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Jack Leon Rubenstein (March 25, 1911[2] – January 3, 1967), who legally changed his name to Jack Leon Ruby in 1947, was an American nightclub operator in Dallas, Texas. Ruby was originally from Chicago, Illinois. He was convicted of the November 24, 1963 murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. The murder took place two days after Oswald was arrested by deputy Bill Vaught for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Ruby appealed the conviction and death sentence. As a date for his new trial was being set,[3] he became ill and died of lung cancer on January 3, 1967.

Ruby was involved with major figures in organized crime; conspiracy theorists claim that he killed Oswald as part of an overall plot surrounding the assassination of Kennedy. Others have disputed this, arguing that his connection with gangsters was minimal at best and that he was not the sort to be entrusted with such an act within a high-level conspiracy.[4]

Allegations of organized crime links

Jack Ruby was known to have been acquainted with both the police and the mob, specifically the Italian Mafia. The House Select Committee on Assassinations said that Jack Ruby had known restaurateurs Sam (1920–1970) and Joseph Campisi (1918–1990) since 1947, and had been seen with them on many occasions.[5] After an investigation of Joe Campisi, the HSCA found,

While Campisi's technical characterization in federal law enforcement records as an organized crime member has ranged from definite to suspected to negative, it is clear that he was an associate or friend of many Dallas-based organized crime members, particularly Joseph Civello, during the time he was the head of the Dallas organization. There was no indication that Campisi had engaged in any specific organized crime-related activities.[6]

Similarly, a PBS Frontline investigation into the connections between Ruby and Dallas organized crime figures reported the following:

In 1963, Sam and Joe Campisi were leading figures in the Dallas underworld. Jack knew the Campisis and had been seen with them on many occasions. The Campisis were lieutenants of Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss who had reportedly talked of killing the President.[7]

A day before Kennedy was assassinated, Ruby went to Joe Campisi's restaurant.[8] At the time of the Kennedy assassination, Ruby was close enough to the Campisis to ask them to come see him after he was arrested for shooting Lee Oswald.[9]

In his memoir, Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story, Bill Bonanno, son of New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, explains that several Mafia families had long-standing ties with the anti-Castro Cubans through the Havana casinos operated by the Mafia before the Cuban Revolution. The Cubans hated Kennedy because he did not fully support them in the Bay of Pigs Invasion; and his brother, the young and idealistic Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had conducted an unprecedented legal assault on organized crime.

The Mafia were experts in assassination, and Bonanno reports that he realized the degree of the involvement of other Mafia families when he witnessed Jack Ruby killing Oswald on television: the Bonannos recognized Jack Ruby as an associate of Chicago mobster Sam Giancana.[10]

Within four hours of Ruby's arrest on November 24, 1963, a telegram sent from La Jolla, CA, was received at the Dallas city jail in support of Jack Ruby, under the names of Hal and Pauline Collins.[11] That telegram supports the Warren Commission exhibit (CE 1510), which names Hal Collins, Jr.[12][13] as a character reference listed by Jack Ruby on a Texas liquor license application.[14] In 1957, Hal Collin's sister, Mary Ann Collins,[15][16] had married Robert L. Clark,[17][18] the brother of former U.S. Attorney General and the then sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Tom C. Clark. Robert L. Clark was the former Dallas law partner of Maury Hughes.[19][20][21] Tom C. Clark advised newspaper columnist Drew Pearson in 1946 that the FBI had verified the claims[22][23] of James M. Ragen that Henry Crown and the Hilton Hotel chain controlled organized crime in Chicago.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30] Tom C. Clark selected Henry Crown's son, John as one of his two Supreme Court law clerks for the 1956 term,[31] and Tom Clark provided one of two recommendations to the Warren Commission to appoint Henry Crown's attorney, Albert E. Jenner, Jr.[32] as a senior assistant investigative counsel responsible for determining whether either Oswald or Ruby acted alone or conspired with others.[33]


Some writers, including former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, dismiss Ruby's connections to organized crime as being minimal at best:

It is very noteworthy that without exception, not one of these conspiracy theorists knew or had ever met Jack Ruby. Without our even resorting to his family and roommate, all of whom think the suggestion of Ruby being connected to the mob is ridiculous, those who knew him, unanimously and without exception, think the notion of his being connected to the Mafia, and then killing Oswald for them, is nothing short of laughable.[12]

Bill Alexander, who prosecuted Ruby for Oswald's murder, equally rejected any suggestions that Ruby was part-and-parcel of organized crime, claiming that conspiracy theorists based it on the claim that "A knew B, and Ruby knew B back in 1950, so he must have known A, and that must be the link to the conspiracy."[2]

Ruby's brother Earl denied allegations that Jack was involved in racketeering Chicago nightclubs, and author Gerald Posner suggests that he may have been confused with Harry Rubenstein, a convicted Chicago felon.[2] Entertainment reporter Tony Zoppi is also dismissive of mob ties. He knew Ruby and described him as a "born loser".[2]

Murder of Oswald

Ruby shoots Oswald. Robert H. Jackson's renowned photograph.

Ruby (also known as "Sparky," from his boxing nickname "Sparkling Ruby"[34]) was seen in the halls of the Dallas Police Headquarters on several occasions after the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963, and newsreel footage from WFAA-TV (Dallas) and NBC shows Ruby impersonating a newspaper reporter during a press conference at Dallas Police Headquarters on the night of the assassination.[citation needed] At the press conference, District Attorney Henry Wade said that Lee Oswald was a member of the anti-Castro Free Cuba Committee. Ruby was among those who corrected Wade by stating that it was the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee.[35]

Two days later, after driving into town and sending a money order to one of his employees, Ruby walked the short distance to the nearby police headquarters. There is some evidence his actions were on a whim as he left his favorite dog, Sheba, in the car, before shooting and fatally wounding Oswald on Sunday, November 24, 1963, at 11:21 am CST, while authorities were preparing to transfer Oswald by armored car from police headquarters to the nearby county jail. Stepping out from a crowd of reporters and photographers, Ruby fired a snub-nosed Colt Cobra .38 into Oswald's abdomen during a nationally televised live broadcast.[36]

When Ruby was arrested immediately after the shooting, he told several witnesses that he helped the city of Dallas "redeem" itself in the eyes of the public, and that Oswald's death would spare Jacqueline Kennedy the ordeal of appearing at Oswald's trial.[36] Ruby stated that he shot Oswald to avenge Kennedy's death. Later, however, he claimed he shot Oswald on the spur of the moment when the opportunity presented itself, without considering any reason for doing so.[36] At the time of the shooting Jack Ruby was taking phenmetrazine, a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant.[36]

Another motive was put forth by Frank Sheeran, allegedly a hitman for the Mafia, in a conversation he had with the then-former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. During the conversation, Hoffa claimed that Ruby was assigned the task of coordinating police officers loyal to Ruby to murder Oswald while he was in their custody. As Ruby evidently mismanaged the operation, he was given a choice to either finish the job himself or forfeit his life.[37]

Prosecution and conviction

Prominent San Francisco defense attorney Melvin Belli agreed to represent Ruby pro bono. Some observers thought that the case could have been disposed of as a "murder without malice" charge (roughly equivalent to manslaughter), with a maximum prison sentence of five years. Belli attempted to prove, however, that Ruby was legally insane and had a history of mental illness in his family (the latter being true, as his mother had been committed to a mental hospital years before). On March 14, 1964, Ruby was convicted of murder with malice, for which he received a death sentence.

During the six months following the Kennedy assassination, Ruby repeatedly asked, orally and in writing, to speak to the members of the Warren Commission. The commission showed no interest, and only after Ruby's sister Eileen wrote letters to the Warren Commission (and after her writing letters to the commission became publicly reported) did the commission agree to talk to Ruby. In June 1964, Chief Justice Earl Warren, then-Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan and other commission members went to Dallas and met with Ruby. Ruby asked Warren several times to take him to Washington D.C.,[38] because he feared for his life and wanted an opportunity to make additional statements. Warren was unable to comply because many legal barriers would need to be broken and public interest in the situation would be too heavy. According to a record of Ruby's testimony, Warren declared that the Commission would have no way of providing protection to him, since it had no police powers. Ruby said he wanted to convince President Johnson that he was not part of any conspiracy to kill JFK.[39]

Alleged conspiracies

Following Ruby's March 1964 conviction for murder with malice, Ruby's lawyers, led by Sam Houston Clinton, appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas. Ruby's lawyers argued that he could not have received a fair trial in the city of Dallas because of the excessive publicity surrounding the case. A year after his conviction, in March 1965, Ruby conducted a brief televised news conference in which he stated: "Everything pertaining to what's happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts of what occurred, my motives. The people who had so much to gain, and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I'm in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world." When asked by a reporter: "Are these people in very high positions Jack?", he responded "Yes."[40]

Dallas Deputy Sheriff Al Maddox claimed: "Ruby told me, he said, 'Well, they injected me for a cold.' He said it was cancer cells. That's what he told me, Ruby did. I said you don't believe that bullshit. He said, 'I damn sure do!' [Then] one day when I started to leave, Ruby shook hands with me and I could feel a piece of paper in his palm.... [In this note] he said it was a conspiracy and he said ... if you will keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, you're gonna learn a lot. And that was the last letter I ever got from him."[41][42]

Not long before Ruby died, according to an article in the London Sunday Times, he told psychiatrist Werner Teuter, that the assassination was "an act of overthrowing the government" and that he knew "who had President Kennedy killed." He added: "I am doomed. I do not want to die. But I am not insane. I was framed to kill Oswald." [41][43]

Eventually, the appellate court agreed with Ruby's lawyers for a new trial, and on October 5, 1966, ruled that his motion for a change of venue before the original trial court should have been granted. Ruby's conviction and death sentence were overturned. Arrangements were underway for a new trial to be held in February 1967, in Wichita Falls, Texas, when, on December 9, 1966, Ruby was admitted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, suffering from pneumonia. A day later, doctors realized he had cancer in his liver, lungs, and brain.

According to an unsigned Associated Press release, Ruby made a final statement from his hospital bed on December 19 that he and he alone had been responsible for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.[44] "There is nothing to hide... There was no one else," Ruby said.[45]


In Gerald Posner's book Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, Ruby's friends, relatives and associates stress how upset he was upon hearing of Kennedy's murder, even crying on occasion, and how he went so far as to close his loss-making clubs for three days as a mark of respect.[4]

Dallas reporter Tony Zoppi, who knew Ruby well, claims that it "would have to be crazy" to entrust Ruby with anything as important as a high-level plot to kill Kennedy since he "couldn't keep a secret for five minutes... Jack was one of the most talkative guys you would ever meet. He'd be the worst fellow in the world to be part of a conspiracy, because he just plain talked too much."[46] He and others describe Ruby as the sort who enjoyed being at "the center of attention", trying to make friends with people and being more of a nuisance.[4] It has been claimed[by whom?] that many of Ruby's statements were also taken out of context by conspiracy theorists in order to fit in with their claims.[47]

G. Robert Blakey, staff director and chief council for the House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1979, sees it differently. He says, "The most plausible explanation for the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was that Ruby had stalked him on behalf of organized crime, trying to reach him on at least three occasions in the forty-eight hours before he silenced him forever."[48]


Ruby died of a pulmonary embolism, secondary to bronchogenic carcinoma (lung cancer), on January 3, 1967 at Parkland Hospital, where Oswald had died and where President Kennedy had been pronounced dead after his assassination. He was buried beside his parents in the Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge IL.[49][50][51]

Popular culture

Ruby's shooting of Oswald, and his behavior both before and after the Kennedy assassination, have been the topic of numerous films, TV programs, books, and songs.

Ruby and Oswald

A 1978 made-for-television movie, Ruby and Oswald generally followed the official record, as presented by the Warren Commission. Ruby's actions and dialogue (as well as those of the people he comes in contact with) are nearly verbatim re-enactments of testimony given to the Warren Commission by those involved, as per the opening narration. Ruby was played by Michael Lerner.


In Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK, Ruby was portrayed by veteran actor Brian Doyle-Murray. Stone's perspective on events draws heavily from conspiracy theory researchers such as Jim Marrs and L. Fletcher Prouty. At least three scenes further detailing Ruby were removed from the film and are only available on DVD. One scene expanded the Oswald shooting by showing corrupt police letting Ruby enter through a restricted entrance.


The 1992 feature film Ruby speculated on Ruby's more complex motivations. Among the impulses explored by the film that might have propelled Ruby into shooting Oswald were Ruby's reputation among family and friends as an assiduous, emotionally volatile publicity-seeker, and the influence of his long-time organized crime and Dallas police connections. Ruby was played by Danny Aiello.

The Cold Six Thousand

Jack Ruby is one of the main characters of James Ellroy's novel The Cold Six Thousand. The plot revolves around the aftermath of the assassination of John Kennedy, and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. It speculates about the links of many historical characters with Mafia and anti-Castroist groups with the assassinations.


In his 1989 novel Libra, Don DeLillo portrays Ruby as being part of a larger conspiracy surrounding the president's assassination, imagining that an FBI agent persuades Ruby to kill Oswald.

Key Lime Pie

Jack Ruby is a song from the 1989 album Key Lime Pie by Camper Van Beethoven. In the song, Ruby is described as, "...the kind of man who beats his horses or the dancers who work at a bar."


Bicentennial is a song from the 1976 album T Shirt by Loudon Wainwright III. The verse referring to Ruby is "You know we have our heroes. I mean Washington and Lincoln, including Audie Murphy, including old Jack Ruby. Wasn't Jack wonderful? Oh, you know he certainly was. "


  1. ^ His tombstone gives April 12, 1911 as his birthdate
  2. ^ Note:His tombstone at Westlawn Cemetery, Chicago has April 25, 1911 as his birthdate
  3. ^ Waldron, Martin (December 10, 1966). "Ruby Seriously Ill In Dallas Hospital". New York Times: p. 1.
  4. ^ a b c Posner, Gerald (1993). Case Closed. Warner Books.
  5. ^ HSCA Appendix to Hearings, vol. 9, p. 336, par. 917, Joseph Campisi., Social Security Death Index [database on-line], Provo, Utah, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007., Texas Death Index, 1903-2000 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006.
  6. ^ HSCA Appendix to Hearings, vol. 9, p. 336, par. 916, Joseph Campisi.
  7. ^ Frontline: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?, 2003.
  8. ^ HSCA Appendix to Hearings, vol. 9, p. 344, par. 919, Joseph Campisi.
  9. ^ HSCA Appendix to Hearings, vol. 9, p. 344, Joseph Campisi.
  10. ^ Bonanno, Bill (1999). Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story. New York: St Martin's Press. ISBN 0312203888
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Obituary Section (1986-11-11). "'42 GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE COLLINS DIES". The Dallas Morning News.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Holmes Alexander Fulton Lewis Jr. (1954-22-04). "Washington Report". The Reading Eagle.
  19. ^ Washington, DC (AP) (1948-04-03). "Clark Accused In Parole Quiz". The Milwaukee Journal.
  20. ^ Scott, Peter Dale. "Crime and Cover-Up: The CIA, the Mafia, and the Dallas-Watergate Connection". Brainiacbooks, 1977, p. 44.
  21. ^ Drew Pearson (1963-26-10). "'Songbird' Was Murdered". The Palm Beach Post.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Abell, Tyler (1974). Drew Pearson Diaries Volume I, 1949-1959. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  24. ^ Scott, Peter Dale (1996). Deep Politics and the Death of JFK pg 155. University of California Press.
  25. ^ Gentry, Curt (2001). J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 332.
  26. ^ Summers, Anthony (1993). Official and confidential: the secret life of J. Edgar Hoover. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. Page 227.
  27. ^ .
  28. ^ Evica, George Michael (1978). And we are all mortal:. University of Hartford Press. p. Page 387.
  29. ^ Item notes: nos. 51-90 -. Washington observer newsletter Issues 51-90. 1968.
  30. ^ Chris Heidenrich (1997-08-03). "Ex-farmer, judge Crown remembered as 'wise,...". Daily Herald.
  31. ^ Gibson, Donald (2000). The Kennedy assassination cover-up Page 96. Kroshka Books Div. of Nova Science Publishers.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Hollington, Kris (2008). How To Kill. The Definitive History of the Assassin. London: Arrow Books. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-099-50246-3.
  34. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol V, p. 189
  35. ^ a b c d Testimony of Jack Ruby. 5. Washington: Government Printing Office. 1964. pp. 198–99.
  36. ^ Brandt, Charles (2004). I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran and the inside story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the last ride of Jimmy Hoffa. Hanover, New Hampshire (USA): Steerforth Press. p. 242.
  37. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol V, p. 194
  38. ^ From Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission: "I realize it is a terrible thing I have done, and it was a stupid thing, but I just was carried away emotionally…I am as innocent regarding any conspiracy as any of you gentlemen in the room … And all I want to do is tell the truth, and that is all. There was no conspiracy."
  39. ^ Jack Ruby Press conference on YouTube
  40. ^ a b Marrs, Jim (1989). Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy. New York: Carroll & Graf. pp. 431–432. ISBN 0-88184-648-1.
  41. ^ Ruby's Letter From Prison on YouTube
  42. ^ "JFK Lancer". JFK Lancer. Retrieved 2010-09-19.
  43. ^ Associated Press (December 20, 1966). "Ruby Asks World to Take His Word". New York Times: p. 36.
  44. ^ "A Last Wish". Time. December 30, 1966.
  45. ^ "Spartacus Educational".
  46. ^ Reitzes, David (2000, 2003). "In Defense of Jack Ruby: Was Lee Harvey Oswald's killer part of a conspiracy?".
  47. ^ Goldfarb, Ronald. Perfect Villians, Imperfect Heroes: Robert Kennedy's War Against Organized Crime (Virginia: Capital Books, 1995), p. 281. ISBN 1-931868-06-9.
  48. ^ "Ruby Buried in Chicago Cemetery A longside Graves of His Parents". The New York Times: p. 15. January 7, 1967.
  49. ^ "Ruby Called 'Avenger' at Rites in Chicago". The Los Angeles Times. Associated Press: p. 4. January 7, 1967.
  50. ^ "Ruby Services Limited to Family, Few Friends". The Los Angeles Times. Associated Press: p. 20. January 5, 1967.

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