Paul Markham, Kennedy friend involved in Chappaquiddick crash, dies

Sen. Edward Kennedy’s car is pulled from a pond on Massachusetts’ Chappaquiddick Island. The body of Mary Jo Kopechne was found in the back seat. Her death was attributed to drowning.
(Associated Press)

A former federal prosecutor who was on Chappaquiddick Island the night of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s fateful car crash has died.

Paul Markham died July 13 in Peabody, Mass., according to an obituary posted by the Gately Funeral Home. A funeral was held July 18, the 50th anniversary of the 1969 crash. He was 89.

Markham was one of two people Kennedy confided in after driving his Oldsmobile sedan off a narrow bridge on the tiny island, which is located off the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Kennedy’s passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned in the crash and Kennedy was unable to pull her out of the water.


But instead of alerting authorities, Kennedy returned to a party he and Kopechne had attended and sought out Markham, who had recently resigned as U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

Markham and Kennedy’s cousin Joseph Gargan drove to the crash scene that night with the senator.

Markham later testified that the two dove into the waters numerous times in an unsuccessful attempt to locate Kopechne, who’d been a campaign worker for Kennedy’s older brother, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, before his assassination in Los Angeles the previous year.

Obit Paul Markham
Paul Markham, in file photo from 1969, the year of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s car crash that killed passenger Mary Jo Kopechne.
(Associated Press)


Gargan testified that he urged Kennedy to report the crash to police, but the senator didn’t. The following day, Markham went with Kennedy to provide a statement to police on Martha’s Vineyard.

Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended sentence of two months in jail. He was never indicted, but the incident mars his legacy.

A graduate of Villanova University and the Boston University School of Law, Markham was appointed a federal prosecutor in 1964 by Robert F. Kennedy, who was the U.S. attorney general at the time.

He became the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts in 1966 at the age of 36 after his predecessor, W. Arthur Garrity Jr., was tapped to become a federal judge.

Markham resigned in 1969 after Republican President Nixon took office. He worked as a lawyer in private practice until retiring in 2004.

The longtime resident of Melrose, Mass., is survived by his wife, Claire, six children and 10 grandchildren, according to the funeral home.

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