Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Beers

In 1963, Jack Ruby owned a Dallas strip joint called the Carousel Club. A girl named Karen Carlin, whose nom du burlesque was Little Lynn, danced there. On the night following the Kennedy assassination, Ruby received a call from Carlin, who was twenty-five dollars short on the December rent and needed a loan.

Ruby yelled at her. He had other things on his mind. Earlier that day, Saturday, November twenty-third, he was at the police station with a Colt Cobra .38. Ruby and his “wife”—that was what he called his little dachsund, Sheba—were frequent visitors to the Dallas Police Department. As a strip club owner, that came with the territory: he would hand out free passes to his clubs at the station.

So he showed up for Oswald’s parade before the press, no one took any particular notice of him. Oswald proclaimed his innocence, displaying a black eye. Ruby intended to shoot Oswald there but the room was crowded and he was shunted to the back before he could approach Oswald was gone.

The following day, on late Sunday morning, Ruby went to the Western Union office a block or so from the police department to send Carlin her loan. He left Sheba in the car. As he walked by the police department later, he saw a crowd. Ruby had assumed that Oswald had already been transferred to the Dallas County Jail, but the transfer hadn’t occurred on schedule.

Ruby had his gun. He wormed his way into the police garage. Some of the cops said hi, and Ruby greeted them right back. Oswald was still upstairs. At the last moment he had asked his jailers if he could put on a sweater, because his shirt had a hole in it. The detour to get the sweater took less than three minutes, but that was just enough. When he finally appeared, Ruby shot Oswald in the abdomen. As cops descended upon him, Jack Ruby yelled out: “Hey, guys, I’m Jack Ruby! You all know me!”

Oswald died at Parkland Hospital shortly thereafter.

Ruby’s motives for killing Oswald were not clear. He said he helped the city of Dallas “redeem” itself in the eyes of the public and that Oswald’s death would spare Jackie Kennedy the ordeal of having to return to Dallas and appearing at Oswald’s trial and that he avenged Kennedy. Ruby was convicted and died in prison in 1967.

Although hundreds of cameras and news reels captured the moment, the most famous image of Ruby’s killing was made by the Dallas Times-Herald reporter, Robert H. Jackson. He won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for Photography for the photo which would be featured on front pages across America.

Ira Jefferson “Jack” Beers Jr., who worked for the rival Dallas Morning News took a similarly vivid picture (which was featured topmost). On Sunday morning, as photographers began arriving at the police station to photograph the transfer, Beers positioned himself by a railing on top of the incline, giving him a height advantage of several feet over Jackston. He recalled in a letter written to Ruby’s attorney in 1967:

“Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw a sudden movement … My first impression was, it was a photographer out of position or with a very short lens trying to improve his position, then the curse, ‘You son of a bitch,’ punctuated by the shot. The curse was in such an unnatural and excited voice, before it concluded I knew someone had gone berserk and was attacking Oswald.

Beers’ paper ran on the full front page of his paper and was featured in many papers (especially internationally, see above), but was upstaged by Jackosn’s. Beers was bitterly disappointed and hurt when Jackson won the Pulitzer Prize, saying, “I was there. I was prepared. But I didn’t get it.” His daughter described him as “feeling let down. Not by anybody in particular. More by fate, I guess. He always felt like, ‘Why have I had to struggle so hard to finally get the picture and then not get it?'”

See more frontpages and another photo taken by Jack Beers who was also there here:

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19 thoughts on “Jack Ruby shoots Lee Harvey Oswald, by Jack Beers

  1. Don’t cha just love that. There’s a “They”, a “they’ll”, the standard pejorative about “bittterness” and an accusation of unoriginal thinking; but for the life of me I can’t actually find an argument, or a policy or any evidence of creativeness.
    The mote in your brother’s eye…
    Looks very like Britain will come up with an unorthodox solution to it’s political miasma. As a native Irishman, it’s the one thing I do love and admire about Britons, they’re resilient and practical. Britions have absorbed more change and punishment in the twentieth century than we ever could’ve, and still remain essentially themselves and nobody’s fool. More power to them.

  2. I’m enjoying your blog immeasurably. It’s no surprise to me you’re immediately inundated with counter opinion when you dare post your political views. We’ve been subjected to that bitterness for eight straight years. They do make a point of never missing an opportunity, and creating opportunities when they fail to present themselves. One day, they’ll express an original thought and their heads will fall off.

    I’m very interested in reading your opinion. It’s refreshing.

  3. I’m with Guillaume and Jael. I love the blog and have been reading it every day, but a focus on the election will definitely switch me off. Photography is universal, the 2010 British General Election is not.

    My favourite part of your blog is learning about things that I never knew before – I often spend ages on wikipedia reading about obscure historical moments because my interest has been piqued by the commentary on the photos you post.

    I just can’t see the same level of interest if you focus on the election. As someone has already suggested, perhaps you should set up a separate election blog.

    But keep up the good work, I check in every day.

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