bingham acquired the funds to buy that Louisville paper: the death in 1917 of Mary Lily Kenan, his wealthy wife of eight months. Attributed officially to natural causes, that explanation of her death is still viewed as a cover-up by many in Louisville, writes Chandler, who uses available papers (Bingham documents for the period are missing) and his own investigatory work to suggest an intriguing new theory. He argues that Bingham, a former Louisville mayor and later U.S. ambassador to Britain, conspired with a physician to keep his ill wife in a drugged state, during which she signed a codicil leaving him $5 million. Although Kenan's family had her body exhumed for autopsy and initiated a lawsuit over the codicil, they dropped the case out of fear that the nature of her real illnesssyphiliswould cause a scandal, suggests the author. Of the modern-day Binghams, Chandler relates as well the publicly aired family feuds that surrounded the sale of the Louisville Courier-Journal. Photos not seen by PW. (June 3)
Reviewed on: 08/04/1987
Release date: 08/01/1987
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