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1963: Jack Ruby shoots Oswald

Looking back on News Headlines - November 23, 1963

The day after President Kennedy's assassination on November 23, 1963, the press tried to explain to the public what kind of madman would kill the President of the United States. "Apparently he was proud of being a Communist. He didn't try to hide it," Police Chief Jesse Curry said of Oswald in a story printed in the Reno Evening Gazette.

Lee Harvey Oswald defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 after serving in the U.S. Marines. He planned to renounce his American citizenship and U.S. newspaper articles from 1959 portray Oswald as a U.S. boy who preferred Russia. An article in the November 15, 1959 edition of The Coshocton Tribune quotes Oswald as saying, "I would not want to live in the United States and be either a worker exploited by capitalists or a capitalist exploiting workers or become unemployed. I could not be happy living under capitalism." Oswald later returned to the United States in 1962 with a Russian wife and child.

While Oswald would not admit to killing the president while in police custody, his senseless killing of a Dallas policeman after the President's death was a key factor in his early arrest. On November 23, 1963, an Associated Press article reported that a trail of strange circumstances immediately led police to Oswald:

  • Oswald worked at the Texas School Book Depository, a large warehouse along the motorcade route, where police determined a high powered rifle with a telescope sight was aimed at the president. Oswald was also seen in the building at the time of the shooting.
  • Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit was shot to death while trying to pick up a suspicious man who turned out to be Oswald. Police said the bullet that killed Tippit came from a pistol Oswald fired.
  • Marina Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald's wife, said her husband had in his possession a rife that matched the description of the one used by the assassin.
  • Oswald's character fit the profile of past president assassins who were lunatics, anarchists or political fanatics.
On November 24, 1963, Dallas police planned to move Lee Harvey Oswald to a maximum security cell at the Dallas County jail when they realized that no information would come from the alleged assassin. As Oswald was transferred from the basement of Dallas City Hall, night club owner Jack Ruby stepped out of a crowd of about 200 people and shot Oswald at close range. "It was an incredible climax to the wildest weekend in Dallas history - a savage, sudden moment of raw drama that was caught by national television networks and broadcast with shocking impact into American living rooms," Arthur Everett of the Associated Press wrote on November 25, 1963.

A dramatic picture of the actual shooting was caught by Bob Jackson of the Dallas Times-Herald. The photo was distributed through the Associated Press and nearly every newspaper in the country printed the famous photo on November 25, 1963. The picture shows Oswald starting to collapse as the bullet tore through his vital midsection organs. Lee Harvey Oswald was quickly moved to the emergency room at Parkland Hospital and died a few feet from where President Kennedy passed away.

Eva Grant, Jack Ruby's older sister, told a reporter that Ruby took Kennedy's death harder than that of their 88-year-old father five years ago. "He couldn't eat Friday. He kept talking about Jackie and the Kennedy kids," she said. Following the shooting, Jack Rubinstein, known as Jack Ruby, was charged with murdering Oswald.

On November 25, 1963, The Frederick Post said Oswald's death was a historic footnote to three days of high drama, yet many questions are still unanswered. "Oswald's death may have left the nation with an enduring mystery - whether the black-haired ex-marine, who once tried to become a Russian citizen, really killed Kennedy, and if so why," the paper said.

Even today, after 42 years, interest in the Kennedy Assassination continues as people are still questioning who really killed Kennedy and why.

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