The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
and the Death of his Assassin
After being arrested for shooting President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered two days later on November 24, 1963 in the basement of the police department. His murderer was a little known local businessman named Jack Ruby. It was the end of a horrific series of events that rocked citizens of the United States and people around the world.
The world was stunned on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in an open limousine with his wife, Jackie, on a trip to Dallas. They were fully exposed to the cheering crowds as they sat in the open limo, along with the governor of Texas and his wife. The recorded scenes were horrendous and heartbreaking. Nearly everyone today has viewed the silent Zabruder film that recorded the shocking details of Kennedy's assassination. We have watched as the lovely Jackie Kennedy mysteriously climbed onto the back of the limousine to retrieve something, then returned to her seat, clutching her husband in her arms. We have also gazed sadly upon the photo of Jackie standing bravely next to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as he was sworn in as President of the United States on Air Force One. She was still wearing her blood stained clothing.
During the following days, Americans sat glued to their television sets watching as hundreds of thousands of people filed past Kennedy's coffin when it went on view in the Capitol building. On November 25, a somber nation watched the funeral of Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery. There were few dry eyes left in the country when John Kennedy's three year old son, little "John-John," stood tall as he sweetly saluted his father's coffin.
Even with everyone's attention that week focused on the President's death and funeral, we were still shocked and stunned when Kennedy's alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was murdered in front of police, reporters and television crews in the basement of the Dallas Police Department Headquarters, on live television. No one anticipated this turn of events. Still upset by the death of our president, citizens were reeling from the impact of this new murder. There were still so many unanswered questions about the assassination, and everyone wondered how this could happen to someone in police custody.
As soon as the funeral of the president was over, the attention of the news media and the American public was refocused on trying to find an explanation for everything that had happened. Gradually, details began to emerge.
Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?
The nation was suddenly obsessed with trying to get more information on Lee Harvey Oswald. Who was this stranger who had inexplicably shot the president? In the 1960's, there was no internet, no computer searches and, of course, Lee Harvey Oswald was not listed in the encyclopedia on the family bookcase. We were dependent on the evening news, and we hung on every word. Here is some of the information that we gleaned.
Lee Oswald was a former U.S. Marine who had defected to the Soviet Union and lived there for a time, marrying a Russian citizen. Oswald had been born on October 18, 1939 in New Orleans and lived briefly in an orphanage after the death of his father, because his mother was unable to support him and his brothers. When he was 5, his mother married Edwin Ekdahl, and the family moved to Fort Worth, Texas.
Oswald apparently had a troubled childhood, including attending 12 different schools by the time he was 17. He had a great deal of difficulty getting along with others. His problems lead to a psychiatric assessment at a juvenile reformatory. He was diagnosed as having "a personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies." He was only a freshman in high school at the time. Although treatment was recommended by the psychiatrist, instead his mother moved back to New Orleans with Lee. Oswald dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and eventually joined the Marines.
In the Marine Corps, Lee Harvey Oswald continued his early teenage behavior, such as getting into fights, which caused him to be demoted back to private, and briefly put into a military prison. Although he was trained to shoot rifles, he earned low scores … a point which was later frequently made by those who supported the various conspiracy theories. He was also court-martialed after accidentally shooting himself in the elbow with an unauthorized handgun. In October 1959, just before he turned 20, Oswald got a hardship discharge from the military, claiming that he needed to take care of his mother.
Shortly after leaving the Marines in October 1959, Oswald moved to the Soviet Union. The following March, he met Marina Prusakova, a 19 year old pharmacy student. They married six weeks later. In June 1960, Oswald brought his new wife back to the United States. Marina and Oswald lived for a while in the Dallas area, and then moved to New Orleans. In the fall of 1963, they returned to Dallas and on October 16, 1963 Oswald began working at the Texas School Book Depository.
Oswald was never of interest to federal authorities, despite his time in the Soviet Union. However, the FBI was concerned that his wife, Marina, might be a Soviet spy. About a week before the Kennedy assassination, after the FBI had visited their home a second time to talk to Marina, Oswald left a note at the Dallas FBI office that said, "Let this be a warning. I will blow up the FBI and the Dallas Police Department if you don't stop bothering my wife. Signed – Lee Harvey Oswald."
Despite this threatening note, Oswald was not detained by the FBI or the Dallas police. However, that was about to change.
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The Arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald
Within minutes of the assassination of John F Kennedy, Dallas police flew into action. At least one policeman searched the grassy knoll, where some spectators insisted they had heard shots fired. At about the same time, other policemen ran into the Texas School Book Depository, sealing off the entrances within 10 to 20 minutes after the shooting; police began to search the building. However, 20 minutes is a long time if someone is fleeing a crime scene. Lee Harvey Oswald had left the building before the entrances were sealed. His supervisor noticed his absence and reported him missing. Police were alerted around the city, and they began watching for someone fitting his description. An hour and twenty minutes later, police officer J.D. Tippit spotted Oswald walking down a sidewalk in Oak Cliff and called it in. Oak Cliff is a residential area just south of downtown Dallas. When other police officers arrived, Officer Tippit was dead and Oswald was spotted entering a movie theater, without purchasing a ticket. Police officers entered and attempted to arrest him. There was a struggle. The police succeeded in subduing him only after Oswald allegedly attempted to shoot the arresting officer, M.N. McDonald.
When Oswald was arrested, he was carrying a handgun, but not the rifle that was used to shoot Kennedy. Later, a rifle was found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Depository Building.
Oswald always denied that he had shot anyone, and loudly proclaimed that he was a "patsy." The police performed paraffin tests on Oswald's hands and right cheek to determine if he had recently fired a weapon. The test came back positive for his hands, and negative for his cheek. However, those tests were considered unreliable at the time. Oswald continued to deny everything, and provided the police with very little information.
Then, the investigation was suddenly and unexpectedly thrown into chaos. Oswald was murdered two days after his arrest, on national television, by Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby.
After Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, most Americans felt relief that the suspect had been caught so quickly. As we learned more about him, we became convinced that Oswald was just a crackpot and that we would learn more about his motives in the coming months. Then, on national television, in front of millions of viewers who had been glued to their TV sets since the assassination, the nation was shaken by another shocking death … the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Who was Jack Ruby, this man who had such unrestricted access to police headquarters that he was able to walk right up to Lee Harvey Oswald with a gun in his hand, while Oswald was in police custody?
Jack Ruby, originally named Jack Rubenstein, owned a nightclub in Dallas, Texas. He was very friendly with both members of the police department and organized crime members in Dallas, in particular Joe Campisi, who owned a popular Dallas restaurant, called Campisi's Egyptian Lounge and Restaurant. The restaurant is still in operation in Dallas, specializing in pizza, appetizers, steak sandwiches, and Spaghetti … which I have always thought a strange menu for a restaurant with Egyptian in its name. Many people who are interested in the history around John F. Kennedy's assassination still visit Campisi's Restaurant, as well as the Sixth Floor Museum, Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll. If it weren't for its connection to Jack Ruby, however, Campisi's Restaurant would be considered unremarkable. It is popular with local residents and college students from nearby Southern Methodist University.
The night before Kennedy was assassinated, Ruby is known to have visited Campisi's restaurant. Some conspiracy theorists believe that Ruby killed Kennedy after meeting with organized crime members at Joe Campisi's restaurant. Many members of the Dallas mafia were believed to be connected to the anti-Castro Cubans who were still angry with Kennedy after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. However, people who knew Jack Ruby completely dismissed that logic. All that is actually known is that he simply went there and had dinner. Any conversations he may have had continue to be a mystery.
Other historians believe that Ruby shot Oswald on a whim, since he left his favorite dog, Sheba, in his car while he went into police headquarters that day. Jack Ruby, himself, only said that he shot Oswald to help Dallas redeem itself after the assassination of Kennedy, and that he believed killing Oswald would spare Jackie Kennedy from having to endure an Oswald trial. Whatever his reason, Jack Ruby was tried and eventually convicted of the murder on March 14, 1964.
After his trial, Jack Ruby appealed his conviction and death sentence and asked for a new trial. However, before the new trial commenced, he became sick with lung cancer and died on January 3, 1967. In one interview, Jack Ruby claimed that he believed that he had been injected with cancer cells, and that there was a conspiracy against him by people in "high positions." It seems that the Kennedy assassination has always been surrounded by people who believed in conspiracies. There have been many theories that Kennedy's death was part of a conspiracy; others thought Ruby killed Oswald after conspiring with the mafia; and Ruby believed that his cancer was the result of a government conspiracy. However, there was never any clarity about whom, precisely, Ruby believed was involved in his death. While in his hospital bed, just prior to his death, Ruby made a final statement, saying that, "There is nothing to hide. There was no one else."
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Fascinating First-Hand Biography of Lee Harvey Oswald
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