Family physician who healed himself

MISSING PERSONS No.3 William Kennedy Smith

You are a visitor at the Mercy Hospital in Chicago and you spot a young doctor who seems vaguely familiar. You have seen him somewhere before. So you ask. He introduces himself: Doctor Smith. Dr William Smith. It means nothing.

But the young man, midway through his residency in the rehab department on the fifth floor, is being too modest. That is the name he goes by these days but the full version is William Kennedy Smith, nephew of the former president JFK and son of Jean Kennedy Smith, US ambassador to Ireland. The coyness has nothing to with Camelot but everything with Palm Beach.

It is more than three years since all of America became intimate with Mr Smith and especially with his activities on Good Friday night in 1991, when he was staying with his uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, at the family compound in West Palm Beach. It was the night that Teddy got thirsty and awoke William to accompany him for a midnight drink at Au Bar, a nearby club.

It was what happened later that evening that won Mr Smith the notoriety he now flees. After leaving the bar he twice made love al fresco in the compound grounds to a woman who subsequently accused him of rape. The trial that followed introduced America to its new addiction: celebrity trials relayed live, gavel-to-gavel, into the nation's front rooms on cable television.

With the then nascent Court TV providing the cameras, the Smith trial provided real-life drama that seemed unsurpassable.There was the grass- stain evidence and the overwhelmingly poignant testimony of Teddy Kennedy.

Only now do we know that this was only a minor fix compared with what was to come: the Menendez trial, the Tonya Harding hearings, the Michael Jackson allegations and, playing right now - the OJ Simpson epic.

Mr Smith, who was acquitted, is probably grateful for that. When the lights were off him, he returned to trying to make it as the first Kennedy doctor. He completed a year's training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving for a three-year residency at Mercy.

In Chicago he has chosen to specialise in the rehabilitation of patients in post-accident trauma, suffering from spinal injuries or paralysis. His social rehabilitation has not been without mishap.

In 1993 he was arrested after punching a bouncer outside a bar in Arlington, Virginia, after mistaking him for the friend of a man who had taunted him inside about the being "the rapist". He was given 100 days community service and last year settled with the bouncer for an undisclosed sum.

The incident was a set-back for a man who at about that time confided to a friend: "My family spent over a million dollars on my defence. But all anyone remembers is that I was involved in a rape. Nobody remembers that I was acquitted".

If acquittal does not erase such notoriety, time still may. Last month, he emerged briefly at the funeral of his grandmother, Rose Kennedy, in Massachusetts. Even the tab loids did nothing more than list his name among the mourners. There was no nudge-nudge from the editors: "Remember him?"

David Usborne

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before