August 31, 2005 by

James Dougherty

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Categories: Hollywood, Law, Writers/Editors

James Edward Dougherty, a retired Los Angeles police detective who was once married to Marilyn Monroe, died on Aug. 15 from complications of pneumonia. He was 84.
Norma Jeane Baker was only 16 years old when she wed Dougherty, 21, in 1942. At the time, her only goals in life were to become a homemaker and mother. During World War II, Dougherty joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific. While he was overseas, however, Baker began rethinking her future plans.
Although her husband didn’t approve, Baker decided to pursue a career in acting and modeling, and change her name to Marilyn Monroe. When 20th Century Fox offered her a film contract, it included a stipulation that she be a single woman, so Monroe decided to ask for a separation. Dougherty was on a ship in the Yangtze River getting ready to go into Shanghai when he was served with divorce papers in 1946. He contested the separation, at first, but eventually gave in to her demands.
Upon his permanent return to the states, Dougherty worked as an electrical contractor and ran a gas station in southern California. Several police officers who were regular customers encouraged him to consider a career in law enforcement. Dougherty easily passed the entrance exam, completed his academy training and went to work for the Los Angeles Police Department. As a patrolman, he once handled crowd control for the premiere of his ex-wife’s film, “The Asphalt Jungle.” Dougherty later worked his way up the ranks, serving as a detective and an instructor for the department’s first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.
After 25 years on the force, Dougherty retired in 1974. He spent the remainder of his life residing in Arizona and Maine. Dougherty was elected to a county commission in Maine, and taught at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. In 1986, he lost a congressional bid to Republican Rep. Albert G. Stevens.
For years, Dougherty refused to talk about his marriage to the legendary sex symbol. But he broke his silence in 1976 with the publication of the book, “The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe.” Its sequel, “To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie,” was released in 1997. Dougherty’s second marriage to Patricia Scoman ended in divorce; his third marriage to Rita Lambert lasted for 32 years, until her death in 2003.
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