J. D. Tippit
|J. D. Tippit|
September 18, 1924|
near Annona, Texas, U.S.
|Died||November 22, 1963
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
|Laurel Land Memorial Park, Dallas
|Relatives||Marie Francis Tippit (née Gasway, wife)
Charles Tippit (son)
Brenda Tippit (daughter)
Curtis Tippit (son)
|Awards||Certificate of Merit (1957)
Medal of Valor †
Police Medal of Honor †
Police Cross †
Citizens Traffic Commission Award of Heroism †
|Department||Dallas Police Department|
|Country||United States of America|
|Years of service||1952 – 1963|
|Memorials|| • Historical marker on SH 37 at
CR 1280 southwest of Clarksville
(dedicated November 17, 2001)
• Historical marker on northeast corner of East 10th Street and South Patton Avenue in Dallas
(dedicated November 20, 2012)
J. D. Tippit (September 18, 1924 – November 22, 1963) was an American police officer with the Dallas Police Department. On November 22, 1963, Tippit was fatally shot on a Dallas street approximately 45 minutes after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to five federal government investigations, Tippit was shot by former United States Marine Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was initially arrested as a suspect in Tippit's murder but later became a suspect in the shooting of President Kennedy. Oswald was charged with both crimes shortly after his arrest. Before Oswald could be tried for either crime, he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963.
Tippit was born near the town of Annona in Red River County, Texas to Edgar Lee, a farmer, and Lizzie Mae Tippit (née Rush). The Tippit and Rush families were of English ancestry, their ancestors having immigrated to Virginia from England by 1635. It is sometimes reported that J.D. stood for "Jefferson Davis", but in fact, the letters did not stand for anything in particular. Tippit attended public schools through the tenth grade and was raised as a Baptist. He entered the United States Army on July 21, 1944, and was assigned to the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 17th Airborne Division. He saw combat in Operation Varsity, the airborne crossing of the Rhine River in March 1945, earning a Bronze Star, and remained on active duty until June 20, 1946.
Tippit married his high school sweetheart, Marie Frances Gasway, on December 26, 1946. The couple had three children: Charles Allen (born 1950), Brenda Kay (born 1953) and Curtis Glenn (born 1958). That same year, he went to work for the Dearborn Stove Company. He next worked for Sears, Roebuck and Company in the installation department from March 1948 to September 1949 when he was laid off. The family then moved to Lone Star, Texas where Tippit attempted cattle raising.
In January 1950, Tippit enrolled in a Veterans Administration vocational training school at Bogata, Texas. He left the school in June 1952. The Tippit family then moved to Dallas where Tippit was hired by the Dallas Police Department as a patrolman in July 1952. During his time with the Dallas Police Department, Officer Tippit was cited twice for bravery.
At the time of his death, Tippit was assigned to Dallas Police vehicle #10, had badge #848 and was earning a salary of $490 a month (worth $3,775 today) as a Dallas police officer. He was also working two part-time jobs; he worked at Austin's Barbecue restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights and at the Stevens Park Theatre on Sundays.
Murder and investigation
|Murder of J.D. Tippit|
|Part of Assassination of John F. Kennedy|
|Location||East 10th Street and South Patton Avenue, Dallas, Texas|
|Date||November 22, 1963
1:11–1:14 p.m. (CST)
|Assailant||Lee Harvey Oswald|
On November 22, 1963, J.D. Tippit was working beat number 78, his normal patrol area in south Oak Cliff, a residential area of Dallas. At 12:45 p.m., 15 minutes after the President's assassination, Tippit received a radio order to move to the central Oak Cliff area as part of a concentration of police around the center of the city. At 12:54 Tippit radioed that he had moved as directed. By then several messages had been broadcast describing a suspect in the Kennedy assassination as a slender white male, in his early thirties, 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) tall, and weighing about 165 pounds (75 kg). Oswald was a slender white male, 24 years old, 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, and an estimated weight of 150 pounds (68 kg) pounds at autopsy.
According to the Warren Commission, at approximately 1:11–1:14 p.m., Tippit was driving slowly eastward on East 10th Street when — about 100 feet (30 m) past the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue — he pulled alongside a man who resembled the police broadcast description of the man seen firing shots at the presidential motorcade. The man walked over to Tippit's car and apparently exchanged words with him through an open vent window. Tippit opened his car door and as he walked toward the front of the car, the man drew a handgun and fired three shots in rapid succession, all three bullets hitting Tippit in the chest. The man then walked up to Tippit's fallen body and fired a fourth shot directly into his right temple, fatally wounding him. Tippit was dead before any help could arrive and Oswald was later arrested after "acting suspiciously" by appearing nervous as police sirens neared him and by ducking into the Texas Theatre without buying a ticket.
The Warren Commission identified twelve people who witnessed the shooting, or its aftermath. Domingo Benavides saw Tippit standing by the left door of his parked police car, and a man standing on the right side of the car. He then heard shots and saw Tippit fall to the ground. Benavides stopped his pickup truck on the opposite side of the street from Tippit's car. He observed the shooter fleeing the scene and removing spent cartridge cases from his gun as he left. Benavides waited in his truck until the gunman disappeared before assisting Tippit. He then reported the shooting to police headquarters, using the radio in Tippit's car. Helen Markham witnessed the shooting and then saw a man with a gun in his hand leave the scene. Markham identified Lee Harvey Oswald as Tippit’s killer in a police lineup she viewed that evening. Barbara Davis and her sister-in-law Virginia Davis heard the shots and saw a man crossing their lawn, shaking his revolver, as if he were emptying it of cartridge cases. Later, the women found two cartridge cases near the crime scene and handed the cases over to police. That evening, Barbara Davis and Virginia Davis were taken to a lineup and both Davises picked out Oswald as the man whom they had seen.
Taxicab driver William Scoggins testified that he saw Tippit's police car pull up alongside a man on the sidewalk as he sat in his taxicab nearby. Scoggins heard three or four shots and then saw Tippit fall to the ground. As Scoggins crouched behind his cab, the man passed within twelve feet of him, pistol in hand, muttering what sounded to him like, "poor dumb cop" or "poor damn cop." The next day, Scoggins viewed a police lineup and identified Oswald as the man whom he had seen with the pistol. But "Scoggins admitted he did not actually witness the shooting and his view of the fleeing killer was obscured because he ducked down behind his cab as the man came by."
The Commission also named several other witnesses who were not at the scene of the murder, but who identified Oswald running between the murder scene and the Texas Theater, where Oswald was subsequently arrested. Four cartridge cases were found at the scene by eyewitnesses. It was the unanimous testimony of expert witnesses before the Warren Commission that these spent cartridge cases were fired from the revolver in Oswald's possession to the exclusion of all other weapons.
Upon his arrest and during subsequent questionings by police, Lee Harvey Oswald denied any involvement in Tippit's murder. Based on eyewitness' statements and the gun found in Oswald's possession at the time of his arrest, he was formally charged with the murder of J.D. Tippit at 7:10 pm. on November 22. During the course of the day, police began to suspect that Oswald was also involved in the shooting of President Kennedy. At approximately 1 am on November 23, Oswald was also charged with assassinating President John F. Kennedy. Oswald continued to maintain his innocence in connection with both murders. On the afternoon of November 24, while being transported from the Dallas City Jail to the Dallas County Jail, Lee Harvey Oswald was fatally shot in the stomach by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby. The shooting was broadcast throughout the United States on live television.
As Oswald was killed before he was tried for either crime, President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned a committee of lawyers, state representatives and senators to investigate the events surrounding the deaths of President Kennedy, Officer Tippit and Oswald in an effort to answer questions surrounding the events. President Johnson also hoped to quell rumors that arose after Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby that the assassination and subsequent shootings were part of a conspiracy. The committee, known as the Warren Commission (named for committee member Chief Justice Earl Warren), spent ten months investigating the murders and interviewing witnesses. On September 24, 1964, the Warren Commission released an 888 page report that concluded there was no evidence of a conspiracy and Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy and Officer Tippit. The report also concluded that Jack Ruby acted alone in the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald.
In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations reported: "Based on Oswald's possession of the murder weapon a short time after the murder and the eyewitness identifications of Oswald as the gunman, the committee concluded that Oswald shot and killed Officer Tippit."
Some researchers have alleged that the murder of Officer Tippit was part of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Jim Marrs hypothesized that "the slaying of Officer J. D. Tippit may have played some part in [a] scheme to have Oswald killed, perhaps to eliminate co-conspirator Tippit or simply to anger Dallas police and cause itchy trigger fingers." Researcher James Douglass said that "...the killing of [Tippit] helped motivate the Dallas police to kill an armed Oswald in the Texas Theater, which would have disposed of the scapegoat before he could protest his being framed." Harold Weisberg offered a simpler explanation: "Immediately, the [flimsy] police case [against Oswald] required a willingness to believe. This was proved by affixing to Oswald the opprobrious epithet of 'cop-killer.'"
Despite the fact that eyewitnesses to the shooting identified Oswald, some critics doubt that Tippit was killed by him and assert he was shot by other conspirators. They allege discrepancies in witness testimony and physical evidence which they feel calls into question the Commission's conclusions regarding the murder of Tippit. According to Jim Marrs, Oswald's guilt in the assassination of Kennedy is placed in question by the presence of "a growing body of evidence to suggest that [he] did not kill Tippit". Others say that multiple men were directly involved in Tippit's killing. Conspiracy researcher Kenn Thomas has alleged that the Warren Commission omitted testimony and evidence that two men shot Tippit and that one left the scene in a car. Sterling Harwood suggests that Tippit must have had a role in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy or to silence Oswald, since there is no other reason for a very experienced officer like Tippit to fail to call in to his dispatcher his spotting of a suspect fitting the description of Kennedy's killer before engaging the suspect. Bob Goodman questions why Tippit would have hanging in the right rear of his police car a spare uniform, suggesting the uniform might have been for Oswald to wear to aid escape.
On the evening of the assassination, both Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, called Tippit's widow to express their sympathies. Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a letter expressing sorrow for the bond they shared. The plight of Tippit's family also moved much of the nation and a total of $647,579 (worth $4,988,470 today) was donated to them following the assassination. One of the largest individual gifts was $25,000 (worth $192,582 today) that Dallas businessman Abraham Zapruder donated to Francis Tippit after selling his film of the president's assassination to Life magazine.
A funeral service for J.D. Tippit was held on November 25, 1963, at the Beckley Hills Baptist Church, with the burial following at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas. His funeral was held on the same day as those of both President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald.
In January 1964, Tippit was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor from the American Police Hall of Fame, and he also received the Police Medal of Honor, the Police Cross, and the Citizens Traffic Commission Award of Heroism. A memorial to Officer Tippit was unveiled November 20, 2012 at the corner where the shooting occurred (at 10th and Patton Streets in Dallas).
Tippit's widow married Dallas police lieutenant Harry Dean Thomas in January 1967. They were married until his death in 1982. Marie Tippit later married Carl Flinner; the marriage ended in divorce after which Marie resumed using the surname of Tippit.
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- Warren Commission Report, page 166
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- Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 6, Testimony of Domingo Benavides.
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