Ruby claimed he shot Oswald in order to prevent Jackie Kennedy from having to participate in a lengthy trial. He also noted his ire at the famous anti-Kennedy ad placed in the Dallas Morning News on the day of the assassination. Ruby feared the ad, signed by right-wing activist Bernard Weissman, would cause the public to blame the assassination on the Jews—to Ruby, Weissman’s name sounded “Jewish.”
Ruby’s activities between the time of the assassination and the Oswald shooting are well documented. Seth Kantor, a former Dallas journalist then working as a White House correspondent, claimed to have seen Ruby at Parkland Hospital shortly after the assassination.
Ruby then closed his nightclub, the Carousel Club, for the weekend, and spent the rest of the day running around the city talking about the assassination. He bought sandwiches for the police, bringing them to radio station KLIF where he learned the police had already eaten.
He visited the police station anyway, talked with Kathy Kay, an employee of his at the Carousel, and stopped by the Dallas Times Herald. At 4:30 A.M on 24 November, he and his roommate, George Senator, took photographs of an “Impeach Earl Warren” billboard near a Dallas freeway.
Later that morning, Ruby drove downtown to the Western Union office and wired $25 to Karen Carlin, another Carousel employee, at 11:17 A.M. Four minutes later, he headed to the nearby Dallas Police station, where Oswald was at that moment being transferred to the Dallas jail. Moving quickly through the crowd, Ruby shot Oswald once in the stomach.
Ruby was born Jack Rubenstein on 25 March 1911, in Chicago. His family was Orthodox Jewish, and Ruby’s Jewish identity emerged early on, as he participated in breaking up American Nazi Bund marches in Chicago. Dropping out of school after the sixth grade, Ruby spent his youth fighting and hustling on the streets. He was placed in a foster home for eighteen months beginning in 1923. In 1933, he left for California, returning to Chicago in 1937.
Between 1937 and 1943 he was union organizer for Scrap Iron Junk Handler Local 20467 in Chicago; the union’s books were later seized by the state of Illinois because of connections with organized crime (it has often been claimed that Ruby was more widely involved with organized crime in Chicago).
He enlisted in the army air force in 1943, and was discharged in 1946. He moved to Dallas in 1947, to help his sister Eva run a nightclub. That same year, he changed his name to Jack Ruby. Between 1947 and 1963, Ruby ran a string of Dallas nightclubs.
Eva’s Singapore Club became the Silver Spur in 1953, and Ruby invested in the Vegas Club, which he partly owned until his arrest. In 1959, Ruby acquired an interest in the Sovereign Club, on Commerce Street in downtown Dallas. When Ruby’s friend Ralph Paul became his partner, they changed the Sovereign’s name and format to a striptease joint called the Carousel Club.
After his arrest for the Oswald killing, Ruby was tried and convicted by Judge Joe B. Brown. San Francisco lawyer Melvin Belli defended him, making the case that Ruby suffered from psychomotor epilepsy, which affected his judgment. After the guilty verdict was returned on 14 March 1964, Ruby’s lawyers began an appeal, which culminated in Brown’s removal from the case.
On 24 June 1966, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Ruby’s death sentence and granted him a change of venue. While this appeal continued, Ruby died of cancer on 3 January 1967, expiring in the same Parkland Hospital where Kennedy was taken.
Though Ruby’s claim that he was injected with cancer is medically impossible, his Parkland doctor asserted that if his cancer had been detected earlier by Dallas jail physician John W. Callahan, it could have been treated, prolonging Ruby’s life.
Ruby and Kennedy Conspiracy Theories
Up until his death, Ruby offered flickering assertions that he was involved in a conspiracy, asserting in a television interview that his entire story had not been told. Ruby figures in every conceivable assassination conspiracy theory.
In particular, his connections with organized crime have helped produce theories describing collusion between the Mafia and Cuban exiles, the CIA, or right-wing Texas militants. Ruby’s alleged Mafia ties begin with his youth in Chicago, where he supposedly ran errands for Al Capone, and continue through his union organizer work in the same city.
Many of Ruby’s associates in Dallas are also linked to organized crime. For example, Paul Roland Jones, an associate of the Chicago Mafia who offered to bribe the Dallas Police Department, frequented Ruby’s Singapore Club during the late 1940s.
In addition to these links, Ruby’s activity in the months before the assassination also indicates an organized crime connection. For example, according to Bell Telephone records, Ruby’s phone activity increased dramatically during this period, and many of these calls are to figures connected with organized crime.
Ruby explained these calls as resulting from troubles with the American Guild of Variety Artists, the union to which Carousel Club performers belonged. Ruby also made several documented trips to Cuba between 1959 and 1963, supposedly on Mafia gun-running or narcotics errands.
In addition to the Mafia connection, conspiracy researchers point to Ruby’s testimony before the Warren Commission, in which, among other strange notes, he repeatedly asks to be taken to Washington because his life is in danger. Ruby’s involvement in a conspiracy also surfaces elsewhere in the hearings.
In his testimony, Marguerite Oswald’s lawyer Mark Lane infamously claimed that Ruby met with Weissman at the Carousel Club, along with J. D. Tippit, the policeman whom Oswald shot shortly after the assassination. Lane’s reference to Tippit carried weight because of Ruby’s close association with the Dallas Police Department.
For example, he regularly hosted Dallas Police Department members at the Carousel Club, and sent policemen gifts of whiskey at Christmas. With fifty-one policemen guarding Oswald, researchers often assume that Ruby must have had inside help to fire such a close shot.