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Jack Ruby

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Jack Ruby
Mugshot of Ruby on November 24, 1963, after his arrest
Jacob Leon Rubenstein

c.[1][2] (1911-03-25)March 25, 1911
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJanuary 3, 1967(1967-01-03) (aged 55)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeWestlawn Cemetery, Norridge, Illinois
41°57′29″N 87°49′37″W / 41.958110°N 87.826853°W / 41.958110; -87.826853
OccupationNightclub owner
Known forMurder of Lee Harvey Oswald
Criminal chargeMurder with malice[3]
Criminal penaltyDeath (overturned)
Criminal statusConviction overturned on appeal, died before retrial

Jack Leon Ruby (born Jacob Leon Rubenstein; c.[1][2] March 25, 1911 – January 3, 1967) was an American nightclub owner who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963, two days after Oswald was accused of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Ruby shot and mortally wounded Oswald on live television in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters and was immediately arrested. In a trial, Ruby was found guilty and sentenced to death. Ruby's conviction and death sentence were overturned on appeal, and he was granted a new trial, but he became ill, was diagnosed with cancer, and died of a pulmonary embolism on January 3, 1967.

In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Ruby acted alone in killing Oswald and that Ruby shot Oswald on impulse and in retaliation for the Kennedy assassination. The commission's findings are challenged by various critics who hypothesize that Ruby was part of a conspiracy surrounding the Kennedy assassination.

Early life and career[edit]

Ruby was born Jacob Leon Rubenstein[4] on or around March 25, 1911,[2] in the Maxwell Street area of Chicago, the son of Joseph Rubenstein and Fannie Turek Rutkowski (or Rokowsky), both Polish-born Orthodox Jews. Ruby was the fifth of his parents' 10 surviving children. While he was growing up, his parents were often violent towards each other and frequently separated; Ruby's mother was eventually committed to a mental hospital.[5] His troubled childhood and adolescence were marked by juvenile delinquency with time being spent in foster homes. At age 11 in 1922, he was arrested for truancy. Ruby eventually skipped school so often that he had to spend time at the Institute for Juvenile Research. Still a young man, he sold horse-racing tip sheets and various novelties, then acted as a business agent for a local refuse collectors union that later became part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).[6]: 332 

From his early childhood, Ruby was nicknamed "Sparky" by those who knew him.[7] His sister, Eva Grant, said that he acquired the nickname because he resembled a slow-moving horse named "Spark Plug" or "Sparky" in the contemporary comic strip Barney Google. ("Spark Plug" debuted as a character in the strip in 1922, when Ruby was 11.)[7] Other accounts say that the name was given because of his quick temper.[7] Grant stated that Ruby did not like the nickname and was quick to fight anyone who called him that.[7]

In the 1940s, Ruby frequented race tracks in Illinois and California. He was drafted in 1943 and served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, working as an aircraft mechanic at U.S. bases until 1946. He had an honorable record and was promoted to Private First Class. Upon discharge, in 1946, Ruby returned to Chicago.[5]

In 1947, Ruby moved to Dallas, purportedly because of the failure of merchandise deals in Chicago and to help operate his sister's nightclub.[7] Soon afterward he and his brothers shortened their surnames from Rubenstein to Ruby. The stated reason for this was that the name "Rubenstein" was too long and that he was "well known" as Jack Ruby.[8] Ruby later went on to manage various nightclubs, strip clubs, and dance halls. He developed close ties to many Dallas Police officers who frequented his nightclubs, where he provided them with free liquor, prostitutes and other favors.[9]

Ruby never married and had no children.[10] At the time of the assassination, Ruby was living with George Senator, who referred to Ruby as "my boyfriend" during the Warren Commission hearing, although he denied the two being homosexual lovers. Warren Commission lawyer Burt Griffin later told author Gerald Posner: "I'm not sure if Senator was honest with us about his relationship with Ruby. People did not advertise their homosexuality in 1963".[11]

Illegal activities[edit]

Some critics have said that Ruby was involved in illegal activity[12][6][13] such as gambling, narcotics, and prostitution.[14] A 1956 FBI report stated that informant Eileen Curry had moved to Dallas in January with her boyfriend James Breen after jumping bail on narcotics charges. Breen told her that he had made connections with a large narcotics setup operating between Texas, Mexico, and the East, and that "James got the okay to operate through Ruby of Dallas."[15] Dallas County Sheriff Steve Guthrie told the FBI that he believed that Ruby "operated some prostitution activities and other vices in his club" in Dallas.[13] Dallas disc jockey Kenneth Dowe testified that Ruby was known around the station for "procuring women for different people who came to town".[16]


According to people interviewed by law enforcement and the Warren Commission, Ruby was desperate to attract attention to himself and to his club. He knew a great number of people in Dallas, but he had only a few friends. Because his business ventures remained unsuccessful, he was heavily in debt.[11]

The commission received reports of Ruby's penchant for violence. He had a volatile temper, and he often resorted to violence with employees who had upset him. He acted as the bouncer of his own club and beat his customers on at least 25 occasions. The fights would often end with Ruby throwing his victims down the club's stairs.[11] In one fight with a man, the man bit Ruby's left index finger so badly that the doctors had it amputated.[17]

Stories of Ruby's eccentric and unstable behavior describe him as sometimes taking his shirt or other clothes off in social gatherings, and either hitting his chest like a gorilla or rolling around on the floor. During conversations, he could change the topic suddenly in mid-sentence. He sometimes welcomed a guest to his club, but on other nights he would forbid the same guest from entering. He was described by those who knew him as "a kook", "totally unpredictable", "a psycho", and "suffering from some form of disturbance".[11]

During the 1970s, prominent psychiatrist Irene Jakab, who was known for her use of art therapy in diagnosing and treating patients with mental illness, analyzed artwork that had been created by Ruby while he was in jail. While assessing one of Ruby's drawings, which had been included as part of art exhibits at the World Congress of Psychiatry meeting in Waikiki and the University of Hawaii in late August and early September 1977, she claimed that his work conveyed "repressed aggression and secretiveness," adding:[18]

Notice how he really constricts himself so as not to reveal himself. He hides behind all those geometrical lines and pointed edges. You can feel his controlled aggression.

John F. Kennedy assassination[edit]

November 21[edit]

The Warren Commission attempted to reconstruct Ruby's movements from November 21, 1963, through November 24.[19]: 333  The Commission reported that he was attending to his duties as the proprietor of the Carousel Club located at 1312 1/2 Commerce St. in downtown Dallas and the Vegas Club in the city's Oak Lawn district from the afternoon of November 21 to the early hours of November 22.[19]: 333  A number of Dallas police officers were meeting in the office of Assistant District Attorney Ben Ellis when Ruby entered and passed out business cards advertising a gig by Jada, a stripper at the Carousel. According to Lt. W. F. Dyson, Ruby introduced himself to Ellis and added: "You probably don't know me now, but you will."

November 22: assassination of Kennedy[edit]

According to the Warren Commission, on November 22, Ruby was in the second-floor advertising offices of the Dallas Morning News, five blocks away from the Texas School Book Depository, placing weekly advertisements for his nightclubs when he learned of the assassination around 12:45 p.m.[19]: 334–335  According to witnesses, Ruby was visibly shaken. Ruby then made phone calls to his assistant at the Carousel Club and to his sister.[19]: 334  The Commission stated that an employee of the Dallas Morning News estimated that Ruby left the newspaper's offices at 1:30 p.m., but indicated that other testimony suggested that he had left earlier.[19]: 334–335  According to the Warren Commission, Ruby arrived back at the Carousel Club shortly before 1:45 p.m. to notify employees that the club would be closed that evening.[19]: 336–337 

John Newnam, an employee at the newspaper's advertisement department, testified that Ruby became upset over an anti-Kennedy ad published in the Morning News that was signed by "The American Fact-Finding Committee, Bernard Weissman, Chairman." Ruby was sensitive to antisemitism and was distressed that an ad attacking the President was signed by a person with a "Jewish name." Early the next morning, Ruby noticed a political billboard featuring the text "IMPEACH EARL WARREN" in block letters. Ruby's sister Eva testified that Ruby had told her that he believed that the anti-Kennedy ad and the anti-Warren sign were connected and were a plot by a "gentile" to blame the assassination on the Jews.[11]

Ruby was seen in the halls of the Dallas Police Headquarters on several occasions after Oswald's arrest for the murder of Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit. He was present at an arranged press meeting with Oswald. A reporter asked Oswald, "Did you kill the President?" and Oswald answered, "No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question."[20] Another reporter told Oswald that he had been charged and Oswald reacted with a look of astonishment.[21] Newsreel footage from WFAA-TV (Dallas) and NBC shows that Ruby impersonated a newspaper reporter during a press conference held by District Attorney Henry Wade at Dallas Police Headquarters that night.[6]: 349  Wade briefed reporters that Oswald was a member of the anti-Castro Free Cuba Committee. Ruby was one of several people there who spoke up to correct Wade, saying, "Henry, that's the Fair Play for Cuba Committee", a pro-Castro organization.[22][23][6]: 349–350  Ruby later told the FBI that he had his .38 Colt Cobra revolver in his right pocket during the press conference.[24][25][6]: 3501 

November 24: killing of Oswald[edit]

Murder of Lee Harvey Oswald
Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by Robert H. Jackson of Ruby shooting Oswald, who is flanked by Dallas police Detectives Jim Leavelle (left, tan suit) and L. C. Graves (right, black hat, face covered by Ruby)
LocationDallas, Texas
DateNovember 24, 1963; 60 years ago (1963-11-24)
11:21 a.m. (CST)
TargetLee Harvey Oswald
Attack type
Murder by shooting
Weapon.38 caliber Colt Cobra revolver
Deaths1 (Lee Harvey Oswald)
PerpetratorJack Ruby
ConvictionsMurder with malice
SentenceDeath (overturned)

On November 24, Ruby drove into town with his pet dachshund Sheba to send an emergency money order at the Western Union on Main Street to one of his employees. The time stamp was 11:17 a.m. for the transaction. Ruby then walked half a block to the Dallas police headquarters, where he made his way into the basement.

At 11:21 a.m. CST, Oswald was being escorted by Dallas police Detectives Jim Leavelle and L. C. Graves through the police basement to an armored car that was to take him to the nearby county jail, when Ruby emerged from a crowd of reporters with his revolver[26] aimed at Oswald's abdomen and shot him at point blank range, mortally wounding him.[27] Oswald screamed "Oh!" in pain and his hands clutched at his stomach as he slumped to the floor, moaning.[28][29] Police detective Billy Combest, who knew Ruby, exclaimed, "Jack, you son of a bitch!"[30][31] The armored car had rolled down the ramp at the moment Ruby emerged and slightly hit Ruby's leg almost immediately after he fired, causing him to almost lose balance as he was immediately subdued by police while Oswald was carried back into the basement level jail office. Combest asked Oswald, "Do you have anything you want to tell us now?" Oswald shook his head.[32]: 184–185 

Drifting in and out of consciousness, Oswald was placed onto an ambulance and was driven to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the same hospital where President Kennedy had died two days earlier. Leavelle and Graves along with Frederick Bieberdorf, a medical student on duty, rode in the ambulance. Bieberdorf said that several blocks before reaching the hospital, Oswald started thrashing about, resisting Beiberdorf's efforts of heart massage and attempting to free an oxygen mask over his mouth.[33] At Parkland, Oswald was treated by the same surgeons who had tried to save Kennedy; they subsequently determined Ruby's bullet had entered Oswald's left side in the front part of the abdomen and caused extensive damage to his spleen, stomach, aorta, vena cava, kidney, liver, diaphragm, and eleventh rib before coming to rest on his right side.[34] Oswald died at 1:07 pm.[4]


A network television pool camera was broadcasting live to cover Oswald's transfer; millions of people watching on NBC saw the shooting as it happened and on other networks within minutes afterward.[35] Several photographs were taken of the event, capturing the moments around when Ruby pulled the trigger. In 1964, Robert H. Jackson of the Dallas Times Herald was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photography for his image, titled Jack Ruby Shoots Lee Harvey Oswald.[36]

Great indignation was directed towards Ruby's murder of Oswald. Many felt that the killing had robbed the nation of essential information and left key questions unanswered. Former Vice President Richard Nixon said, "(Oswald was) also entitled to a trial ... two wrongs don't make a right."[37] Oswald's murder compounded initial suspicions that the Kennedy assassination was part of a larger plot.[38]

Not all were shocked, however. The crowd outside the headquarters burst into applause when they heard that Oswald had been shot.[39] In Dallas and elsewhere in the nation, Oswald was hated in death, and Ruby was viewed as a hero by some citizens. During his time in jail, he received many letters from the public, often praising him for his actions.


Ruby after his arrest

After his arrest, Ruby said that he had been distraught over President Kennedy's death, had helped the city of Dallas "redeem" itself in the eyes of the public, and that he was "saving Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial."[40]: 198–200  He also claimed that he shot Oswald on the spur of the moment when the opportunity presented itself, without considering any reason for doing so.[40]: 199  Ruby said that he was an admirer of President Kennedy and the Kennedy family, that he cried when he heard that the President was shot, "in mourning" after, "cried a great deal" Saturday afternoon, and was depressed that night. The grief over the assassination, Ruby stated, finally "reached the point of insanity," suddenly compelling him to shoot when Oswald walked in front of him in the basement that Sunday morning.[41] At the time of the shooting, Ruby said that he was taking phenmetrazine (Preludin), a central nervous system stimulant.[40]: 198–199  Ruby also said that he entered the police basement by coming down the Main Street ramp. Later, Ruby expressed remorse to his brother Earl, saying he never wanted Oswald to die.

Ruby asked Dallas attorney Tom Howard to represent him. Howard accepted and asked Ruby if he could think of anything that might damage his defense. Ruby responded that there would be a problem if a man by the name of "Davis" should come up. Ruby told his attorney that he "had been involved with Davis, who was a gunrunner entangled in anti-Castro efforts."[42][43]

Ruby's brother Earl replaced Howard with prominent San Francisco defense attorney Melvin Belli, who agreed to represent him pro bono. Lawyer Joe H. Tonahill also signed on to assist with Ruby's defense. At his bond hearing in January 1964, while talking to reporters, Ruby tearfully said, regarding the assassination of Kennedy, in a high, choked voice, that he could not understand "how a great man like that could be lost."[44]

Ruby testified that he thought he said, "You killed my President, you rat!" as he shot Oswald. Officer McMillon testified he heard Ruby say, "You rat son of a bitch, you shot the president". This was disputed by television footage showing McMillon looking in the opposite direction from the shooting.[45] Dallas police sergeant Patrick Dean testified that when Ruby was arrested, Ruby said he thought about killing Oswald two nights earlier, to show the world that "Jews have guts."[46] Detective Don Archer said Ruby had told him he intended to shoot Oswald three times, and McMillon corroborated this.[47] On March 14, 1964, Ruby was convicted of murder with malice and was sentenced to death.

Ruby's conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on the grounds that "an oral confession of premeditation made while in police custody" should have been ruled inadmissible, because it violated a Texas criminal statute.[48] The court also ruled that the venue should have been changed to a Texas county other than the one in which the high-profile crime had been committed.[48]

During the six months following the Kennedy assassination, Ruby repeatedly asked to speak to the members of the Warren Commission. The commission initially showed no interest, but Ruby's sister Eileen wrote letters to the commission and her letters became public. The Commission then agreed to talk to Ruby. In June 1964, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Representative (and future President) Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, and other commission members went to Dallas to see Ruby. Ruby asked Warren several times to take him to Washington D.C., saying that "my life is in danger here" and that he wanted an opportunity to make additional statements. He added that the people from whom he felt himself to be in danger were the John Birch Society of Dallas, including Edwin Walker, who he claimed were trying to falsely implicate him as being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the President.[40]: 194–196  He added: "I want to tell the truth, and I can't tell it here."[40]: 194  Warren told Ruby that he would be unable to comply because many legal barriers would need to be overcome, and public interest in the situation would be too heavy. Warren also told Ruby that the commission would have no way of protecting him since it had no police powers. Ruby said that he wanted to convince President Lyndon Johnson that he was not part of any conspiracy to kill Kennedy.[40]: 209–212 

Eventually, the appellate court agreed with Ruby's lawyers that he should be granted a new trial. On October 5, 1966, the court ruled that his motion for a change of venue before the original trial court should have been granted. Ruby's conviction and death sentence were overturned. Arrangements were underway for a new trial to be held in February, 1967[49] in Wichita Falls, Texas, but Ruby was admitted to Parkland Hospital on December 9, 1966, suffering from pneumonia, where he was diagnosed with cancer in his liver, lungs, and brain. His condition rapidly deteriorated. An armed guard was placed outside his room, but family and friends were allowed to visit. On December 16, Earl Ruby, accompanied by one of his brother's lawyers, smuggled a tape recorder hidden in a briefcase into Jack's room to record an interview about his murder of Oswald. Ruby maintained that he entered the basement by coming down the ramp, had killed Oswald out of grief over the assassination, and denied knowing Oswald prior.[50] According to an unnamed Associated Press source, Ruby made a final statement from his hospital bed on December 19 that he had acted alone.[51] "There is nothing to hide," Ruby said, "there was no one else."[52]


Headstone at Ruby's grave in Westlawn Cemetery. The Hebrew text is an abbreviation of tehei nishmato tserurah bitsror hachaim, "may his soul be bound with the bond of life."

Ruby died of a pulmonary embolism on January 3, 1967, at Parkland Hospital, the same hospital as his victim Oswald, whose victim Kennedy also died there.[53] He was buried beside his parents in the Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois.[54][55][56]

Official investigations[edit]

Warren Commission[edit]

The Warren Commission found no evidence linking Ruby's killing of Oswald with any broader conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.[19] The report provided a detailed biography of Ruby's life and activities to help ascertain whether he was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.[57] The Commission also tackled widespread rumours that Ruby and Oswald knew each other and that Oswald was seen at the Carousel Club. Television footage that showed Oswald glance briefly in Ruby's direction as he emerged to shoot him, indicating to some observers a look of recognition, compounded such suspicion. Careful analysis of the footage indicate Oswald was looking at reporter Ike Pappas who had held his microphone out towards Oswald and asked, "Do you have anything to say in your defense?"[58] They concluded that various witnesses lacked credibility and that there was no solid evidence linking the two men.[59][60] The Commission indicated that there was not a "significant link between Ruby and organized crime"[61] and said he acted independently in killing Oswald.[62][19]: 373–374 

Warren Commission investigator David Belin said that postal inspector Harry Holmes arrived unannounced at the Dallas police station on the morning that Ruby shot Oswald and, upon invitation by the investigators, had questioned Oswald, thus delaying his transfer by half an hour.[63] Belin noted that, had Ruby been part of a conspiracy, he would have been downtown 30 minutes earlier, when Oswald had been scheduled to be transferred.[63] The commission accepted Ruby's claim that he entered the police basement via the Main Street ramp.[64] Author Norman Mailer and others have questioned why Ruby would have left his beloved dog in his car if his killing of Oswald had been planned.[65]

Some of Ruby's friends, relatives (notably his brother Earl and sister Eva) and associates, supported the official conclusion that Ruby acted alone, maintaining that he was upset over President Kennedy's death, even crying on occasions and closing his clubs for three days as a mark of respect.[66][67][68] They also refuted conspiracy theorists' claims, saying that Ruby's connection with gangsters was minimal at most and that he was not the sort of person who would be entrusted to be part of a conspiracy.[68][69]

Dallas reporter Tony Zoppi, who knew Ruby well, claimed that one "would have to be crazy" to entrust Ruby with anything as important as a high-level plot to kill Kennedy since he "couldn't keep a secret for five minutes ... Jack was one of the most talkative guys you would ever meet. He'd be the worst fellow in the world to be part of a conspiracy, because he just plain talked too much."[68]: 361, 399  He and others described Ruby as the sort who enjoyed being at "the center of attention", trying to make friends with people and being more of a nuisance.[68]

Some writers, including former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, dismiss Ruby's connections to organized crime as being highly minimal: "It is very noteworthy that without exception, not one of these conspiracy theorists knew or had ever met Jack Ruby. Without our even resorting to his family and roommate, all of whom think the suggestion of Ruby being connected to the mob is ridiculous, those who knew him, unanimously and without exception, think the notion of his being connected to the Mafia, and then killing Oswald for them, is nothing short of laughable."[70]

Bill Alexander, who prosecuted Ruby for Oswald's murder, equally rejected any suggestions that Ruby was involved with organized crime, claiming that conspiracy theorists based it on the claim that "A knew B, and Ruby knew B back in 1950, so he must have known A, and that must be the link to the conspiracy."[68]

Ruby's brother Earl denied allegations that Jack was involved in racketeering Chicago nightclubs, and author Gerald Posner suggested in his book Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, that witnesses may have confused Ruby with Harry Rubenstein, a convicted Chicago felon.[68] Entertainment reporter Tony Zoppi was also dismissive of mob ties and described Ruby as a "born loser".[68]

Other investigations and dissenting theories[edit]

Ruby's motive[edit]

White House correspondent Seth Kantor was a passenger in Kennedy's motorcade. He testified that he had visited Parkland Hospital after Kennedy was shot, and that he felt a tug on his coat as he entered the hospital at about 1:30 p.m. He turned around to see Jack Ruby, who called him by his first name and shook his hand.[71]: 78–82 [42]: 41  He said that he had become acquainted with Ruby while he was a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald newspaper.[71]: 72 [42]: vi  According to Kantor, Ruby asked him if he thought that it would be a good idea for him to close his nightclubs for the next three nights because of the tragedy, and Kantor responded without thinking that doing so would be a good idea.[42]: 41 [72][71]: 80 

Ruby denied that he had been at Parkland Hospital and the Warren Commission dismissed Kantor's testimony, saying that the encounter at Parkland Hospital would have to have taken place in a span of a few minutes before and after 1:30 pm, as evidenced by telephone company records of calls made by both people. The commission also pointed to contradictory witness testimony and to the lack of video confirmation of Ruby at the scene.[19]: 335–337  The Commission concluded that "Kantor probably did not see Ruby at Parkland Hospital" and "may have been mistaken about both the time and the place that he saw Ruby."[19]: 335–337 

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations re-examined Kantor's testimony and stated, "the Warren Commission concluded that Kantor was mistaken" about his Parkland encounter with Ruby, but "the Committee determined he probably was not."[73]: 158 [6]: 458–459  Kantor wrote in Who Was Jack Ruby?:

The mob was Ruby's "friend." And Ruby could well have been paying off an IOU the day he was used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. Remember: "I have been used for a purpose," the way Ruby expressed it to Chief Justice Warren in their June 7, 1964 session. It would not have been hard for the mob to maneuver Ruby through the ranks of a few negotiable police.[42]: 18 

The House Select Committee on Assassinations wrote in its 1979 Final Report:

Ruby's shooting of Oswald was not a spontaneous act, in that it involved at least some premeditation. Similarly, the committee believed it was less likely that Ruby entered the police basement without assistance, even though the assistance may have been provided with no knowledge of Ruby's intentions.... The committee was troubled by the apparently unlocked doors along the stairway route and the removal of security guards from the area of the garage nearest the stairway shortly before the shooting.... There is also evidence that the Dallas Police Department withheld relevant information from the Warren Commission concerning Ruby's entry to the scene of the Oswald transfer.[73]: 157–158 

The HSCA suggested Ruby might have entered the basement via a stairway accessible from an alleyway next to the Dallas Municipal Building.[74]

Lieutenant Billy Grammer, a dispatcher for the Dallas Police Department, said that he received an anonymous phone call at 3 a.m. on November 24 from a man who told him that he knew of the plan to move Oswald from the basement and warned that, unless the plans were changed, "we are going to kill him." After Oswald was shot, Grammer claimed to have recognized Ruby as the caller. Grammer believed that Ruby's shooting of Oswald was "a planned event."[75][76]

In his Warren Commission testimony, Detective Don Archer claimed that, after his arrest, Ruby looked him straight in the eye and said, "Well, I intended to shoot him three times." Kantor wrote that Ruby's response to Archer did not suggest a spontaneous reaction, and that he implied having prior intention.[42]: 192 

Ruby's explanation for killing Oswald would be exposed "as a fabricated legal ploy", according to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Ruby wrote a note to attorney Joseph Tonahill: "Joe, you should know this. My first lawyer Tom Howard told me to say that I shot Oswald so that Caroline and Mrs. Kennedy wouldn't have to come to Dallas to testify. OK?"[73]: 158 [77][6]: 353 [41]

G. Robert Blakey, who was chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1979, said: "The most plausible explanation for the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was that Ruby had stalked him on behalf of organized crime, trying to reach him on at least three occasions in the forty-eight hours before he silenced him forever."[78]

Russell Moore, an acquaintance of Ruby, testified to the Commission that Ruby expressed no bitterness towards Oswald and called him "a good looking guy," comparing him to the actor Paul Newman.[79][80] Announcer Glen Duncan also said Ruby described Oswald as a "fairly nice looking kid" comparing him to Newman.[81]

David Scheim noted in his book Contract on America that while some said that Ruby was upset over the weekend of the assassination, others said that he was not. TV newsman Vic Robertson Jr. saw Ruby at police headquarters on Friday night and said that he "appeared to be anything but under stress or strain. He seemed happy, jovial, was joking and laughing."[82][41] Duncan also said that Ruby "was not grieving" and seemed "happy that evidence was piling up against Oswald."[41]

Scheim also suggests that Ruby made a "candid confession" when giving testimony to the Warren Commission.[41] During his testimony, Ruby teared up when talking about a Saturday morning eulogy for Kennedy, but after composing himself, inexplicably said, "I must be a great actor, I tell you that."[40]: 198–199 [41] Ruby also remarked that "they didn't ask me another question: 'If I loved the President so much, why wasn't I at the parade?'" (referring to the presidential motorcade) and "it's strange that perhaps I didn't vote for President Kennedy, or didn't vote at all, that I should build up such a great affection for him."[83]: 564–565 [41] Ruby's club stripper Jada, during an interview with ABC's Paul Good, said that "I believe [Ruby] disliked Bobby Kennedy".[41]

Schiem also noted some who knew Ruby who stated that the patriotic statements which Ruby professed were quite out of character. Ruby's gambling business partner Harry Hall said "Ruby was the type who was interested in any way to make money," and he also said that he "could not conceive of Ruby doing anything out of patriotism."[84][41] Jack Kelly had known Ruby since 1943, and he "scoffed at the idea of a patriotic motive..." and felt that Ruby would have killed Oswald "for publicity [or] for money".[41] Ruby's friend Paul Jones also said that he doubted that Ruby "would have become emotionally upset and killed Oswald on the spur of the moment. He felt Ruby would have done it for money."[41]

Ruby's lawyers, led by Sam Houston Clinton, appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals after his 1964 conviction, the highest criminal court in Texas. Ruby's lawyers argued that he could not have received a fair trial in Dallas because of the excessive publicity surrounding the case. In an interview with reporters in March 1965, Ruby stated: "Everything pertaining to what's happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts of what occurred, my motive. The people who had so much to gain, and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I'm in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world." A reporter asked, "Are these people in very high positions, Jack?", and he responded, "Yes."[85]

Kantor speculated in 1978 that the "Davis" that Ruby mentioned to Tom Howard may have been Thomas Eli Davis III, a CIA-connected mercenary.[6]: 226, 359–361 [86]

Dallas Deputy Sheriff Al Maddox claimed: "Ruby told me, he said, 'Well, they injected me for a cold.' He said it was cancer cells. That's what he told me, Ruby did. I said you don't believe that bullshit. He said, 'I damn sure do!' One day when I started to leave, Ruby shook hands with me and I could feel a piece of paper in his palm." It was a note in which Ruby claimed that he was part of a conspiracy, and that his role was to silence Oswald.[87] Not long before Ruby died, according to an article in the London Sunday Times, he told psychiatrist Werner Teuter that the assassination was "an act of overthrowing the government" and that he knew "who had President Kennedy killed". He added: "I am doomed. I do not want to die. But I am not insane. I was framed to kill Oswald."[87][88][6]: 341 

On March 11, 1959, according FBI agent Charles W. Flynn of the Dallas Office approached Ruby to become a federal informant due to his job as a night club operator, since he "might have knowledge of the criminal element in Dallas".[89] Ruby was willing to become an informant and was contacted by the FBI eight times between March 11, 1959, and October 2, 1959, but he provided no information to the Bureau; he was not paid, and contact ceased.[90][91][further explanation needed]

Scheim theorised that Mafia leaders Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante Jr. and organized labor leader Jimmy Hoffa ordered the assassination of Kennedy. Scheim cited in particular a 25-fold increase in the number of out-of-state telephone calls from Jack Ruby to associates of these crime bosses in the months before the assassination.[92] According to author Vincent Bugliosi, both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations determined that all of these calls were related to Ruby seeking help from the American Guild of Variety Artists in a matter concerning two of his competitors.[93] The House Select Committee on Assassinations report stated that "most of Ruby's phone calls during late 1963 were related to his labor troubles. In the light of the identity of some of the individuals with whom Ruby spoke, however, the possibility of other matters being discussed could not be dismissed."[94]

Bill Bonanno, son of New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, stated in Bound By Honor that he realized that certain Mafia families were involved in the JFK assassination when Ruby killed Oswald, since Bonanno was aware that Ruby was an associate of Chicago mobster Sam Giancana.[95]

Associations with organized crime and gunrunning allegations[edit]

Some conspiracy theorists have suggested Ruby had links to organized crime.[96][97] The House Select Committee on Assassinations undertook a similar investigation of Ruby in 1979, 15 years after the written report, and said that he "had a significant number of associations and direct and indirect contacts with underworld figures" and "the Dallas criminal element," but that he was not a member of organized crime.[98]

Ruby was said to have been acquainted with the Mafia. The HSCA said that Ruby had known Chicago mobster Sam Giancana and Joseph Campisi since 1947 and had been seen with them on many occasions.[99][6]: 346  After an investigation of Joe Campisi, the HSCA found:

While Campisi's technical characterization in federal law enforcement records as an organized crime member has ranged from definite to suspected to negative, it is clear that he was an associate or friend of many Dallas-based organized crime members, particularly Joseph Civello, during the time he was the head of the Dallas organization. There was no indication that Campisi had engaged in any specific organized crime-related activities.[100]

G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel for the HSCA, called Campisi "the No. 2 man in the mob in Dallas." He wrote in a 1993 article for The Washington Post: "It is difficult to dispute the underworld pedigree of Jack Ruby, though the Warren Commission did it in 1964.[101] Similarly, a PBS Frontline investigation into the connections between Ruby and Dallas organized crime figures reported the following:

In 1963, Sam and Joe Campisi were leading figures in the Dallas underworld. Jack knew the Campisis and had been seen with them on many occasions. The Campisis were lieutenants of Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss who had reportedly talked of killing the President.[102]

On the night before Kennedy was assassinated, Ruby and Ralph Paul had dinner together at the Egyptian Lounge run by Joe and Sam Campisi.[103] After Ruby was jailed for killing Oswald, Joe Campisi "regularly visited" him.[103]

Howard P. Willens was the third-highest official in the Department of Justice[104] and assistant counsel to J. Lee Rankin. He helped organize the Warren Commission. Willens also outlined the commission's investigative priorities[105] and terminated an investigation of Ruby's Cuban related activities.[106] An FBI report states that Willens' father had been Tony Accardo's next-door neighbor going back to 1958.[107] In 1946, Tony Accardo allegedly asked Jack Ruby to go to Texas with Mafia associates Pat Manno and Romie Nappi to make sure that Dallas County Sheriff Steve Gutherie would acquiesce to the Mafia's expansion into Dallas.[108]

Ruby went to see a man named Lewis McWillie in Cuba four years before the assassination. McWillie had previously run illegal gambling establishments in Texas, and Ruby considered him one of his closest friends.[40]: 201  McWillie was supervising gambling activities at Havana's Tropicana Club when Ruby visited him in August 1959. Ruby told the Warren Commission that his August trip to Cuba was merely a social visit at the invitation of McWillie.[40]: 201  The HSCA later concluded that Ruby "most likely was serving as a courier for gambling interests".[73]: 152 [109][6]: 337  The committee also found circumstantial but not conclusive evidence that "Ruby met with Santo Trafficante Jr. in Cuba sometime in 1959."[73]: 152–153 [6]: 338 

James E. Beaird, who claimed to be a poker-playing friend of Ruby, told The Dallas Morning News and the FBI that Ruby smuggled guns and ammunition from Galveston Bay, Texas to Fidel Castro's guerrillas in Cuba in the late 1950s. Beaird said that Ruby "was in it for the money. It wouldn't matter which side, just the one that would pay him the most." Beaird said that the guns were stored in a two-story house near the waterfront, and that he saw Ruby and his associates load "many boxes of new guns, including automatic rifles and handguns" on a 50-foot military-surplus boat. He claimed that "each time that the boat left with guns and ammunition, Jack Ruby was on the boat."[110][111][6]: 335 


  1. ^ a b Birth records were not officially kept in Chicago prior to 1915, and among school records, driver's licenses, and arrest records, there were six different dates, ranging from March to June 1911.
  2. ^ a b c The Warren Commission found that various dates were given in the records for Ruby's birth; the one most used by Ruby himself was March 25, 1911 (though his grave marker says, April 25) (The Warren Report: Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 1964). His tombstone at Westlawn Cemetery, Chicago, IL, has April 25, 1911, as his birthdate.
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Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from Warren Commission Report, Appendix 16: A Biography of Jack Ruby. National Archives and Records Administration.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]