James Dougherty (police officer)

James Edward Dougherty (April 12, 1921 – August 15, 2005) was an American police officer, the first trainer of Special Weapons and Tactics. He is best known as the first husband of actress Marilyn Monroe.

James Dougherty
Dougherty with then wife Marilyn Monroe, c. 1943–44
Born(1921-04-12)April 12, 1921
DiedAugust 15, 2005(2005-08-15) (aged 84)
OccupationOfficer in the Los Angeles Police Department
Years active1949–1974
Notable work
  • The Secret Happiness Of Marilyn Monroe (1976)
  • To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie (1997)
  • (m. 1942; div. 1946)
  • Patricia Scoman
    (m. 1947; div. 1972)
  • Rita Lambert
    (m. 1974; died 2003)



James Edward Dougherty was born on April 12, 1921, in Torrance, California. He was the fifth and final child of Edward and Ethel Dougherty (née Beatty), natives of Pueblo, Colorado.[1] After moving to Globe, Arizona, the family suffered from the Great Depression, living in a tent.[2] Dougherty graduated from the Van Nuys High School in 1938, in the same class as actress Jane Russell.

Following his graduation, Dougherty turned down an athletic scholarship from the University of California at Santa Barbara.[3] Instead, he worked the night shift at Lockheed Aircraft, meeting Norma Jean Baker. Following the move of her foster-parents, Baker's return to an orphanage was prevented when Dougherty married her on June 19, 1942. She dropped out of high school and became a housewife.[4] They moved to Santa Catalina Island, where Dougherty joined the Merchant Navy and taught sea safety.[5]

In April 1944, Dougherty was posted to the South Pacific.[6] Baker moved back to Van Nuys, where she was noticed by the photographer David Conover. She later signed a contract with the Blue Book Model agency and 20th Century Fox, who stipulated that she must be unmarried.[7]

Therefore, Baker divorced Dougherty in 1946. He received the divorce papers while on the Yangtze and was heartbroken. "It was like getting kicked by a mule," Doughterty said. "You don't know whether to throw up, jump over the side, commit suicide or what to do."[8]

He followed her career as the actress Marilyn Monroe, and after her death he appeared on the CBS show To Tell The Truth and gave numerous interviews. He commented in 2002:[5]

"Fame was injurious to her. She was too gentle to be an actress. She wasn't tough enough for Hollywood. And once someone starts getting into pills –uppers and downers, the way she was –people can go downhill. They can't sleep, so they take more and more pills."

— Dougherty, interview with Associated Press in 2002

In 1947, Dougherty married Patricia Scoman, and they had three daughters. In 1949, he joined the Los Angeles Police Department and eventually became a detective. He played a part in the creation of the Special Weapons and Tactics group, becoming the first officer to train it. He also broke a plot to kidnap James Garner.[9][10]

Dougherty married his final wife, Rita Lambert, in 1974.[11] Together, they moved to her hometown in Sabattus, Maine, where he taught at the Criminal Justice Academy and worked as an Androscoggin County commissioner.[5][12] He also worked for the Maine Boxing Commission and appeared in the documentary The Discovery Of Marilyn Monroe, along with actor Robert Mitchum and high school friend Jane Russell.[13]

Dougherty and Russell also appeared on Sally in 1992, accompanied by Susan Strasberg. He wrote and released two memoirs, The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe and To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie.

In 2003, Dougherty's wife died. Marilyn's Man, a documentary about Dougherty, was filmed in 2004.[14] He died on August 15, 2005. His death made a standalone obituary in several outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.[15][16]


  1. ^ "Eben R. Dougherty born c. 1850 I". www.genealogy.com. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  2. ^ Vitacco-Robles, Gary (2015). Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe Volume 1 – 1926 to 1956. BearManor Media.
  3. ^ Miller, Jennifer Jean (2014). Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio – Love In Japan, Korea & Beyond. J.J. Avenue Productions. ISBN 978-0-9914291-6-5.
  4. ^ Norman, Andrew (April 17, 2018). Making Sense of Marilyn. Fonthill Media.
  5. ^ a b c "James Dougherty, 84; Was Married to Marilyn Monroe Before She Became a Star". Los Angeles Times. 2005-08-18. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  6. ^ Spoto, Donald Marilyn Monroe: The Biography (Cooper Square Press, 2001 ISBN 978-0-8154-1183-3), pp. 83–86
  7. ^ Banner, Lois (2012). Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-4088-3330-8.
  8. ^ Staff, Radar (September 30, 2022). "'Like Getting Kicked By A Mule': Marilyn Monroe's First Husband Details Heartbreak After Being Served Divorce Papers From Love Of His Life". RadarOnline. Retrieved June 4, 2024.
  9. ^ "Marilyn Monroe's First Husband Dies". Associated Press. March 25, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  10. ^ "James Dougherty, Monroe's First Husband". NPR.org. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Vitacco-Robles, Gary (November 11, 2014). Icon: The Life, Times and Films of Marilyn Monroe Volume 2 1956 to 1962 & Beyond. BearManor Media.
  12. ^ services, Tribune news. "James Dougherty". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "The Discovery of Marilyn Monroe". www.globaltelemedia.com. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  14. ^ "Marilyn's Man – Trailer – Showtimes – Cast – Movies – New York Times". October 18, 2007. Archived from the original on October 18, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  15. ^ "James Dougherty, 84, Detective, Dies (Published 2005)". The New York Times. The Associated Press. August 19, 2005. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  16. ^ "Monroe's first husband dies at 84". August 18, 2005. Retrieved December 2, 2020.