What images come to mind for you as a baby boomer, when you hear, school book depository, Dallas, motorcade, assassination? There is no doubt that any one of these terms are instantly associated with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an icon to so many who grew up or were parents, grandparents in that era.
However, as often happens, there are many untold stories when the central focus is the planning and murder of a world leader, whose aftermath would irretrievably alter the course of history. It has been reported that there are no less than 200 books covering every facet and perspective of JFK’s assassination.
There was an unsung hero who never got his due because of the explosive nature of this tragedy. I am referring to an 11 year veteran of the Dallas Police Department known as JD Tippit. As events would reveal, his role in the ultimate capture of Lee Harvey Oswald was very significant. But in the scheme of things, he received very little “ink.” This blog is my attempt to pay tribute to this unsung hero.
JD’s roots were in northeastern Annona, Texas, with less than 300 people to its credit even in the year 2000. He was one of seven children with ancestors emigrating to Virginia. He spent two years in the Army from 1944 to 1946 and was awarded a Bronze Star for acts of Valor in combat.. JD married his high school girlfriend, Marie Gasway, the day after Christmas in 1946. He worked for a stove company, Sears and Roebucks after which he was laid off. He then tried his hand as a cattle rancher prior to moving to Dallas where he made the decision to become a police officer via a VA Training program. He was hired as a patrolman in July 1952 and also worked two other jobs. (JD made $490/month as a patrolman. Oswald earned $1.25/hour as a book order clerk in the Book Depository building)
JD was assigned to the Beat # 78 in south Oak Cliff. On the morning in which he was killed, he checked in at his police substation at 7 a.m and made several stops to see relatives, to return a book, pay for a football ticket and by 10:30 a.m. had coffee and conversation at the Rebel Drive-In, a ramshackle place for coffee with fellow officers. They discussed the President’s visit and were concerned re the potential for violence.
According to Washington Post writer, Rachel Siegel, (November 22,2017), Dallas held the reputation as “The City of Hate” with three prior incidents by right-wing extremists signalling, that despite the common folk crowds that amassed the city streets on the motorcade route, Kennedy would not be welcomed with open arms by in Dallas.
On the Afternoon of November 22, 1963
JD cut his lunch hour with his wife short to just 20 minutes, in anticipation of being needed. At 12:45 p.m.he received a radio call to change his patrol position in Central Oak Cliff. This was just 15 minutes after President Kennedy was shot by Oswald. A generic description of “a slender white male in his 30’s” was broadcast to those on patrol.
At the fateful location, just past the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue, JD spotted a slender man walking down the street, wearing a zippered jacket. He called to Oswald through the passenger side window. Oswald leaned into the window with hands in his jacket pocket. JD exited his patrol car and walked to the front of the car. At that point Oswald drew his handgun and pumped four bullets into JD; his stomach, chest, a button on his uniform, and to his right temple after which he was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital. JD received several police honors posthumously in addition to a monument unveiled on November 20, 2012 at the location of his murder.
There were no less than twelve witnesses to the shooting. The utter arrogance of Oswald, who shot JD in cold blood, disposing of spent cartridges, running across lawns and, ultimately, ducking into a movie theater, reported as a non-paying customer that sealed his capture.
The bastard who was a chameleon politically, who desperately wanted to work for Russian intelligence, who was a wife beater, who “wanted to be important” in the world, met his match with Jack Ruby and became infamous in death!
Videos Oswald’s Escape -(Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite)
And from Witnesses
1) Shoe Store Owner – John Brewer-
2) Warren Reynolds
3) Helen Markham
The Aftermath- Marie Tippit and Family
Marie and JD had three children who were irreparably harmed by the death of their father. Over the years, Marie remarried another police officer, was widowed, married again, divorced and ultimately re-took the name Tippit. The public was generous and contributed $647,579 after the murders. Each child received ~ $80,000.
In 2013, JD’s eldest son Allan, a house painter who worked job to job, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer after which a fundraiser was held. He was treated at Parkland Hospital, primarily for the indigent, and the same hospital President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald were taken to prior to their deaths.
2013 Interview The Final Day in Marie’s Words –
“Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they will be called children of God”
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