Nov 24 1963: Ruby kills Oswald, and Washington scrambles to quell suspicion

On the Sunday morning following the assassination, Kennedy’s body lay in state at the Capitol rotunda, for mourning visitors to see.

Meanwhile in Dallas, a handcuffed Lee Harvey Oswald was led into the basement of the Dallas city jail for transfer to the county jail. Suddenly, on live national television, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby emerged from the crowd of reporters and fired one fatal gunshot into Oswald’s abdomen.

This stunning deed shocked and baffled the nation–and eliminated a key witness to the events that led to JFK’s murder. Not known for his sense of humor, FBI Director Hoover informed the White House in a memo that began: “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead.”

Hoover moved with dispatch. He proposed that the government should blame the killing of the president on the dead suspect–and no one else. Hoover said there was a need to have “something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”

Hoover wanted that the FBI to handle the investigation. Deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach preferred a presidential commission for the job of convincing the public that Oswald was “the real asssassin.”

One version of the story holds that the creation of the Warren Commission was all the work of Katzenbach, while his boss Robert Kennedy was too grief-stricken to do anything. This version is incomplete. Other prominent Americans were already pushing the same idea, as shown by this phone callfrom Yale Law School Dean Eugene Rostow shows.

Influential columnist Stewart Alsop also pressed the idea vigorously in a call with President Johnson the following morning. Alsop repeatedly invoked the support of Dean Acheson, Truman’s Secretary of State and member of the ExComm Cuban Missile Crisis team.

On Nov. 24th and 25th, President Johnson was still resisting the Presidential Commission idea.

Play the Rostow-Moyers call:

Play the Alsop-Johnson call:

4 comments

  1. Those who believe that Jack Ruby was framed into killing Oswald, Jack actually said he was….may be interested to know something about Chicago arrests BESIDES Thomas Arthur Valle, whom even James Douglas
    didn’t mention. His name in a WC document see WCD 460 page 2,
    PETER DEORGES, entered a plea, Judge GORDON B. NASH, Branch 46 Municipal Court, Chicago, Illinois [butchered spelling sound familiar?]. If you are a researcher who studies etymology, as I do, you will discover there more or less is no DEORGES surname, but there are some PETER DEGEORGE in the world. More relevant is that when Jack Ruby visited Trescornia he visited Guiseppe De George aka
    Jospeh De George aka Pierre Canavese. See listing from Ancestry.com…
    his parents were Philip and Marie DeGeorge….likely obit under variant of DEGEORGE, Guiseppe de Giorgi, Philip D Giorgi….
    Connected? The world wonders….

  2. max says:

    Didn’t see Ruby kill Oswald until many years after it happened but when I did several things left me wondering.
    1) Why was Oswald transferred in broad daylight? This was troubling because high profile prisoners are transferred in the middle of the night. I saw this happen recently and it’s just common sense. I’m sure if Oswald had a lawyer at that point, he would have prevented that transfer.
    2) The Dallas police had been warned that Oswald was going to be killed. Knowing this why were they so careless in protecting him? They literally left him wide open. It looks to me like it was almost deliberate. Was never able to come to terms with this. It was as if the Dallas police were cooperating with Ruby or whoever.

  3. Russ Tarby says:

    It’s quite clear after listening to the Alsop-Johnson phone call that LBJ is speaking not with Stewart Alsop but with Stewart’s brother, JOE Alsop.
    Both Donald Gibson and David Talbot identify Joe Alsop (along with Dean Acheson) as among the most persuasive proponents of the creation of a “blue-ribbon” commission to probe JFK’s murder.
    Both Alsop brothers had OSS and CIA connections. No wonder Dulles ended up essentially directing the WC’s work.
    As Alsop promises LBJ, the U.S. media would rally around this commission and its findings based entirely upon the FBI’s investigation of the shootings in Dallas.

  4. Paul Turner says:

    Interesting that the name of Nixon as a Commission member came up from the Rostow-Moyers call. As it turned out, Specter, Belin, and Commmission member Ford, I think, were just as dangerous choices as Nixon might have been. (Of course, Specter and Belin were Comission lawyers, not members).

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