LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The 1920s New York scandal mixed money, sex and a shattering of racial norms. The nation’s newspapers played it like this: An older woman, a working-class part Black temptress, duped a white man from a blue-blood New York family into marriage. His family, threatening to disinherit, sought a divorce.

A media scandal for the decade. And it reached the mountains of Southern Nevada, where the husband, the man of wealth and social status, fled in secrecy, lived for a time under an assumed name and eventually brought his divorce case to two prominent Las Vegas attorneys.

Remember the times as we delve into history. In the mid 1920s, interracial marriage was outlawed in more than half of the United States. Segregation was strictly practiced in the South and not out of the ordinary in many other regions.

Leonard Kip Rhinelander was the wealthy New York socialite, four years younger than Alice Jones, the chambermaid who would become his wife. They met in 1921, when Kip went to the Orchard School in Connecticut to try to overcome shyness and stuttering. He was 18. Alice, 22, a worker at the school, the daughter of English immigrants, had a father who was part Black.

They carried on a hush-hush love affair and secretly wed in October of 1924. When a month later their marriage hit the front pages of the New York papers, the powerful Rhinelander family pushed for divorce.

Family pressured young Kip, and his attorneys, including Isaac Newton Mills, a former New York Supreme Court Justice, argued that Alice tricked the naive lad into a sexual relationship and hid her Blackness. On their marriage certificate, filled out in the New Rochelle, New York, courthouse, she listed her race as white. Her goal, the Rhinelander attorneys said, was to deceive, to connive and to finagle her way into high society.

The courts ruled in Alice’s favor, upholding the marriage and ruling no deception on her part. And sometime between cases and counterclaims, Kip Rhinelander fled to Las Vegas, Mt. Charleston specifically, where in July 1929 he was found staying in a cabin, going by the name of Lou Russell, working as a woodcutter and under the protection of a bodyguard.

Front page photographs from an August 1929 edition of the Las Vegas Age showing Leonard Kip Rhinelander working at his cabin in Mt. Charleston. (UNLV Archives)

According to the June 12, 1929, edition of the Las Vegas Age newspaper, Rhinelander was dodging a summons from Jones’ attorneys in a separation action. His Las Vegas attorneys were Harley A. Harmon and his partner, Thomas J. Salter. Harmon, for whom Harmon Avenue is named, also was Clark County district attorney from 1921 to 1934.

While Rhinelander was granted a divorce in Las Vegas, it was not recognized in New York, where Jones’ separation suit was pending. Eventually, there was an out-of-court agreement for a legal separation. No divorce. Alice Jones accepted a lump-sum payment of $31,500 (about $575,000 by today’s standards) and $300 a month for the rest of her life. In return, she was not allowed to use the Rhinelander name – her legal name — to tell her side of the story or to make public appearances.

From left: Thomas J. Salter, Leonard Kip Rhinelander and Harley A. Harmon. (UNLV Archives)

Jones abided by the agreement. She never married and never used or profited from the Rhinelander name. She died in 1989 at age 90 and is buried at Beechwoods Cemetery in New Rochelle. Her headstone reads Alice Beatrice Jones Rhinelander.

Perhaps the most stunning and heartbreaking portion of her ordeal was when during the trial her attorney, arguing that Jones could in no way hide her Blackness from her lover — which was backed by witnesses — offered her body as proof. Alice, who never testified, undressed to her underwear in a closed room. Wrapped in a long coat, a weeping Alice showed her legs up to her thighs to the all-white, all-male jury and the white judge. According to a 2014 NPR story by Theodore R. Johnson III, Alice also dropped the coat to her waist, exposing her upper body to the judge. When it was over, her mother helped her dress and leave the courtroom.

Alice Jones, center, with her mother, Elizabeth, and father, George, after the trial. (

Kip Rhinelander went back and forth between Las Vegas and Los Angeles until the settlement was reached. Although he vowed to become a permanent resident of Las Vegas, he moved back to New York and became an auditor in the family company, the Rhinelander Real Estate Co.

He died in 1936 of lobar pneumonia at age 32 in Long Beach, New York, a city on Long Island’s south shore. Like Alice, he never married. He is buried in the family vault in Woodlawn Cemetery in the New York City borough of the Bronx.