Lee Harvey Oswald, charged with the
Kennedy assassination, shot by Jack Ruby
At 11:21, in the basement of the Dallas
police station, Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President
John F. Kennedy, is shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub
owner. On 22 November, President Kennedy
was fatally shot while riding in an open car motorcade through the
streets of Dallas, Texas. Several hours later, Oswald, a former US
marine and accused Soviet sympathizer, was arrested on a charge of
murdering Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit in a separate incident.
The next day, he was also charged with the murder of President Kennedy.
Early the next afternoon, while television cameras were rolling, Ruby
emerged from the crowd of law enforcement officers and media representatives
watching the transfer of Oswald to a county jail, and shot him dead.
Millions of Americans witnessed the murder on live television. Jack
Ruby, originally known as Jacob Rubenstein, operated nightclubs and
dance halls in Dallas, and had at least minor connections to organized
crime. In March of 1964, Ruby, who is apprehended immediately after
the shooting, is found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, but
in October of 1966, a Texas appeals court overturns the conviction.
In 1967, Ruby dies while awaiting a second trial. Although some suspect
that Ruby was part of a larger conspiracy in the assassination of
Kennedy, such as the charge that he was hired by the mob or the CIA
to silence Oswald, the official Warren Commission report of 1964 concludes
that neither Oswald nor Ruby were part of a larger conspiracy, either
domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy. However, the
report fails to silence conspiracy theories surrounding the event,
and in 1979 the House Assassination's Committee concludes that Kennedy
likely was killed as part of a larger conspiracy that may have included
members of organized crime, although many government officials dispute
On Sunday morning, 24 November,
arrangements were made for Oswald's transfer from the city jail
to the Dallas County jail, about 1 mile away. The news media
had been informed on Saturday night that the transfer of Oswald
would not take place until after 10 a.m. on Sunday. Earlier
on Sunday, between 02:30 and 03:00, anonymous telephone calls
threatening Oswald's life had been received by the Dallas office
of the FBI and by the office of the county sheriff. Nevertheless,
on Sunday morning, television, radio, and newspaper representatives
crowded into the basement to record the transfer. As viewed
through television cameras, Oswald would emerge from a door
in front of the cameras and proceed to the transfer vehicle.
To the right of the cameras was a "down" ramp from Main Street
on the north. To the left was an up ramp leading to Commerce
Street. on the south. The armored truck in which Oswald was
to be transferred arrived shortly after 11:00. Police officials
then decided, however, that an unmarked police car would be
preferable for the trip because of its greater speed and maneuverability.
At approximately 11:20. Oswald
emerged from the basement jail office flanked by detectives
on either side and at his rear. He took a few steps toward the
car and was in the glaring light of the television cameras when
a man suddenly darted out from an area on the right of the cameras
where newsmen had been assembled. The man was carrying a Colt..38
revolver in his right hand and, while millions watched on television,
he moved quickly to within a few feet of Oswald and fired one
shot into Oswald's abdomen. Oswald groaned with pain as he fell
to the ground and quickly lost consciousness. Within 7 minutes
Oswald was at Parkland Hospital where, without having regained
consciousness, he was pronounced dead at 13:07.
The man who killed Oswald was Jack Ruby (born 25 April 1911),
a Dallas nightclub operator. He was instantly arrested and,
minutes later, confined in a cell on the fifth floor of the
Dallas police jail. Under interrogation, he denied that the
killing of Oswald was in any way connected with a conspiracy
involving the assassination of President Kennedy. He maintained
that he had killed Oswald in a temporary fit of depression and
rage over the President's death. Ruby was transferred the following
day to the county jail without notice to the press or to police
officers not directly involved in the transfer. Indicted for
the murder of Oswald by the State of Texas on 26 November 1963,
Ruby was found guilty on 14 March 1964, and sentenced to death.
He appealed and won a retrial on the basis that procedural errors
had occurred during the trial. . On 03 January 1967 Jack Ruby
died of lung cancer in prison before a new trial could be held.
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in
New Orleans on 18 October 1939, 2 months after the death of
his father. His mother, Marguerite Claverie Oswald, had two
older children. One, John Pic, was a half_brother to Lee from
an earlier marriage which had ended in divorce. The other was
Robert Oswald, a full brother to Lee and 5 years older. When
Lee Oswald was 3, Mrs. Oswald placed him in an orphanage where
his brother and half_brother were already living, primarily
because she had to work.
In January 1944, when Lee was 4, he was taken out of the orphanage, and shortly thereafter his mother moved with him to Dallas, Tex., where the older boys joined them at the end of the school year. In May of 1945 Marguerite Oswald married her third husband, Edwin A. Ekdahl. While the two older boys attended a military boarding school, Lee lived at home and developed a warm attachment to Ekdahl, occasionally accompanying his mother and stepfather on business trips around the country. Lee started school in Benbrook, Tex., but in the fall of 1946, after a separation from Ekdahl, Marguerite Oswald reentered Lee in the first grade in Covington, La. In January 1917, while Lee was still in the first grade, the family moved to Fort Worth, Tex., as the result of an attempted reconciliation between Ekdahl and Lee's mother. A year and a half later, before Lee was 9, his mother was divorced from her third husband as the result of a divorce action instituted by Ekdahl. Lee's school record during the next 5 and a half years in Fort Worth was average, although generally it grew poorer each year. The comments of teachers and others who knew him at that time do not reveal any unusual personality traits or characteristics.
Another change for Lee Oswald occurred in August 1952, a few months after he completed the sixth grade. Marguerite Oswald and her 12-year-old son moved to New York City where Marguerite's oldest son, John Pic, was stationed with the Coast Guard. The ensuing year and one_half in New York was marked by Lee's refusals to attend school and by emotional and psychological problems of a seemingly serious nature. Because he had become a chronic school truant, Lee underwent psychiatric study at Youth House, an institution in New York for juveniles who have had truancy problems or difficulties with the law, and who appear to require psychiatric observation, or other types of guidance. The social worker assigned to his case described him as "seriously detached" and "withdrawn" and noted "a rather pleasant, appealing quality about this emotionally starved, affectionless youngster." Lee expressed the feeling to the social worker that his mother did not care for him and regarded him as a burden. He experienced fantasies about being all powerful and hurting people, but during his stay at Youth House he was apparently not a behavior problem. He appeared withdrawn and evasive, a boy who preferred to spend his time alone, reading and watching television. His tests indicated that he was above average in intelligence for his age group. The chief psychiatrist of Youth House diagnosed Lee's problem as a "personality pattern disturbance with schizoid features and passive-aggressive tendencies." He concluded that the boy was "an emotionally, quite disturbed youngster" and recommended psychiatric treatment.
In May 1953, after having been at Youth House for 3 weeks, Lee Oswald returned to school where his attendance and grades temporarily improved. By the following fall, however, the probation officer reported that virtually every teacher complained about the boy's behavior. His mother insisted that he did not need psychiatric assistance. Although there was apparently some improvement in Lee's behavior during the next few months, the court recommended further treatment. In January 1954, while Lee's case was still pending, Marguerite and Lee left for New Orleans, the city of Lee's birth.
Upon his return to New Orleans, Lee maintained mediocre
grades but had no obvious behavior problems. Neighbors and
others who knew him outside of school remembered him as a
quiet, solitary and introverted boy who read a great deal
and whose vocabulary made him quite articulate. On 07 October
1955, about 1 month after he started the 10th grade and 11
days before his 16th birthday, he brought to school a note
purportedly written by his mother, stating that the family
was moving to California. The note was written by Lee. A
few days later he dropped out of school and almost immediately
tried to join the Marine Corps. Because he was only 16, he
was rejected. After leaving school Lee worked for the next
10 months at several jobs in New Orleans as an office messenger
or clerk. It was during this period that he started to read
communist literature. Occasionally, in conversations with
others, he praised communism and expressed to his fellow
employees a desire to join the Communist Party. At about
this time, when he was not yet 17, he wrote to the Socialist
Party of America, professing his belief in Marxism.
Another move followed in July 1956 when Lee and his mother
returned to Fort Worth. He reentered high school but again
dropped out after a few weeks and enlisted in the Marine
Corps on 24 October 1956, 6 days after his 17th birthday.
On 21 December 1956, during boot camp in San Diego, Oswald
fired a score of 212 for record with the M-1 rifle--2 points
over the minimum for a rating of "sharpshooter" on a marksman/sharpshooter/expert
scale. After his basic training, Oswald received training
in aviation fundamentals and then in radar scanning.
Most people who knew Oswald in the Marines described him
as "loner" who resented the exercise of authority by others.
He spent much of his free time reading. He was court-martialed
once for possessing an unregistered privately owned weapon
and, on another occasion, for using provocative language
to a noncommissioned officer. He was, however, generally
able to comply with Marine discipline, even though his experiences
in the Marine Corps did not live up to his expectations,
Oswald served 15 months overseas until November 1958, most
of it in Japan. During his final year in the Marine Corps
he was stationed for the most part in Santa Ana, Calif.,
where he showed marked interest in the Soviet Union and sometimes
expressed politically radical views with dogmatic conviction.
Oswald again fired the M-1 rifle for record on 06 May 1959,
and this time he shot a score of 191 on a shorter course
than before, only 1 point over the minimum required to be
a "marksman." According to one of his fellow marines, Oswald
was not particularly interested in his rifle performance,
and his unit was not expected to exhibit the usual rifle
proficiency. During this period he expressed strong admiration
for Fidel Castro and an interest in joining the Cuban army.
He tried to impress those around him as an intellectual,
but his thinking appeared to some as shallow and rigid.
Oswald's Marine service terminated on 11 September 1959,
when at his own request he was released from active service
a few months ahead of his scheduled release. He offered as
the reason for his release the ill health and economic plight
of his mother. He returned to Fort Worth, remained with his
mother only 3 days and left for New Orleans, telling his
mother he planned to get work there in the shipping or import-export
business. In New Orleans he booked passage on the freighter
SS Marion Lykes, which sailed from New Orleans to Le Havre,
France, on 20 September 1959.
Lee Harvey Oswald had presumably planned this step in his life for quite some
time. In March of 1959 he had applied to the Albert Schweitzer
College in Switzerland for admission to the Spring 1960 term.
His letter of application contained many blatant falsehoods
concerning his qualifications and background. A few weeks
before his discharge he had applied for and obtained a passport,
listing the Soviet Union as one of the countries which he
planned to visit. During his service in the Marines he had
saved a comparatively large sum of money, possibly as much
as $1500, which would appear to have been accomplished by
considerable frugality and apparently for a specific purpose.
The purpose of the accumulated fund soon became known. On
16 October 1959, Oswald arrived in Moscow by train after
crossing the border from Finland, where he had secured a
visa for a 6-day stay in the Soviet Union. He immediately
applied for Soviet citizenship. On the afternoon of 21 October
1959, Oswald was ordered to leave the Soviet Union by 20:00
that evening. That same afternoon in his hotel room Oswald,
in an apparent suicide attempt, slashed his left wrist. He
was hospitalized immediately. On 31 October, 3 days after
his release from the hospital, Oswald appeared at the American
Embassy, announced that he wished to renounce his U.S. citizenship
and become a Russian citizen, and handed the Embassy officer
a written statement he had prepared for the occasion. When
asked his reasons, Oswald replied, "I am a Marxist." Oswald
never formally complied with the legal steps necessary to
renounce his American citizenship. The Soviet Government
did not grant. his request for citizenship, but. in January
1960 he was given permission to remain in the Soviet Union
on a year to year basis. At the same time Oswald was sent
to Minsk where he worked in radio factory as an unskilled
laborer. In January 1961 his permission to remain in the
Soviet Union was extended for another year. A few weeks later,
in February 1961, he wrote to the American Embassy in Moscow
expressing a desire to return to the United States.
The following month Oswald met a 19-year-old Russian girl,
Marina Nikolaevna Prusakova, a pharmacist, who had been brought
up in Leningrad but was then living with an aunt and uncle
in Minsk. They were married on 30 April 1961. Throughout
the following year he carried on a correspondence with American
and Soviet. authorities seeking approval for the departure
of himself and his wife to the United States. In the course
of this effort, Oswald and his wife visited the U.S. Embassy
in Moscow in July of 1961. Primarily on the basis of an interview
and questionnaire completed there, the Embassy concluded
that Oswald had not. lost his citizenship, a decision subsequently
ratified by the Department of State in Washington, D.C. Upon
their return to Minsk, 'Oswald and his wife filed with the
Soviet authorities for permission to leave together. Their
formal application was made in July 1961, and on 25 December
1961, Marina Oswald was advised it would be granted.
A daughter was born to the Oswalds in February 1962. In
the months that followed they prepared for their return to
the United States. On 09 May 1962 the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service, at the request of the Department
of State, agreed to waive a restriction under the law which
would have prevented the issuance of a United States visa.
to Oswald's Russian wife until she had left the Soviet Union.
They finally left Moscow on 01 June 1962, and were assisted
in meeting their travel expenses by a loan of $435.71 from
the U.S. Department of State. Two weeks later they arrived
in Fort Worth, Tex.
For a few weeks Oswald, his wife and child lived with Oswald's brother Robert. After a similar stay with Oswald's mother, they moved into their own apartment in early August. Oswald obtained a job on July 16 as a sheet metal worker. During this period in Fort Worth, Oswald was interviewed twice by agents of the FBI. The report of the first interview, which occurred on June 26, described him as arrogant and unwilling to discuss the reasons why he had gone to the Soviet Union. Oswald denied that he was involved in Soviet intelligence activities and promised to advise the FBI if Soviet representatives ever communicated with him. He was interviewed again on August 16, when he displayed a less belligerent attitude and once again agreed to inform the FBI of any attempt to enlist him in intelligence activities.
In early October 1962 Oswald quit his job at the sheet metal plant and moved to Dallas. While living in Forth Worth the Oswalds had been introduced to a group of Russian-speaking people in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Many of them assisted the Oswalds by providing small amounts of food, clothing, and household items. Oswald himself was disliked by almost all of this group whose help to the family was prompted primarily by sympathy for Marina Oswald and the child. Despite the fact that he had left the Soviet Union, disillusioned with its Government, Oswald seemed more firmly committed than ever to his concepts of Marxism. He showed disdain for democracy, capitalism, and American society in general. He was highly critical of the Russian-speaking group because they seemed devoted to American concepts of democracy and capitalism and were ambitious to improve themselves economically.
In February 1963 the Oswalds met Ruth Paine at a social gathering. Ruth Paine was temporarily separated from her husband and living with her two children in their home in Irving, Tex., a suburb of Dallas. because of an interest in the Russian language and sympathy for Marina Oswald, who spoke no English and had little funds, Ruth Paine befriended Marina and, during the next 2 months, visited her on several occasions.
On 06 April 1963, Oswald lost his job with a photography
firm. A few days later, on 10 April, he attempted to kill
Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker (Resigned, U.S. Army), using a
rifle which he had ordered by mail 1 month previously under
an assumed name. Marina Oswald learned of her husband's act
when she confronted him with a note which he had left, giving
her instructions in the event he did not return. That incident,
and their general economic difficulties impelled Marina Oswald
to suggest that her husband leave Dallas and go to New Orleans
to look for work.
Oswald left for New Orleans on 24 April 1963. Ruth Paine,
who knew nothing of the Walker shooting, invited Marina Oswald
and the baby to stay with her in the Paines' modest. home
while Oswald sought work in New Orleans. Early in May, upon
receiving word from Oswald that he had found a job, Ruth
Paine drove Marina Oswald and the baby to New Orleans to
During the stay in New Orleans, Oswald formed a fictitious New Orleans Chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. lie posed as secretary of this organization and represented that the president was A. J. Hidell. In reality, Hidell was a completely fictitious person created by Oswald, the organization's only member. Oswald was arrested on August 9 in connection with a scuffle which occurred while he was distributing pro-Castro leaflets. The next day, while at the police station, he was interviewed by an FBI agent after Oswald requested the police to arrange such an interview. Oswald gave the agent false information about his own background and was evasive in his replies concerning Fair Play for Cuba activities. During the next 2 weeks Oswald appeared on radio programs twice, claiming to be the spokesman for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans.
On 19 July 1963, Oswald lost his job as a greaser of coffee
processing machinery. In September, after an exchange of
correspondence with Marina Oswald, Ruth Paine drove to New
Orleans and, on 23 September, transported Marina, the child,
and the family belongings to Irving, Tex. Ruth Paine suggested
that Marina Oswald, who was expecting her second child in
October, live at the Paine house until after the baby was
born. Oswald remained behind, ostensibly to find work either
in Houston or some other city. Instead, he departed by bus
for Mexico, arriving in Mexico City on 27 September, where
he promptly visited the Cuban and Russian Embassies. His
stated objective was to obtain official permission to visit
Cuba, on his way to the Soviet Union. The Cuban Government
would not grant his visa unless the Soviet Government would
also issue a visa permitting his entry into Russia. Oswald's
efforts to secure these visas failed, and he left for Dallas,
where he arrived on 03 October 1968.
When he saw his wife the next day, it was decided that Oswald
would rent a room in Dallas and visit his family on weekends.
For 1 week he rented a room from Mrs. Bledsoe, the woman
who later saw him on the bus shortly after the assassination.
On 14 October 1963, he rented the Beckley Avenue room and
listed his name as O. H. Lee. On the same day, at the suggestion
of a neighbor, Mrs. Paine phoned the Texas School Book Depository
and was told that there was a job opening. She informed Oswald
who was interviewed the following day at the Depository and
started to work there on 16 October 1963.
On 20 October the Oswalds' second daughter was born. During
October and November Oswald established a general pattern
of weekend visits to Irving, arriving on Friday afternoon
and returning to Dallas Monday morning with a fellow employee,
Buell Wesley Frazier, who lived near the Paines. On Friday
15 November Oswald remained in Dallas at the suggestion of
his wife who told him that the house would be crowded because
of a birthday party for Ruth Paine's daughter. On Monday
18 November, Oswald and his wife quarreled bitterly during
a telephone conversation, because she learned for the first
time that he was living at the roominghouse under an assumed
name. On Thursday 21 November Oswald told Frazier that he
would like to drive to Irving to pick up some curtain rods
for an apartment in Dallas. His wife and Mrs. Paine were
quite surprised to see him since it was a Thursday night.
They thought he had returned to make up after Monday's quarrel.
He was conciliatory, but Marina Oswald was still angry.