February 17, 2014
This black-and-white photograph (wall poster) depicts one of the most dramatic moments in history ever to be captured on film -- the murder of Presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Dallas nightclub operator Jacob Leon Rubenstein (aka: Jack Ruby) in the basement of the Dallas Police Department City Jail at 11:21 AM on Sunday morning, November 24, 1963.
This incredible image shows the very moment of the bullet's impact, a split-second after Ruby had fired a single shot from his snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver (easily visible in Ruby's right hand) into the gut of the 24-year-old Lee Oswald. Oswald's open-mouthed grimace obviously is telling us that Ruby's missile has reached its desired mark. It was a horrifying instant in American history that was not only captured via this still photograph, but was also shown on Live network television all across the United States. But the full impact of this event is even more vividly realized when viewing this amazing still photograph, which is a picture that was published in hundreds of newspapers around the country the following day.
The photographer who snapped this crystal-clear Pulitzer Prize-winning picture was Bob Jackson (at the time a 29-year-old staff newspaper photographer for "The Dallas Times Herald"). Jackson's timing on his camera's shutter couldn't have been more perfect. Another cameraman taking pictures in the police basement that day, Jack Beers, also took a very dramatic still photo, but his was snapped just a second prior to Mr. Jackson's award-winning image. The Beers' photo shows Ruby stepping out of the crowd of newsmen toward his prey, but doesn't depict the moment of impact.
Oswald, two days prior to the taking of this photograph, had been arrested and charged with two counts of murder. He was charged with killing the President Of The United States, John F. Kennedy, as well as the murder of a Dallas city police officer (J.D. Tippit).
Multiple witnesses watched in horror as Oswald shot Officer Tippit in cold blood, point-blank, on the city streets of Dallas, Texas. This murder occurred just 45 minutes after President Kennedy was slain a few miles away in Dealey Plaza, which was a shooting that took place directly in front of Lee Oswald's place of employment, the Texas School Book Depository.
Oswald was also identified as JFK's killer, by a construction worker (Howard Brennan) who was watching the President's motorcade go by from a position across the street from the Depository. After killing Tippit, Oswald fled into the darkness of a nearby movie theater, which is where he was apprehended by a swarm of police officers, and where Oswald attempted to shoot another policeman. Luckily for the officer, the gun misfired, sparing Oswald yet another murder charge.
Lee Oswald was in the process of being transferred from the city jail to the more secure county jail when he was shot by Jack Ruby. Kind of ironic, huh? But, instead of making the very short journey to the county police facility, fate stepped in and sent Oswald to Parkland Hospital in an ambulance (which was really just a converted standard station wagon). Several officers piled into this tiny ambulance with the mortally wounded Oswald, packed in like sardines on the ride to Parkland.
In an even greater hunk of irony, Oswald and JFK died in the very same hospital, almost exactly 48 hours apart. Oswald expired 1 hour and 46 minutes after suffering his massive gunshot wound. Ruby, on the other hand, lived for more than three years (in jail) after his confrontation with Oswald. Cancer took the life of Jack Rubenstein, at age 55, on January 3, 1967. In yet more irony, Ruby, too, passed away at Parkland Hospital, like John Kennedy and Lee Oswald before him.
The "meeting" that we see taking place in this picture between Oswald and Ruby was born out of Ruby's emotional and distraught state-of-mind following the assassination of a U.S. President that he had admired very much. Friends and relatives of Ruby's later revealed that Jack was in tears for a good portion of that bleak November 1963 weekend.
Ruby, who almost always carried a gun on him, assassinated Oswald not as part of a massive conspiracy of some sort (IMHO, that is), but instead as a spur-of-the-moment event (as evidenced by the fact that Ruby had left his adored dog in his car before shooting Oswald, and just 4 minutes prior to pulling the trigger in the basement, Ruby was casually and unhurriedly transacting business at the nearby Western Union office). Plus: Ruby had been in the police basement no more than thirty seconds (approx.) before the handcuffed Oswald was led out into the basement area. Could any "conspiracy plot" have possibly adhered to THAT tight of a timetable?
The killing of Oswald came about via pure happenstance (IMO), much like the way the assassination of JFK occurred on Elm Street underneath Oswald's "sniper's nest" Book Depository window. Oswald planned his act of violence a little bit further in advance than did Ruby, but not by a great deal (4 to 6 days maximum "planning" time).
This 24x18 B&W "History Through A Lens" Wall Poster contains a cropped version of the Bob Jackson photograph. The complete, uncropped picture has extended imagery on all four sides. Besides the principal figures of Oswald and Ruby, other people who are depicted in this infamous photograph include Dallas Police Detective James R. Leavelle (on left, in light-colored suit and hat, who is "tugging" on the waist of Oswald's trousers in a last-ditch, futile attempt to save him from the assassin's bullet). The officer on the other side of Oswald (in dark hat; face blocked by Ruby) is Detective L.C. Graves.
The full, uncut negative of the photo also shows Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz on the far left. Fritz, who was the lead homicide investigator in the Oswald case, hasn't had time enough (in the photo) to react to the sharp sound of Ruby's gun blast. In fact, Fritz is looking in the opposite direction, not even facing the action unknowingly taking place behind him.
This "Ruby Shoots Oswald" print is not exactly the type of picture I'd hang on my living-room wall -- but for dramatic, history-in-the-making images caught on film, it would be hard to top this spectacular photo from the camera of Robert H. Jackson.