On November 24, 1963, two days after Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he was about to be transfered police headquarters to the nearby county jail. Oswald was handcuffed to Dallas detective Jim Leavelle. At 11:21 am, stepping out from a crowd of reporters and photographers, a nightclub owner Jack Ruby fired a Colt Cobra .38 into Oswald’s abdomen on a nationally televised live broadcast.
His motives for killing Oswald were not clear. There is some evidence it was on a whim, for Ruby left his dog, Sheba, in the car. He told that he helped the city of Dallas “redeem” itself in the eyes of the public, that Oswald’s death would spare Jackie Kennedy the ordeal of appearing at Oswald’s trial and that he avenged Kennedy. Ruby was convicted of Oswald’s murder and died in prison.
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 above photo, which showed “the hunched determination of the assassin, the painful gasp of the handcuffed victim, and the shock of helplessness on the face of a policeman”.
Bob Jackson had missed the President’s assassination earlier; he had been riding with Kennedy’s motorcars, but he was changing film and giving it to his editor when shots rang out. He had the dubious honor of being the only photographer in the press corps to miss the assassination. Two days later he went to the Dallas police headquarters. He remembers the fateful day:
“I walked right in. There was no security to speak of. Nobody checked my press pass.
I had seen Ruby once. He came up to the photo department at the paper and brought one of his strippers. That day there was a feeling in the air that something could happen. When Oswald came out the door, I raised my camera to my eye. I was ready. We stood in a semicircle about eleven feet in front of the door which formed a little clearing.
People yelled out, ‘Here he comes.’ As I looked through the camera, Oswald took eight or ten steps, and I saw a body moving into my line of sight. I leaned over the car to the left, Ruby moved three quick steps and bang. When he shot, I shot.”
Jackson’s contact sheets were displayed about ten years ago at artandphotographs gallery in London; I couldn’t get hold of their digital copies. If you can, please let me know. @aalholmes