COMM alumna pens memoir of Camelot Era

Under the Radar during Camelot

Florida State University School of Communication alumna Layte Bowden recently published a revealing memoir, “Under the Radar during Camelot: My Front Row Seat to History,” in which she shares recollections of her life as a young woman working behind the scenes on Capitol Hill during the tumultuous 1960s.

Bowden, who was voted FSU Homecoming Queen in 1956, graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958. After college, she moved to Washington, D.C., and worked at the Pentagon for a short time before becoming a secretary to Florida’s former U.S. Senator George Smathers. While working in Smathers’ office, she came to know some of the most famous and powerful people of the 1960s, including President John F. Kennedy.

Layte Bowden Homecoming 1956
Layte Bowden (middle) was Florida State's Homecoming Queen in 1956.

In 1962, Bowden decided to take some time away from Washington and see the world as a stewardess for Pam Am Airlines, and was assigned to fly on White House press charters. In her role with Pam Am, Bowden accompanied three different presidents – JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon – on official trips, experiencing many historic moments, including Kennedy’s famous speech in Berlin and LBJ flying to the war zone in Vietnam.  Most notably, she was in Dallas on Air Force One the day President Kennedy was assassinated.

Bowden, who wrote for the Flambeau as a Florida State student, never aspired to be a writer but was encouraged to tell her first-person story by former TIME reporter Hugh Sidey, who covered the White House almost 50 years.  After a decade of intermittently working on the book, Bowden’s final work was published in October.  She recently spoke to the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce to promote the book.

“I think it is cathartic and revealing,” Bowden said.  “(Writing a memoir) makes you think about whom you really are.  I certainly have and I have changed enormously since that time.  I was a bit of a butterfly and things just happened to me by just showing up.  I never had time to think about who I was or what I was. “

Bowden’s memoir, published by Figleaf Ltd., is available on