These days ongoing discussions of the JFK assassination tend to focus on either events along Elm Street on that day in Dallas or upon the activities and background of Lee Oswald. It’s even possible to miss the fact that in the earliest days, a great deal of investigative effort was initially focused on Jack Ruby – not simply as Oswald’s killer but as a potential window into the conspiracy which killed President Kennedy. During the months following the murder a number of leads surfaced which suggested that Ruby had prior knowledge of the attack, that his elimination of Oswald was something forced on him by his involvement and that phone calls and visits connecting him to Los Angeles and Los Vegas deserved intense scrutiny.
And while the rumors of mysterious deaths related to the Kennedy assassination are often no more than gossip or coincidence, there is no doubt that the investigators and reporters who became too interested in Ruby, especially those who became devoted to ferreting out his true connections, appear to have been uniquely at risk. Most people would be surprised to realize that the Warren Commission itself fielded only two field investigators reporting directly to it. They might be even more surprised to know that both were dismissed for being overzealous in pursuing connections related to Jack Ruby.
But there were much greater risks than losing a job, especially for those who knew Jack and had heard certain passing remarks before the assassination – remarks which suddenly had a new and sinister meaning as of the afternoon of November 22, 1963. Several individuals may well have lost their lives over just that – ranging from women who worked for him at the Carousel Club (although some of those fled for their lives within days and stayed successfully out of sight for years and even decades), to both local and national reporters who decided to dig deeply into his connections.
There certainly were people who heard Ruby gossiping before the assassination – about something explosive happening in Dallas during the President’s visit. In some instances they managed to stay out of the limelight, one instance of that can be found in an IRS informant close to Ruby who reported being invited downtown by Jack, to watch the “fireworks” during the motorcade. In some cases those individuals became too visible and died under mysterious circumstances – one young woman recorded as having hung herself in a holding cell in Dallas, a young Dallas vice beat reporter on a personal crusade found dead after being attacked in his apartment, a woman who had warned individuals of the Dallas attack later run over and left by the side of a road in Louisiana and finally nationally known investigative reporter Dorothy Kilgallen – who had declared she would run the conspiracy to the ground after haven spoken to Ruby during his trial in Dallas.
I write about most of these individuals in detail in Someone Would Have Talked, presenting the case that Ruby’s connections led back to the west coast and to Johnny Roselli, who arranged for Ruby’s legal defense with a phone call to Melvin Belli’s law partner the weekend after the assassination. The Ruby story is a key one, too often ignored these days. However at last month’s Dallas conference, two speakers presented on their new books – one (Fallen Petals, by her son) dealing with the life of Rose Cherami and the second (The Reporter That Knew Too Much by Mark Shaw) exploring Kilgallen’s initial investigation and why it turned fatal for her.
If you are interested in the Kennedy assassination and have not explored Jack Ruby in depth, you are missing a key lead. It was a lead that the Dallas Police and the Warren Commission chose to avoid but one which was significant enough to get a number of people killed – digging into Jack Ruby was risky business, suggesting that Jack represented a real threat in terms of exposing the conspiracy.