|Chief of Police
October 3, 1913|
Hamilton, Texas, U.S.
|Died||June 22, 1980
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
|Resting place||Grove Hill Cemetery|
|Department||Dallas Police Department|
|Years of service||May 1, 1936 – 1966|
Jesse Edward Curry (October 3, 1913 – June 22, 1980) was an American police officer who was the chief of the Dallas Police Department from 1960 to 1966. Curry was chief at the time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, and the murder of his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, while in police custody two days later.
Born in Hamilton, Texas, Curry and his family moved to Dallas when he was a few months old. Curry's father served as a police officer in Dallas for a brief period of time before becoming a Baptist minister. Curry attended Dallas Technical High School. An all-district tackle, Curry led his high school football team to the state finals against Greenville High School in 1933. He studied optometry for a short time after graduation. During World War II, Curry served in the Civilian Pilot Training Program for eleven months.
Law enforcement career
Curry joined the Dallas Police Department as a traffic officer on May 1, 1936, and worked his way up the ranks to become the chief of police on January 20, 1960. Along the way Curry worked, as he put it to the Warren Commission, in "practically every assignment the police department has", and graduated from the Northwestern University Traffic Institute in 1945/6 and the FBI National Academy in 1951.
Dallas Chief of Police, Jesse Curry, who rode in the lead car of the Presidential motorcade with sheriff, James Eric “Bill” Decker, when they had turned west off Houston Street onto Elm Street and looked straight ahead, noticed "a few unauthorized people on the overpass and wondered how they got there." These men were later described as being thirteen railroad men and two policemen stationed on the over pass (Triple Underpass), against rules of protocol. After the Presidential motorcade had preceded a few yards more, upon hearing the first gunshot, Curry immediately shouted over the police radio: "Get a man on top of that triple underpass and see what happened up there!" His words sounded an alarm that something was dreadfully wrong.
On April 15, 1964, Warren Commission assistant counsel Leon D. Hubert obtained a deposition from Curry at the US Post Office Building in Dallas. The following week on April 22, Curry, along with other officers of the Dallas Police Department, provided testimony to the Commission in Washington, D.C..
Curry later recounted in his Warren Commission testimony and with the LBJ Presidential Library that as he rode in the lead car of the motorcade carrying President Kennedy, he provided security for both the president and the vice-president, Lyndon B. Johnson, at Parkland Memorial Hospital where President Kennedy died, and, later, aboard Air Force One when Johnson was sworn in as the new president.
Two hours after President Kennedy was assassinated, Dallas Police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald in connection with the fatal shooting of Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippit. Oswald quickly became the prime suspect in President Kennedy's death and was charged with both crimes. Curry and the Dallas Police were initially praised for apprehending the alleged assassin so quickly, but the praise ended two days later when Oswald was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while he was being transferred from the basement of the Dallas Police station to the county jail. Curry had allowed journalists and camera men into the area to witness the transfer in an effort to quell rumors that Oswald was being mistreated while in police custody. Curry was later criticized and sometimes blamed for compromising Oswald's safety and allowing him to be killed "in the basement of his [Curry's] own building."
After President Kennedy's assassination, Curry and his family received death and kidnapping threats.
Curry was a member of the St. John's United Methodist Church in Dallas where he was also a choir member. Two weeks before his death, he was honored as being the oldest member of the congregation. Curry was also a Freemason.
Marriages and children
Curry was married twice. He and his first wife had a son, Gene (born 1937). They later divorced. Curry then married Bessie "Bea" Wilhelm with whom he had a daughter, Cathey. They remained married until Curry's death in 1980.
Later years and death
Curry retired from the Dallas Police Department in 1966 on the advice of his doctor due to health issues. In 1969, he wrote a book on the subject of JFK's assassination entitled, Retired Dallas Police Chief, Jesse Curry Reveals His Personal JFK Assassination File. On November 5, 1969, Curry held a press conference to announce the release of his book said to contain his "personal file" of the assassination. During the interview, Curry expressed his doubts about the Warren Commission's single bullet theory and their finding of a lone assassin. Curry stated: "I'm not sure about it. No one has ever been able to put him (Oswald) in the Texas School Book Depository with a rifle in his hand." Curry reasoned in another interview: "I think there’s a possibility that one [shot] could have come from in front [of the limousine]. We’ve never, we've never been able to prove that, but just in my mind and by the direction of his blood and brain from the president from one of the shots, it would just seem that it would have to [have] been fired from the front rather than behind. I can't say that I could swear that I believe that it was one man and one man alone. I think there's a possibility there could have been another man."
After his retirement, he worked as director of security at the Texas Bank Building until 1976 when he was forced to step down after suffering two heart attacks. For the remainder of his life, Curry worked as a private investigator.
Curry suffered from diabetes and, in 1978, survived a stroke. On June 22, 1980, Curry suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep at his Dallas home. He was taken to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas where he was pronounced dead. Curry was 66 years old. His funeral was held at the Ed C. Smith Funeral Chapel on June 25, after which he was buried at Grove Hill Cemetery in Dallas.
- Brown, Travis (June 23, 1980). "Jesse E. Curry, ex-police chief, dies after suffering heart attack" (PDF). Dallas Times Herald. pp. 1, 2. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Wilonsky, Robert (November 26, 1998). "Officer Down". Dallas Observer. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
- Hearings Before the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Volume XII 1964, p. 26.
- Jesse E. Curry, Retired Dallas Police Chief, Jesse Curry Reveals His Personal JFK Assassination File, self-published: Dallas 1969; The Dallas Morning News, pp. 58-59.
- "Testimony Of Chief Jesse Edward Curry". Hearings Before the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Volume XII. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1964. pp. 25–41.
- "Testimony Of Jesse Edward Curry". Hearings Before the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Volume IV. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1964. pp. 105–201.
- Ewell, James; DuBeau, Suzanne (June 24, 1980). "Former police chief Curry" (PDF). The Dallas News. pp. 1D, 26D. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Gallo, Andrea (August 25, 2013). "For 50 years, ex-Dallas police chief's daughter has kept a pair of Jacqueline Kennedy's roses". The Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
- New York State Library, Dallas, 11/22/63: 50 Years Later
- Johnson, Tom (November 6, 1969). "'Not Sure' on Oswald, Author Curry Indicates". Dallas Morning News. Dallas, Texas. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
- "The Assassination of President Kennedy: What Do We Know Now That We Didn't Know Then?" British Broadcasting Corporation. Aired on U.S. TV in 1978