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FLASHBACK: Letters show Ruby praised for Oswald murder - Odessa American: Celinda Hawkins

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FLASHBACK: Letters show Ruby praised for Oswald murder

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Posted: Sunday, November 24, 2013 5:45 am

On Friday, the nation mourned once again as the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy came and went.

"Our collective hearts were broken," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told a crowd of about 5,000 who came to a frigid Dealey Plaza, near where Kennedy was slain, for a commemoration marked with prayer, song and tears.

Remembered fondly for his youthful vigor and his glamorous wife, Kennedy remains one of Americans' favorite presidents for his handling of the Cuban missile crisis, his call to public service with programs such as the Peace Corps and a promise — later fulfilled — to land an American on the moon before the end of the 1960s.

Two days after Kennedy was killed, Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, who was arrested for the murder of the president, as he was being transported to the Dallas Jail. With the 24-hour news coverage going on after the president was killed, the nation watched as this unfolded on live television.

Conspiracy theories have abounded in the 50 years since the president was shot. Questions like did Oswald act alone? Were there other gunmen on the scene? Was Ruby put up to what he did? Did Ruby know Oswald?

Well, he failed a polygraph question when asked about knowing Oswald.

Ruby's motive, as expressed to the Warren Commission, was his desire to spare Jackie Kennedy the ordeal of having to return to Dallas to testify at the murder trial of Oswald. This motive implies that Ruby was a humane man — although badly misguided — and conspiracists want to portray him as a brutal Mafia type. Well, he had ties for sure.

Just two days after the shooting Donald J. McNelis, of Miami, Fla.. wrote a letter to infamous Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade praising Ruby AKA Jack Rubenstein for his heroic deed and asking him to be charged with “justifiable homicide.” 

McNelis wrote:

“In regard to the fatal shooting of Lee H. Oswald in the Dallas City Jail, may I be one of the many millions of people in these United States who are of the firm opinion that the man who fired the bullet, Mr. Jack Rubenstein, should have praise heaped upon him, rather than to be held and charged with murder.

“The charge of murder in this case certainly should be changed to justifiable homicide, and it’s a damn shame that Mr. Oswald couldn’t have been dragged through the streets of Dallas tied to the back bumper of Mr. Kennedy’s car until, battered and bruised beyond any possible recognition, he was then pronounced dead,” McNelis wrote.

The author of the letter wrote that he thought many millions of people shared his sentiments.

“…that Mr. Rubenstein should be set free, taken to Washington, wined, dined, feted, and then given the Congressional Medal of Honor with an appropriate scroll attesting to his brave and most honorable deed.”

McNelis concluded his letter by writing that if Ruby was brought to trial he hoped he would be “adjudged temporarily insane and then set free.”

Mary Baird of Napa, Calif., called upon Ruby’s attorney Tom Howard of Dallas to file complaints of negligence against the Dallas police.

“…sticking to the single event of Oswald’s death, would it not be right, just and proper to file complaints against the police force from the chief on down, with gross negligence, dereliction of duty, negligence, dereliction of duty, negligence contributing to a homicide? Why should these men go uncharged by virtue of the fact that they wear (a) uniform and a badge? Indeed this very fact gave them a responsibility beyond the average citizens’ and makes it plausible, even imperative that they be held accountable for their failure in (the) line of duty.”

Still others sent letters to Ruby.

John Bililicki wrote:

“I couldn’t stand the thought of that sickening punk swaggering through a couple of years of continuances and appeals, while our beloved John F. Kennedy was in his grave.”

The day Ruby shot Oswald, Doug Prescott, a 14-year old boy, penned a letter congratulating Ruby “on the fine job you did by killing Oswald.

“I’m only 14 years old but in my book you’ll always be a very great and honorable man for what you did, that no one else had the guts to do.

“They say you’ve been picked up by the Dallas Police more than once. But I think anyone who could do what you did today can’t be very bad.”

In a Texas Monthly piece from 2002, Gary Cartwright wrote that during the trial (in 1964) Ruby told his chief attorney, Melvin Belli, "What are we doing, Mel, kidding ourselves? We know what happened. We know I did it for Jackie and the [Kennedy] kids. I just went in and shot him. They've got us anyway. Maybe I ought to forget this silly story that I'm telling and get on the stand and tell the truth."

Ruby died in jail in 1967 after being convicted of murder March 14, 1964, and receiving the death penalty.

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