Dorothy Kilgallen-Her Pen was Her Scalpel.

“Why can’t I be the adorable one?” Dorothy Kilgallen

Dorothy Kilgallen-Adorable Quote

It’s doubtful many of you have heard the name Dorothy Kilgallen. The shame of it is you should have. Moreover, if born in the right generation, you couldn’t wait for Sunday nights at 10:30.

Groundbreaking journalist, TV legend, and hard as nails crime investigator, Kilgallen was generations and decades ahead of her time. If not for her, Harrison Ford wouldn’t have a hit in The Fugitive.

Kilgallen’s testimony is the reason Dr. Sam Sheppard received a new trial for the murder of his wife, and ended up released from prison. Forensic advancements years later proved Kilgallen was right in her deductions of Sheppard’s innocence.

She dissected crime reports and testimonies like a skilled surgeon. Her abilities amazed millions, yet she wanted more. She wanted to be the girl next-door people loved for being adorable, cute. However, her wit, her intelligence, and her honesty with a pen in her weekly column read by millions earned her powerful enemies that were cruel in their retaliation.

When Dorothy did a series on Frank Sinatra in the 1950s and spoke of his egocentric personality, he fought back by calling her a chinless wonder in his nightclub acts. He couldn’t argue the facts of her reporting, so he attacked her on a personal level.

In the 1960s she sunk her teeth into the JFK assassination. She ripped the Warren Report to shreds, had a rumored interview with Jack Ruby, and was about to publish her findings when she was found dead in her bed—the file with all her findings—missing. On the nightstand were two glasses, though her husband slept in another room. The sleeping pills in her stomach—Three different kinds. It was ruled an accident from the mixture of alcohol and pills.

The journalist surgeon with a pen was dead.

The lady who became famous by traveling around the world in 24 days back in 1936, when she was 23, for a contest amongst three reporters and newspapers, never understood the adulation she had. Maybe it was in part due to her philandering husband.

On the panel game show juggernaut of the time, What’s My Line?, Kilgallen wanted to be the adorable one, but couldn’t match the personality of Arlene Francis, the darling of Broadway who had a show on all three networks at the same time, and performed in Broadway shows. What she did instead was guess more professions of contestants than anyone else.

From beginning to end, Dorothy Kilgallen was an untypical woman in a world not ready for her. On the other hand, maybe she didn’t realize the world was happy with who she was, regardless of when it was.

She may not have been the perfect person, friend, or wife, but she was dedicated to her field. And she was unmatched.

This is one of my favorite quotes of hers.

“I think sometimes it is more important to be gracious than to win.” Dorothy Kilgallen


This is my contribution to Colleen Chesebro of’s#BeWoW and Writer's Quote Wednesday Writer’s Quote Wednesday. For those participating in the #BeWoW movement of positive posts, you may leave your links in the comments below, or do a ping back to this post if you wish. Use the hashtag #BeWoW on Twitter to help your posts receive RTs from others.

Ronovan Hester is an author, with a debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in December of 2015. He shares his life as an amnesiac and Chronic Pain sufferer through his blog His love of writing, authors and community through his online world has led to a growing Weekly Haiku Challenge, Weekly Fiction Prompt Challenge, and the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as

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31 thoughts on “Dorothy Kilgallen-Her Pen was Her Scalpel.

  1. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    Fascinating post on Dorothy Kilgallen…now here’s a woman who was most likely murdered for her brilliant and incisive reporting…this can be a cruel and merciless world to many who dare to speak up. Thanks Ronovan!


  2. Ronovan, I loved reading about Dorothy Kilgallen. What an interesting and fascinating woman! I know how she felt. I always wanted to be “that girl” too. Eventually, I came to grips with who I am and just said the heck with it. I am who I am! I had no idea she was involved in the Kennedy assassination research. Fascinating. Excellent quote. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. RONOVAN, you’re right… I have never heard of her, and yet she sounds like such a remarkable woman. Sadly though,the world does not like strong women, we’d rather have pretty, tragic ones like Diana.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! What a fascinating woman. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know about her, but I’m glad I do now. She actually sounds like the sort of person I would love to have as a close friend. I couldn’t agree more with her last quote, “I think sometimes it is more important to be gracious than to win.”, this especially applies to women, not because I think women should hold back but because so many men, and some women (unfortunately) seem intimidated by women that are successful. Great post! 😀 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • One problem you would run into with Dorothy as a friend would be her keeping conversations secret if it contained some juicy bit of column fodder. If you were an actual friend in one on one situations I am sure she kept things quiet, but she was known to share things spoken in a small group of close friends. I guess she figured it was fair game at that point.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember her being on TV, but I was just a child and, to me, she was just a TV personality. Her death, described that way, sounds more than a little suspicious. It’s deadly to delve too deep into some things. Good piece. — Suzanne Joshi

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A smart, interesting woman. And I don’t think she was ugly; in fact, her receding chin made her cute in an unconventional way.

    But as for that last quote about graciousness, too bad it didn’t extend to “hicks from the sticks”: that’s what she called Grand Ole Opry stars who were coming to Carnegie Hall – to perform at a fund-raiser for symphonies & operas the New York “sophisticates” wouldn’t support, no less. Patsy Cline was so incensed she said if Kilgallen was in the audience to stand up, then called her a “chicken” who was afraid to face “thousands of ‘hicks'”


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