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The definitive work on the murder of Dallas patrolman J. D. Tippit—killed forty-five minutes after President Kennedy—and its far-reaching implications for the JFK assassination and aftermath
Although considered the Rosetta stone of the case against Lee Harvey Oswald, the murder of Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit—killed less than an hour after the assassination of President Kennedy—has proven to be one of the most misunderstood, largely ignored, and often twisted aspects of the Kennedy assassination. For five decades, a community of doubters has contorted official accounts of the shooting to exonerate Oswald. There have been many questions raised about Tippit’s death over the past fifty years, but few real attempts to find the answers.   Did Oswald murder Tippit? Was Tippit a part of the plot to murder President Kennedy? What really happened on Tenth Street?   In With Malice, Dale K. Myers brings thirty-five years of research to this second-by-second account of the murder of Officer Tippit and the frantic manhunt that ended in the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. Filling a major void in Kennedy assassination literature, it weaves firsthand accounts, newly released documents, and previously unpublished photographs into a detailed tapestry of facts that lifts the veil on the mystery surrounding this pivotal moment in American history.
Published: Open Road Media an imprint of Open Road Integrated Media on
ISBN: 9781480455023
List price: $17.99
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With Malice

Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J. D. Tippit

Dale K. Myers

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND DOCUMENTS IN THIS BOOK

The photographs and documents presented in this book have been culled from the best available — and in many cases, original — sources.

All photographs and documents have been digitally enhanced for clarity, while taking care not to alter the content. In some cases, documents have been reformated to fit the page. These instances are noted as they occur.

Panoramic and composite images were created by combining two or more photographs or video images. Although some alteration was necessary to create these images, the overall scene as originally depicted remains intact.

All dimensional illustrations and maps were created by the author. Foliage, street signs, and other landscape details have been excluded for clarity.

Portions of the morgue photographs have been pixelated out of respect for family and friends of the deceased.

Dedicated to the defenders of truth

There are some things that only the people who do them understand.

From the movie poster, War is Hell

Texas Theater, November 22, 1963

CONTENTS

Introduction

Foreword

1. THE SEARCH BEGINS

2. THE QUIET COP

3. THE FINAL HOURS

4. MURDER ON TENTH STREET

5. SEARCH FOR A KILLER

6. CLOSING IN

7. A BIRD IN THE HAND

8. PROOF POSITIVE

9. HINTS AND ALLEGATIONS

10. PROFILE OF A KILLER

List of Principal Figures

Timetable of Events

Appendix A: Color Plates

Appendix B: Maps and Diagrams

Appendix C: Autopsy Report

Appendix D: Selected Documents

Appendix E: Tippit Family Photographs and Documents

Acknowledgments

Endnotes

Selected Bibliography

Index

2013 Edition

Introduction

In 1980, Lizzie Mae Peterson, J.D. Tippit’s mother, went to a movie theater with her daughters, Christene and Joyce, to see a screening of Coal Miner’s Daughter, the bio film about the life of country singer Loretta Lynn.

In an opening scene, Loretta’s future husband, Doolittle Lynn (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones) bets a group of miners that he can drive his jeep up a steep incline. Mustering considerable bravado, he manages to accomplish the difficult task amid the cheers of the men gathered below.

As he stood atop the hill and waved his cap to the crowd below, Mae leaned over to Joyce and whispered, That’s J.D.

To his family, J.D. Tippit was a funny prankster who loved cigarettes, cars and horses. He rarely drank, always seemed to have his sleeves rolled up, and loved the western-swing music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. His favorite was Dusty Skies.

"Get along doggies we’re moving off of this range

I never thought as how I’d make the change

The blue skies have failed so we’re on our last trail

Underneath these dusty skies

These ain’t tears in my eyes

Just sand from these dusty skies."

For the Tippit family, this is a personal story. The murder of one so loved was devastating beyond words. It was difficult for many of them to find peace in the weeks and months after his death, in particular J.D.’s mother.

One afternoon, Mae Peterson had a vision. She lay down to take a nap and was startled when her father, Alford Rush, who had died when she was five, and her son J.D. appeared to her. There was a peaceful, soothing feeling about their presence, she said, and they told her, Don’t grieve anymore. It seemed as if a great weight was lifted from her shoulders at that very moment.

Other family members reported similar occurrences.

I was having a hard time with his death too, niece Linda Chaney remembered, and he came to me in a dream and winked at me, like he always used to do. It was very soothing, and I felt better immediately.

J.D.’s younger brothers – Don, Wayne, Edward, and Ron – idolized him. For a long time, his brother Don dreamed about J.D. every single night.

It’s tough, niece Linda said. You forget how painful it was; how much pain we went through until you relive all this. And to see Uncle Donnie get tears in his eyes just the other night – some thirty odd years after the fact, it just kind of brought it all back.

Particularly painful were the allegations that J.D. was somehow involved in a conspiracy to kill the President or to murder Oswald.

After Uncle [J.D.] was killed, niece Carol Christopher said, "you just wouldn’t believe the people – especially if they didn’t know who we were – that would claim that they knew something, or knew Uncle [J.D.] and would tell these big elaborate stories that were just the biggest lies."

Of course, anyone who really knew J.D. Tippit knew that the idea of him being involved in a conspiracy to kill anyone was preposterous.

The conspiracy stuff is so untrue, so totally unfounded, J.D.’s widow, Marie, said in a rare 2003 interview. That was really difficult for me. Everyone that knew J.D. knew better. That part really made me angry. But we in the family know its all total lies.

People want sensationalism, J.D.’s youngest son, Curtis, added. Mom’s been abused by conspiracy theories and tabloid publications, and as a result wouldn’t talk to anybody about it for years. Too many people want to cling to a false history, believing my father was in on something with Jack Ruby, and went to meet him, and all this stuff. Really, it’s all kind of silly and funny. If anybody knew the facts, they’d see how false these theories are. But a whole lot of people thrive on it.

J.D. being involved in a conspiracy is laughable to say the least, his sister Joyce DeBord declared. It is laughable because that wasn’t J.D. in any way, form or fashion.

Her husband, Alvie, agrees, Anybody that knew J.D. knew that he couldn’t be involved. His personality just wasn’t that way.

No, J.D. wasn’t involved in any conspiracy, J.D.’s boyhood friend Robert A. ‘Junior’ Ward laughed. "He was just a common man who knew only one way to make a living and that was to work for it and treat his fellow man like he would like to be treated himself. No, nobody will ever make me believe that J.D. was involved in any kind of conspiracy."

Perhaps the sharpest retort came from J.D.’s life long friend and brother-in-law Jack Christopher.

It’s pathetic to think that anybody could think that a working man like J.D. would be involved in any kind of conspiracy, Jack said firmly. "I knew him his whole life and I know that he was not. So anybody that claims that he was involved in a conspiracy is just guessing, making it up, or writing a book about something that couldn’t possibly be proved whatsoever."

A few times, early on, the Tippits attempted to tell their story to reporters only to have their words misquoted or twisted into a lie. One writer suggested that J.D. wasn’t bright enough to be involved in a conspiracy. It seemed like they couldn’t get anyone to understand.

In May, 1978, a young man well-known to believers in a vast JFK assassination conspiracy approached J.D.’s sister Joyce using a false name and asked about doing some extensive interviews with her for a proposed book about her brother’s murder. He told her that he was interested in getting some information on J.D. through the Freedom of Information-Privacy Act and wanted her help. She had always been open to talking about her brother and so she agreed. Over the course of three visits, Joyce shared personal stories and family photographs with the young man sitting at her kitchen table. On the last visit, his true conviction that J.D. was involved in a massive conspiracy surfaced, and Joyce, feeling betrayed, asked him to leave. He refused. Her husband, Alvie, heard the commotion and ran the young man off.

Her encounter with the conspiracy advocate soured the whole family on having any more contact with persons expressing interest in J.D.’s personal life. Family members discussed the matter and decided to quit talking altogether. Even at the yearly family reunions, the subject of the assassination and J.D.’s death became a closed subject.

In 1999, shortly after the publication of the first edition of this volume, J.D. Tippit’s niece, Carol Christopher, posted a comment on an Internet bookseller’s website, Research excellent, accuracy correct. Thankful Mr. Myers wrote the account which proves Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed Officer Tippit, and disproves any conspiracy rumors.

It was a heartening sign that the twenty-plus year family resistance to talking about the life and death of J.D. Tippit might have begun to wane. That posting led to an initial contact that quickly blossomed into numerous telephone calls, face-to-face meetings, and a warm, affectionate, and truly genuine embrace from a family that had guarded their privacy and their brother’s story for so many years.

"Reading your book brought back memories of where we’d come from – on the farm with nothing, J.D.’s 72-year-old sister Chris told me. We didn’t have a lot of pictures of him. We didn’t realize that, until he was killed. When we were kids, we just didn’t take pictures much. It ended up not all that many."

The few surviving pictures of J.D. and life on the Tippit farm have long since faded. The dirt road J.D. Tippit knew in his youth is overgrown with foliage.

The farms that once dotted the countryside have vanished. And many of the places he frequented or patrolled in Oak Cliff as a police officer have been demolished. But the warm memories of good times and good friends linger still in the hearts of those who knew him well, as it should be.

I guess J.D. had a pretty good life while he was here on Earth, his sister Chris said. And your book brought that all back to me. I hadn’t really put that all together, in a long time. He had a job he liked, a home for his family, and no real problems. He had worked hard to buy their home, and he was very proud of what he had to offer his wife and children. It seems simple, but that is a great accomplishment for a farmer from Red River County.

Over the past decade and a half, I’ve worked closely with the Tippit family to trace their family lineage, restore precious family photographs, erect a State historical marker near J.D.’s boyhood home, and fully document the story of this forgotten hero. At its core, it is an ordinary tale of hard work, dedication to duty, and love for one’s family. It has been a tremendous privilege to be embraced as a friend of the Tippit family and to be trusted to accurately tell their story and that of their dear, departed brother, husband, father, and friend.

In addition to the family story, there have been a few changes to this edition regarding the circumstances of J.D. Tippit’s death – additional information that was uncovered since this work was first published, most of it bringing clarity and detail to that final day. The most important contribution to this work, however, is the long overdue, personal account of the ordinary man who came to be at the center of one of the most controversial moments in American history nearly fifty years ago.

For some men, there are no banners, no fanfare; no medals that could ever say more than what has been engraved in the hearts of those they’ve touched. In their passing we discover that part of the human spirit truly worthy of our adoration.

J.D. Tippit is one of those ordinary men who, through extraordinary events, had the moniker of hero thrust upon them. And although his role in America’s darkest days will forever be remembered it is his likeable spirit that has left the deepest impression.

Duty, honor, and love — essential ingredients of a hero of the ordinary kind.

Dale K. Myers

July 10, 2013

Foreword

People who remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy also remember police officer J.D. Tippit, an obscure cop murdered that same day. They still argue about who did it and why.

Dale Myers has the best answers I have seen to these questions:

Was Tippit a conspirator with Lee Harvey Oswald in the assassination?

Did Tippit pull his patrol car up to Oswald’s apartment house and honk a warning as Oswald was fleeing?

How did Oswald and Tippit happen to meet a short time later on a residential street in Dallas’ Oak Cliff section?

Why did Tippit stop Oswald and approach him, only to be killed by four pistol shots?

Was the pistol a revolver or an automatic?

Did the two men know Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who fired a fatal shot into Oswald as he was being led from the Dallas city jail?

Was it really Oswald who shot Tippit?

Conspiracy buffs have had a high old time with those questions. Dale Myers is not one of them.

Myers has researched and analyzed those questions — and more — in minute detail. He has sought every conceivable source, interviewed witnesses, reporters, attorneys and policemen. He has studied Tippit’s life from boyhood.

He has reviewed television footage, printed news accounts, earlier books and police records. He has dug into the files and report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which reviewed the JFK case in 1978. He has pored over the Warren Commission report and Commission files — and has turned up some documents never before made public.

Where testimony and evidence conflict, he has used reason and worked out logical answers.

His account is a fascinating web of fact vs. fantasy, of the frantic confusion that began with the shots that killed the President on November 22, 1963.

Many people refused to believe that a loner had shot both the President and the policeman. Conspiracy theories bubbled to the surface. The theories expanded after Ruby shot Oswald. Some saw evidence in every rumor and stray report. Many reporters and editors pursued them and found them baseless. But dozens of books have kept the questions alive. They persist in a cult of theorists.

I was the Associated Press Chief of Bureau for Texas, in charge of covering the assassination and related events through the trial of Jack Ruby.

The day Kennedy and Tippit were killed, near chaos engulfed Dallas. Then, downtown Dallas became almost a ghost town. Football games and the opera were canceled. Stores were empty, streets deserted. Anger merged with despair. Only police, service workers and news people seemed to be abroad.

In the AP bureau and other news offices the pace was fast, intense and focused on what had happened. The day of Kennedy’s funeral, AP news printers fell silent as his casket was lowered into the grave. A bugler cracked on a high note as he played Taps. AP staffers gathered around a television set to watch, their eyes filled with tears, allowing emotion to surface for the first time.

Then determined pursuit of facts by wire service, newspaper, radio and TV reporters continued.

More than thirty years later, Myers has wrapped up the story. His answers make sense. They’re supported by pillars of fact and analysis. They should stand.

Robert H. Johnson

Associated Press (Ret.)

1998

CHAPTER 1:

THE SEARCH BEGINS

Lee Harvey Oswald murdered Officer J.D. Tippit. The Dallas cops believed it. The newspapers reported it. The Warren Commission made it official and the House Select Committee on Assassinations reaffirmed it. Why, then, do so few accept that verdict? The assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the events that surround it have been examined and dissected like no other event in American history. Yet the shooting of J.D. Tippit remains one of the most overlooked aspects of this horrific crime.

From the beginning, reports of Tippit’s death wandered from the truth. An early United Press International (UPI) story had Tippit dying in an exchange of bullets inside the Texas Theater:

Police got a call that a man answering the description of the suspected assassin had entered the Texas Theater. Patrolman J.D. Tippit and M.N. McDonald followed. An usher told them the shabbily-dressed man had run into the theater a short time before. They spotted the slim, balding, 5 foot, nine-inch man crouched near a red-lighted exit door. They yelled. Patrolman Tippit fired once. Oswald fired once and Patrolman Tippit fell dead. Patrolman McDonald then rushed Oswald and they struggled. Oswald was subdued. [¹]

A UPI reporter had fumbled the facts in an unsuccessful rush to beat the Associated Press (AP) with the scoop on Tippit’s death. The story was quickly straightened out and the world soon read how J.D. Tippit, a rather ordinary cop, was gunned down on an Oak Cliff side street just forty-five minutes after the assassination of President Kennedy. Tippit’s murder led to a manhunt that resulted in the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald. Although pivotal to the case against Oswald in the President’s assassination, the murder of Officer Tippit was treated as nothing more than a footnote in most of the nation’s newspapers. It would be ten months before the Warren Commission brought any detail to Tippit’s final hour, but even then much of the story was misunderstood, and Tippit himself remained an enigma.

Ironically, David W. Belin, assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, would later propose that the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit was the Rosetta Stone* to the solution of President Kennedy’s murder.

Once the hypothesis is admitted that Oswald killed Patrolman J.D. Tippit, Belin wrote, there can be no doubt that the overall evidence shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of John F. Kennedy. [²]

Detractors of the Commission’s lone-assassin conclusion bristled at Belin’s affirmation. In the years that followed, it became fashionable for a community of doubters to debate every verb, adjective and punctuation mark found in the Commission’s account of the Tippit shooting. Many eyewitness accounts of the shooting were twisted to exonerate Oswald. Dallas police officers were painted as bumbling flatfoots, not to be trusted. Every government report was assumed to be full of lies and deception. It was claimed that Oswald had been framed by a zealous police force. Some even suggested that Tippit was part of the plot to murder the chief executive.

There have been many questions raised about Tippit’s death over the past fifty years but few real attempts to find the answers. This book seeks to fill that void.

The records of the Warren Commission served as the jumping off point for gathering material. Hundreds of pages of testimony and documents relating to Tippit’s death were unearthed among the Warren Commission’s working files, many of them never published in the Commission’s twenty-six volumes of Hearings and Exhibits. These files supplied answers to many of the questions that have troubled past critics.

In the mid-1980’s, copies of the Dallas Police Department records from 1963 — including Tippit’s personnel file — were uncovered at the Texas State Archives in Austin where they were housed as part of the Texas Attorney General’s Files on the Kennedy Assassination (TAGF). In 1992, the original Dallas police files, including many never included in the TAGF collection, were made available through the Dallas Municipal Archives and Records Center (DMARC) in Dallas. The combined collection provides the most complete account of the police investigation into Tippit’s death.

Pieces to the rest of the puzzle were sought after in documents gathered through the Freedom of Information-Privacy Act (FOIA). Many requests took nearly a year to fulfill, which is more a testament to the bureaucracy of the system than the stamina of the requestor. Part of the problem in using the FOIA was knowing what to request, since blanket searches were the least efficient way of wading through the millions of pages of material in government hands. Ultimately, the routing slips, internal memorandums, and summary reports that were declassified revealed the beliefs and direction of the government probe into Tippit’s murder.

The 1992 JFK Records Act led to the formation of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) which has since streamlined the process of searching for documents relating to the Kennedy assassination. In the last few years, the ARRB has been instrumental in making many pages of previously unavailable material accessible to attentive researchers. These documents include material from the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Many of the questions relating to Tippit’s autopsy and his military life have been answered with files released through the ARRB.

These primary sources were supplemented with many others both public and private. Yet, all of these investigative reports and photographs tell only part of the story — one that is very cold and without emotion. The heart of the new material presented in this book is the personal interviews conducted with the men and women who were part of the day’s tragic events. It is their stories that add the much needed, and often overlooked, human element in the assassination drama.

The shock, fear, confusion, and determination evident in the words of those who took part in the day’s events describe a truth that was found to be legitimate, trustworthy and, in the end, very convincing.

Arranging interviews with those who participated in the case proved challenging on several fronts. First, locating some of the people associated with the case was a detective story in itself. Many participants had moved to other areas of the country and were not easy to find. Phone records, land transactions, death notices and other public records commonly associated with genealogy research proved helpful in tracking down some of the prominent figures in this case.

Second, a few persons were reluctant to talk about their experiences having been hassled in the past by amateur researchers with a predetermined agenda. One former FBI agent told how a researcher came to see him but seemed more intent on telling him what had happened, rather than listen to what the former lawman had to offer. Because of these kinds of experiences, several of those contacted refused to talk about the case. On the other hand, the majority of the people contacted were eager to help, and in some cases were rather astounded that anyone was still interested in a murder that occurred so long ago. In fact, quite a few had never been interviewed before.

Third, and probably the most difficult part of the interview process, was finding a means of weighing the reliability of thirty-year-plus memories. It is no secret that recollections fade and diminish — and are sometimes embellished — over time. For this reason, contemporary records were usually given greater consideration. Fortunately, most of the people interviewed had given statements in the days and months after Tippit’s death. These were used as benchmarks to gauge the reliability of more recent comments. In some cases, memories have been distorted by time and do not match what was related in 1963 reports. Although some people might see these discrepancies as signs of something more sinister, such minor alterations are expected. Noting those discrepancies throughout this book is not intended as an indictment of any person’s behavior or recollections. It is simply an effort to accurately reflect the historic record.

Of particular importance is the new level of understanding these interviews bring to the Tippit drama. The participants represent a diverse cross section of attitudes and personalities. Some were reluctant and shy, others shrewd and engaging. Yet each person supplied a much needed human voice to an event that has become overrun with nagging doubts. For many, it was a chance to tell their story for the first time. Others trudged down a familiar road as they spoke of friends and events that have all but been forgotten.

Former Assistant District Attorney William F. Alexander talked about the assassination investigation from his office in the Federal Building in downtown Dallas. As he whittled at a Styrofoam cup, Alexander began the interview somewhat guarded but quickly warmed up. On occasion, a question would cause the steel-eyed investigator to stop, lean forward, and accompany his reply with a focused glare. Then he would lean back, relax, and joke as if with old friends. Alexander’s earthy frankness added considerable color to his story, but he never let the street-talk undermine the sharp, analytical mind beneath his gruff exterior. He always seemed a step ahead of the questions. A couple of times he would pause and say, I think I know where you’re going with this, therefore let me answer you this way… The irresponsibility of past writers had taught Alexander to be very cautious when discussing the assassination. Many others shared his feelings.

Murray J. Jackson, former radio dispatcher and close friend of J.D. Tippit, offered the warm hospitality of his living room as he discussed the events that led to his friend’s death. Jackson brought out fading newspaper articles he had kept along with a police yearbook that depicted many of the players in the Tippit story, including his own youthful face. Jackson’s warm handshake and relaxed manner felt like a favorite pair of slippers. It was easy to see why J.D. Tippit liked Murray Jackson, and in a way, Tippit seemed more real — more human — because of him.

Paul L. Bentley, the former Dallas detective who helped arrest Oswald at the Texas Theater, leaned back in the soft sofa of his living room. Bentley peeled open a three ring binder which contained original copies of Dallas police crime lab photos and gently talked about his role in the events of November 1963. Bentley’s likable demeanor put a new face on the serious, straight-laced image of a Dallas lawman. The ease with which he discussed the Oswald arrest and his honest attempts to recall details underscored the genuine desire of many who, like Bentley, wanted to help others understand what they had experienced.

James R. Leavelle, the Dallas homicide detective who led the investigation into Tippit’s death, has always been willing to share his unique inside view of the police department without hesitation. Over the course of ten years, Jim Leavelle has made himself available on the shortest of notices. His expertise, frankness and easy humor are qualities of the consummate professional. Leavelle has been both supportive and critical of the Dallas Police Department. The portrait he paints is one of accuracy, warts and all. It is rare to find someone so open to discussing the many successes and the occasional failings of the 1963 Dallas Police Department.

Sadly, the written word cannot serve as a substitute for the personal experience of having shared time with these and many of the other persons whose stories make up this work. In an effort to capture at least some of this essential human ingredient, much of the dialogue and memories in this book are verbatim from transcripts, testimony, and recollections. This is their story, in their own words.

One tool that proved extremely helpful in weaving these personal experiences into a precise account of the Tippit murder was a taped copy of the original Dallas police radio recordings, obtained from James C. Bowles, the Dallas police radio dispatch supervisor at the time of the assassination. These recordings contain the police radio transmissions broadcast over the Dallas police radio on November 22, 1963.

Two channels were in operation on the day of the assassination. Channel one carried the everyday police business — including traffic relating to the Tippit shooting and the arrest of Oswald. Channel two contained transmissions associated with the presidential motorcade, although after the assassination, additional traffic reflected the continuing probe into both the Kennedy and Tippit crimes.

Channel one transmissions were recorded on a Dictaphone A2TC, Model 5, belt or loop recorder. Channel two was recorded on a Gray Audograph flat disc recorder. Both were duplex machines — one unit was set to record while the other was on standby, ready to take over when the first unit contained a full recording. Both devices were sound activated. Any sound, voice or otherwise, that was sufficiently loud enough to be heard by the system would start the recording. Once activated, the machine would record until the sound ended plus an additional four seconds. The four second delay allowed for brief pauses between conversation without overworking the machine, and helped conserve recording space. In effect, neither device was designed to provide a continuous recording, although on occasions, a nearly continuous recording could result from a rapid stream of radio traffic.

Relating the recordings to exact times was a problem in itself. Although dispatchers were obligated to give periodic time checks, there is no precise way to relate the broadcast time with real time. Radio dispatchers worked off of a 12-hour sweep-hand clock which was not synchronized to any time standard. Under these circumstances it was not uncommon for the broadcast time and the real time to be a minute or so apart.

In addition, each individual operator had his own method of reading the clock. Since a time check never contained seconds, a dispatcher might provide a time which was slightly ahead or behind the actual figure. For example, a recorded time check of 1:00 p.m. could mean anything from 12:59:30 p.m. to 1:00:30 p.m. This author found a similar practice of fudging time quite common during a ten-year career in commercial radio.

Former dispatch supervisor Jim Bowles used a stop watch and some mathematics to deduce a real time from the police recordings by comparing an arbitrary zero base-time with the recorded time announcements that followed. A similar technique was applied to the entire channel one recordings for this book. The study shows that with the exception of five areas, the rapid radio exchanges that occurred in the wake of the Kennedy assassination caused the channel one recorder to operate in an almost continuous fashion. The result is a virtual running clock on the events surrounding Tippit’s death and the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald.

It should be stressed that the recording contains no exact record of real time. What it does contain is a sequence of events whose relationship to one another can be measured. For example, a time check of 1:19 p.m. and a check of 1:22 p.m. do not necessarily relate to real time, yet a stop watch review of the tapes show that the two instances did occur three minutes apart. By applying a stop watch and some mathematics to the channel one recordings, and comparing the resulting sequence of events with the eyewitness accounts, a reasonably accurate reconstruction of the Tippit murder and its aftermath was possible. The result is the real-life detective story that follows.

Most of the mystery that shrouds the Kennedy assassination has been unwittingly preserved by a populace unable or unwilling to look for the answers. The fact that the official record remains scattered in government files around the country has not made it easy to challenge what has been written in the past. Yet, the truth is there, waiting to be discovered. Some mysteries remain, of course. That’s to be expected in a case that has lain forgotten and neglected for more than five decades. Because many of the participants are now deceased, including several interviewed for this book, there are some answers that are destined to remain elusive. Still, the picture that emerges from this weave of human recollection is remarkably clear and consistent. More than anything, it is the ease with which these multiple perspectives mesh together that feels the most like truth.

Lee Harvey Oswald murdered Officer J.D. Tippit. There can no longer be any doubt about it. The truth of that statement will unfold in the pages that follow. In many ways, this is the investigative file that was never completed.

Naturally, Oswald’s malicious desperation in the wake of the Kennedy assassination brings that crime into clearer focus. For some, the precise nature of Oswald’s participation in the President’s murder remains open to debate. But no matter what role he played, Oswald’s guilt in the Tippit shooting must be hereafter considered a historic truth.

In a cemetery south of Dallas, a hardened patch of Texas scrub grass surrounds a bronze plate inscribed with the name, J.D. Tippit. Beneath that marker lies the remains of a man whose death made him a hero in the eyes of a nation and lit a bonfire of controversy that continues to rage. Perhaps this volume will bring some understanding to this forgotten Texas tragedy and a bit of peace to a good cop.

Tippit Gravesite

Author’s photo

*A tablet of basalt inscribed with Greek and two forms of Egyptian hieroglyphics, found near Rosetta, Egypt, in 1799. It supplied the key to the ancient inscriptions of Egypt.

CHAPTER 2:

THE QUIET COP

Sunday, September 2, 1956 — A Dallas police patrol car cruises the west end nightclub district. Four-year police veteran Patrolman J.D. Tippit, 31, and partner Dale Hankins, 27, scan the parking lots looking for automobile bound patrons who’ve had too much to drink. At about 12:45 a.m., Tippit pulls his squad car to the curb in front of Club 80 at 441 West Commerce Street. The two officers climb from the car and head for the door on what they think will be a routine closing-time check for drunks. Inside, they spot a man sitting alone in a booth near the front door. He appears to be intoxicated. Officer Tippit asks the man to accompany them outside. The man grumbles and starts to slide out of the booth. As he rises to his feet, he suddenly draws a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol from his belt, and tells the patrolman to stick ’em up. Tippit and his partner back away slowly, as the drunk points the gun at J.D.’s face and pulls the trigger three times without result. Tippit and his partner quickly draw their service revolvers and fire seven shots into the gunman until he falls to the barroom floor, dead. Officer Tippit instructs Hankins to call for an ambulance and tell the dispatcher what happened. [³]

J.D. Tippit in 1957.

Warren Commission, Carlin (Bruce Ray) Exhibit No.1 National Archives, College Park, Maryland

J.D. Tippit never intended to be a cop. It was an occupation that grew more from necessity than anything else. Tippit was a country boy who had managed to find employment away from the meager farm life he had known. Like any job, a policeman’s work had its hazards. On this particular night, Tippit had encountered the deadly kind. The man lying dead on the floor was later identified as Leonard Garland, who was wanted by the FBI for an offense committed in another state. [⁴]

J.D. Tippit’s brush with Garland had made a lasting impression on the young patrolman. One police officer recalled that Tippit was usually careful in approaching people after the Garland shooting, while others often heard Tippit telling younger officers to always be careful. [⁵]

On November 22, 1963, it was J.D. Tippit who fell victim. Officers, relatives and friends converged on the Tippit residence to offer their condolences. Mrs. Marie Tippit, the 35-year-old widow, seemed to be holding up well under the circumstances. Tippit’s two oldest children, Charles Allen, age 13, and Brenda Kay, 10, were taking it hard. They were both very close to their father. Four-year-old Curtis Glenn was young enough to be spared much of the grief.

Marie Tippit and children the day after the slaying.

Left to right: Brenda, 10; Curtis, 4; and Allen, 13.

AP/Wide World Photos

That night, Attorney General Robert Kennedy telephoned for Mrs. Kennedy and said they were extremely sorry and wanted to offer their deepest sympathy in this time of grief, adding that if his brother had not come to Dallas, Officer Tippit would still be alive. Mrs. Tippit told him to express my concern to Mrs. Kennedy and tell her I certainly know how she feels. But, you know, they were both doing their jobs. They got killed doing their jobs. He was being the president, and J.D. was being the policeman he was supposed to be. [⁶]

A few days later, Mrs. Kennedy sent a personal letter to Marie that touched the entire Tippit family. [⁷]

I wrote the letter in response, J.D.’s brother-in-law Jack Christopher later revealed. "Marie was distraught you might say. She was in no condition to answer this letter. And the letter was so nice, so beautifully written by Jackie Kennedy, saying something along the line of, ‘I feel like we were somewhat responsible for your husband’s death because of the fact that he was killed by the same person.’

"She wrote something like ‘I hope you’re not bitter toward us because of what happened,’ and, ‘if there is anything I can ever do, well let me know.’

"Marie said to me, ‘I just don’t know how to answer that.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ll do the best I can.’

So I wrote a rough draft for her, something like, ‘There’s no bitterness, we just have a very lonesome feeling. We love you and always have loved the president’ — which J.D. did — and I wrote, ‘If you want to do something for me, well send me a portrait of your family, just a picture from everyday life,’ which she did. [⁸]

November 25, 1963 — Dallas police honor guards William Duane Mentzel, age 32 (left), and Truman Lee Boyd, age 34 (right), at the Beckley Hills Baptist Church on the day of J.D. Tippit’s funeral.

UPI / Corbis-Bettmann

Shortly thereafter, a photograph of the Kennedy family at Hyannis Port arrived in a beautiful gold leaf frame.

The inscription below the photograph read: For Mrs. J.D. Tippit — with my deepest sympathy — and the knowledge that you and I now share another bond — reminding our children all their lives what brave men their fathers were — With all my wishes for your happiness, Jacqueline Kennedy. [9]

By early Friday evening, the Dallas widow was placed under heavy sedation.

I just don’t know what we’re going to do, Mrs. Tippit whispered quietly.

"I depended on my husband so much. He spent all his extra time with us and the family got used to him making all the necessary decisions.

The problems of raising three children suddenly seem too great, she added. Older children need a father’s guidance. [10]

The 39-year-old policeman’s $7,500 insurance policy was not enough to take his family very far. Their plight touched the nation’s heart. Unsolicited donations began to pour in from all over the United States. Police departments, civic groups, and the general public collected money to help the family of the 490 dollar-a-month policeman. [11]

In childish scrawl on one letter were the words, This money is yours because your daddy was brave. Enclosed was a dollar bill. [12]

I never saw anything like it, one reporter said as he told how people came to the Dallas Traffic Bureau to pay fines and before leaving, left a check for the Tippit fund. [13]

It was even reported that two prisoners serving life terms raised $200 among inmates of the Wynne Prison Unit in Texas. [14]

Within a few months, more than 40,000 pieces of mail totaling over $600,000 were given to the Tippit family. The largest single donation came from Abraham Zapruder, who contributed the initial payment of $25,000 he received from Life magazine for his home movie of the assassination. A $330,000 trust fund was set up for the Tippit children. [15]

Sampling of sympathy cards and letters.

Author’s photo

A burial plot at Laurel Land Memorial Park in South Oak Cliff was offered by Ed Weidner. The gravesite was in the Memorial Court of Honor, a section reserved for those who had given their lives in some special service to the community. Established just a year earlier, Tippit would be the first to be buried in the hallowed plot. [16]

On Saturday, as funeral arrangements were being made, the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, telephoned the Tippit household. He said they all felt sorrow for me in my time of grief, Mrs. Tippit told the press, and wanted me to know that he gave his life (for a good cause)…that the man would not have been caught had he not given his life. He said he hoped other police departments took notice as to what courage had been shown. [17]

At 2:00 p.m., on Monday, November 25th, seven hundred policemen joined as many mourners at the small red brick Beckley Hills Baptist Church to honor a man many considered a lovable guy. A bank of flowers five feet high surrounded the silver gray casket. An organist played The Old Rugged Cross as officers from Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Tulsa, Arlington, and Galveston paid their last respects. Tears could be seen on many faces. [18]

Three local television stations carried the funeral. Those that couldn’t squeeze into the 450-seat church were ushered to Sunday school rooms to watch the service on closed circuit television.

November 25, 1963 — Pallbearers carry the casket of J.D. Tippit from the Beckley Hills Baptist Church toward a waiting hearse. Sergeants Owen C. Box (left), Tippit’s first partner, and Calvin B. Owens (right), Tippit’s Oak Cliff supervisor lead the casket as the grief stricken widow follows. The other pallbearers include patrolmen Thomas G. Tilson, Thurman A. Ross, Charles W. Harrison and Holley M. Ashcraft.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection Courtesy, Special Collections Division, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Arlington, Texas

Today we are mourning the passing of a devoted public servant, said the Rev. Claude D. Tipps, Jr. He was doing his duty when he was taken by the lethal bullet of a poor, confused, misguided, ungodly assassin – as was our President. [19]

After the eulogy, Mrs. Tippit was helped forward, weeping softly. She stood for a long moment beside her husband’s open casket. Then she turned away, handkerchief to her eyes, and was helped from the church. [20]

Six pallbearers carried J.D. Tippit’s coffin to the waiting hearse. Owen C. Box, Tippit’s first partner, and Oak Cliff substation Sergeant C.B. Bud Owens headed the cortege. Fellow officers Holley M. Ashcraft, Thomas G. Tilson, Thurman A. Ross, and Charles W. Harrison flanked both sides of the modest casket. [21]

A fifteen-man motorcycle escort led the way to the sloping grounds of Laurel Land Memorial Park. At graveside, three dozen red roses were heaped upon the casket as family, friends, and colleagues bade a tearful goodbye. [22]

After the funeral, Marie and her three children retreated to the Gasway family home in Greenville. J.D.’s siblings traveled to the Tippit family home near Clarksville. [23]

We went on back to Daddy’s on Wednesday, J.D.’s sister Christene remembered, because Thursday was Thanksgiving and we all just wanted to be together. We just couldn’t break up. [24]

That gathering started a tradition that would continue for decades; a yearly family tribute in memory of the slain officer. There was a profound feeling of loss that first year, an emptiness beyond description. J.D. had planned to be off work to watch football and revel in the company of his family. Instead, he lay in an unmarked grave in south Oak Cliff. It would be nearly three months before a bronze plaque could be created to mark his final resting place. [25]

On Friday, we came back to Dallas and went back up to the cemetery, sister Christene said. There were hundreds of flowers at the gravesite on the day of the funeral, but when we returned Friday there wasn’t a flower in sight. You know they don’t leave them long. And all that was there was a little mound of dirt. And we stood there in that big empty cemetery and wondered how anyone could be buried in such a little space. [26]

For Marie Tippit and her children, the hardest time was the weeks just after the murder.

We lived at the end of the street, she remembered. Curtis, our youngest, would sit by the window for hours and watch for his daddy. And that was really difficult. [27]

J.D.’s only daughter, Brenda, suffered from intense stomachaches and for the longest time, just couldn’t handle it, her mother said. She was terribly hurt by an article saying she was too young to know what was going on when her daddy was killed. [28]

The death may have hurt J.D.’s oldest son more than anyone.

Allen had a terrible time coping, Marie said. It affected him for years. He couldn’t talk about it for a very long time. Marie believes that her husband’s death was the major contributor to many of Allen’s problems later in life. [29]

The days and weeks and months that followed were just terrible, Mrs. Tippit remembered. You keep on going because you have to. You say your prayers and you feed your children and you read your Bible and you live one day at a time, so it gets to the point where you can live a single day without crying." [30]

A month after the funeral, Marie Tippit accepted the Meritorious Award from the Dallas Police Department on J.D.’s behalf. After thanking the nation for their kindness and generosity in a televised press conference, she and her children slipped back into their private lives.

In the years that followed, Marie focused on seeing that her children led normal lives. She turned down numerous book offers and hundreds of interview requests in an effort to shield them from the public eye.

I just wanted my children to have a chance to grow up as normal, average kids, she said. It’s important for kids to grow up and be themselves without being judged by events that happen. And being in the public eye was certainly not going to help them be normal kids. [31]

Though she remarried twice in the years since 1963, [32] Marie never forgot the boy from Red River County.

No amount of time can take away the pain I feel for the man I loved, she said. And for anyone who thinks I’m over it, well, they never really knew J.D. Tippit. [33]

He was born on September 18, 1924, in Red River County near Annona, Texas. [34] His father, Edgar Lee, was a devout Baptist earning a living on rented farm lands just as his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him had done. [35] Edgar could be bull-headed and stubborn, and he had quite a temper. [36] But he took care of his family, provided for them, and expected them to mind him even when they were older. [37]

Lizzie Mae Tippit, age 20, holding J.D. Tippit, age 1. (1925)

Courtesy of Robert Jack and Dorothy Christene (Tippit) Christopher

He was pretty strict, brother Don recalled. If he told you to do something, you’d better do it. He didn’t tell you but once. [38]

Edgar Lee also was a very private man who believed that, ‘Family business was nobody’s business.’ His sons and daughters were all raised that way. [39]

J.D.’s mother, Lizzie Mae Rush — May Bug to her family and friends — was a shy woman from Tennessee. She was a sweet woman — rather timid — who often took a back seat to her strong willed husband. [40]

They were plain folk, descended from a long line of pioneers whose sweat and toil had shaped the backbone of America. Together they carved an existence out of the rolling prairies of east Texas and raised a close, loving family.

In 1924, power lines, telephones and paved roads were a long way from rural East Texas. Modern conveniences were only a dream. Water was drawn from a well, clothes were washed in wooden barrels, family meals were prepared over a hot, wood-burning stove, and oil lamps lit the dark.

Edgar and May Bug named their first born son after a character in a book that Edgar had read about once.

He use to read a little you know, when he was hunting, brother Edward recalled. He’d read a story about a guy named ‘J.D. of the Mountains,’ and gave him that name. I guess it fascinated him. [41]

The initials, despite some claims over the years, never stood for anything. [42]

To young J.D., free of the worries that burdened his father, country living was a paradise of wild flowers, fishing, hunting and adventure around every bend. Of course, as he grew older, there were the inevitable chores that consumed more and more of his time.

The community schools of Red River County in the early 1930s were something right out of Little House on the Prairie* – there was a main assembly building, a one room schoolhouse, a separate lunchroom with a well and a kitchen where you could cook, and two privies out back for the boys and girls. J.D. attended community elementary schools at Peince, Lanes Chapel,

Russell Chapel, and McCoy. [43]

We went by the McCoy Community School yard – it’s gone now – years after it had been abandoned, nieces Linda Chaney and Carol Christopher recalled, and the hitchin’ posts were still out front and we saw a school desk inside that had the name, ‘J.D. Tippit,’ carved in it. [44]

J.D. Tippit, age 11, in Altus, Oklahoma. (1935)

Courtesy of Mary Lee (Daniels) Tippit

In the fall of 1939, when J.D. was 15, Edgar and May Bug moved their family to Baker Lane, [45] a three mile long rural stretch of dirt road located six miles southwest of Clarksville. By then, two sisters and two brothers had joined the Tippit brood – Christene, Don, Joyce and Wayne.

Daddy farmed the bottom land, sister Joyce DeBord remembered. And we all loved that place. We just thought that it was just the most wonderful secluded place. And mother always liked a place that was surrounded by trees. And this was. [46]

Besides the house, there was a well for water, a barn, a hen house, a smoke house, and an outhouse, sister Christene Christopher recalled. Around the back was the pasture and a barn lot for the animals. We had pigs, cows, mules, and a horse. And cats were always around. And then the field was on the back of the pasture, back away from the house. Looking back, it’s like we’ve lived in two different worlds. [47]

Location of the Tippit farmstead on Baker Lane near Clarksville.

Author’s photo

In rural Texas, populations were scattered over many miles with little or no way of traversing distances except by foot or horseback.

Trips into town were limited to weekends. Small communities sprang up banding a dozen or more families together under the banner of a common school and place of worship. Families learned to rely on each other for help and companionship.

Every day or so, brother Wayne recalled, somebody’d go down to the box on the main road and get everybody’s mail and take it down to them.

And if a car ever came down the road, brother Don added, why, everyone would come out to see who it was.

Yea, and where they were going, Wayne laughed. [48]

In Texas, cotton was king. Bringing in the money crop, as they called it, consumed every hour of the day and required quite an effort to produce.

To begin, the land was bedded with a two-mule plow. Then a drag, made from a big log with a chain attached, was pulled over the rows, two at a time, to flatten them out. Planting was usually done with a one-mule planter. In two or three weeks the cotton was up and had to be chopped in a thinning process that left the plants a hoe’s width apart. Then the real work began.

The cotton had to be hoed to get rid of crabgrass, poor-joe gimpson weeds, cockle burrs and sassafras and persimmon sprouts. This usually had to be performed twice before laying it by ‘til harvest time. Then, the entire family would be in the field by daybreak, bending over, picking cotton, and stuffing it into a six foot long sack. Smaller kids would pick about 25 pounds of cotton, older ones 50 to 60 pounds a day. A good cotton picker could pick anywhere from 200 to 400 pounds a day, depending on the yield. [49]

There was nothing easy about farm life in East Texas. According to family members, a typical day for young J.D. started at 4:30 a.m. By then his father Edgar was already out in the barn doing chores and his mother, May Bug, was cooking breakfast on the wood-fired stove.

J.D. would head out to the back pasture to get the mules, wading through a waist-high, dew-covered field of tall grass. He’d be soaked by the time he got them back to the barn to be fed. While the mule team ate, the family sat down to breakfast.

For some reason, you didn’t think you could exist if you didn’t eat a great, big breakfast, J.D.’s brother-in-law and boyhood neighbor Jack Christopher remembered. You had biscuits, ham or bacon, eggs, gravy, churned butter, syrup or some kind of jelly, and coffee. [50]

After breakfast, J.D. would harness the team and head out to plow. The little ones would wrap their hand around a hoe handle and go down to the field by daylight to start hoeing the cotton or the corn. No one had a watch or had any way to tell time, but when they could stand up straight and step on the shadow of their head with one foot, they knew it was twelve o’clock noon and time for dinner.

Their mother always had dinner ready by the time they got back to the house. Most of the time there was pork meat, beans, something out of the garden, and corn bread – always corn bread. They drank milk, never tea.

After dinner, Edgar would take a thirty-minute nap on the porch. The kids didn’t want to waste their fun time, so they’d play while he was asleep.

Then, it was back out to the field where they’d work until sundown.

If you’d been plowin’ Jack remembered, you’d bring the team back, take the harness off, rub ’em down and feed ’em corn on the cob and oats. You had to feed the team good because they’re what made your livin’ for you. And we had names for all of them. Even the cows had names – Juney, Beauty, and Daisy.

Finally, they’d do up the work which consisted of milking the cows, feeding the hogs and chickens, cutting the wood and getting everything ready so that you wouldn’t have to do it in the dark the next morning.

J.D.’s sister Christene was the best at milking the cows. She’d pet them and give them nubbins – little ears of corn – while she milked them.

They liked her milkin’ ‘em, Jack recalled. She’d say, ‘Back your leg.’ And they’d do it. And they gave good milk because they liked her.

The last meal of the day was usually small, consisting of leftovers from the noon-time meal. [51]

The farming then, of course, is not like it is now, Jack said. All of it was done by hand. And let me tell you, whenever it came time to go to bed, nobody had to rock you to sleep. [52]

The Tippit children and their cousins on Baker Lane — L to R: (Back row) Wilburn Harland Causey (with goggles), age 12; U.J. Mauldin (with fedora), age 10; J.D. Tippit, age 16; William Edgar Alton Mauldin, (with cap), age 21; Della Mae Causey (hidden), age 15; (Middle row) Donald Ray Donnie Tippit (with cap), age 10; Dorothy Christene Chris Tippit, age 13; Doney Janett Baker, age 15; Sol Leonard Causey, age 7; (Front row) John Wayne Tippit, age 4; Joyce Florenze Tippit (with hands on face), age 7; Billy Gee Causey, age 5; and Carl Gene Baker, age 5. (ca. 1940)

Courtesy of Linda Mae (Christopher) Chaney

Families were close in those days and J.D. spent many enjoyable hours in the company of brothers, sisters, and cousins. Money was scarce and the Tippits learned to enjoy the simple pleasures, like their mother’s home-made pies. It was a well-known fact that J.D. wasn’t above bargaining for an extra piece from one of his siblings with some phantom cash.

Well, J.D. would eat his piece of pie and some of us younger ones would save part of ours, his sister Joyce remembered fondly. "Later on J.D. would come around and try to talk us out of ours by offering to buy part of it. Of course, he didn’t have a dime, but he would tell us that he would pay us whenever he got some money.

Wayne was his favorite victim, she laughed. That was a real inside joke between the two of them. J.D. would always eat all of his own pie and then talk Wayne out of his. [53]

One of J.D.’s favorite relatives, a favorite shared by all the Tippit children, was their mother’s brother, Uncle George Rush.

Going to see ‘Mammie’ and Uncle George was just such a treat for us, sister Joyce recalled. They always seemed so happy to see us, too.

George and his mother Margaret Mammie Rush had come to Texas from the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee in 1913. Uncle George was a terrific banjo picker, and after family dinners he would often entertain his guests. But to his young nieces and nephews, Uncle George will always be remembered as a master storyteller.

George Gray Rush, age 51, and J.D. Tippit, age 16, pretending to be a big game hunters near Clarksville, TX. (1940)

Courtesy of Robert Jack and Dorothy Christene (Tippit) Christopher

It was always tales of Tennessee, Joyce remembered, with a twinkle in her eye. "We knew every trail, every hill, and every hollow. And he always ended every story, with an elaborate fabrication about how he got into it with a big bear. It’d chase him up a tree or in a