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Jack Leon Rubenstein (April 25, 1910 – January 3, 1967), who legally changed his name to Jack Leon Ruby in 1947, was an Americanmarker nightclub operator in Dallasmarker, Texasmarker. He was convicted on March 14, 1964, of the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963, two days after Oswald was arrested for the assassination of President John F. Kennedymarker. He successfully appealed his conviction and death sentence. As a date for his new trial was being set, he became ill and died of lung cancer on January 3, 1967.

Conspiracy theorists claim that Ruby was involved with major figures in organized crime and 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.

Jack Ruby was born Jack Leon Rubenstein to Joseph Rubenstein (1871–1958) and Fannie Turek Rutkowski (or Rokowsky), both Polishmarker-born, Orthodox Jews, in Chicagomarker, on April 25, 1911.

The fifth of his parents' eight surviving children, growing up in the Maxwell Street area of Chicago, Ruby had a troubled childhood and adolescence, marked by juvenile delinquency and time spent in foster homes. On June 6, 1922, aged 11, he was arrested for truancy. Ruby eventually skipped school enough times that he spent time at the Institute of Juvenile Research. Young Ruby sold horse-racing tip sheets and various other novelties, then acted as business agent for a local refuse collectors union that later became part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Ruby briefly came to public attention in December 1939 when he was implicated in the fatal shooting of the union's president, attorney Leon Cooke, but was cleared of any wrongdoing.

In the 1940s, Ruby frequented race tracks in Illinois and California. He was drafted in 1943 and served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, working as an aircraft mechanic at bases in the US until 1946. He had an honorable record and was promoted to Private First Class. Upon discharge, on 21 February 1946, Ruby returned to Chicago.

In 1947, Ruby moved to Dallas, where he and his brothers soon afterward shortened their surnames from Rubenstein to Ruby. The stated reason for changing the family name had been that Jack and his brothers had opened up a mail order business and feared that some customers would refuse to do business with Jews. Jack later went on to manage various nightclubs, strip clubs, and dance halls. Among the strippers Ruby befriended was Candy Barr.

He developed close ties to many Dallas police officers, who frequented his nightclubs where Ruby showered them with large quantities of liquor and other favors. Ruby went to Cubamarker in 1959, ostensibly to visit a friend, influential Dallas gambler Lewis McWillie, an associate of Mafia boss Santo Trafficante. (Trafficante operated major casinos in Cuba and was briefly imprisoned after Fidel Castro came to power.) The House Select Committee on Assassinations inferred from Ruby's trip to Cuba, and his subsequent trips, "...that Ruby was at least serving as a kind of courier on behalf of gambling interests in Cuba."

Allegations of organized crime links


Jack Ruby is known to have had acquaintances in both the police and the mob, specifically the Italian Mafia. Some have gone on to hypothesize that his alleged links to organized crime were evidence of conspiracy to kill Lee Harvey Oswald and/or John F. Kennedy. The House Select Committee on Assassinations said that Jack Ruby knew restaurateurs Sam (1920–1970) and Joseph Campisi (1918–1990) since 1947, and had been seen with them on many occasions. 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.

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.

A day before Kennedy was murdered, Ruby went to Joe Campisi's restaurant. 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.

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 failed to 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. This was especially provocative because several of the Mafia "families" had worked with JFK's father, Joseph Kennedy, to get his son elected. [Citation?]

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.


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 (also known as "Sparky," from his boxing nickname "Sparkling Ruby") frequently carried a handgun, and witnesses saw him with a handgun in the halls of the Dallas Police Headquartersmarker on several occasions after President Kennedy's assassination and arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963. In addition, WFAAmarker-TV (Dallas) and NBC newsreel footage show Ruby impersonating a newspaper reporter during a press conference, at Dallas Police Headquarters, on the night of the assassination. 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.

Ruby achieved international notoriety two days later. After driving into town and sending a money order to one of his employees, he walked the short distance to the nearby police headquarters. There is some evidence it was on a whim, for he left his favorite dog, Sheba, in the car, when he shot and fatally wounded the 24-year-old Oswald on Sunday, November 24, 1963, at 11:21 am CST, while authorities were preparing to transfer Oswald by 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.

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 (to be held later). Ruby stated that he shot Oswald to avenge Kennedy. 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. At the time of the shooting Jack Ruby was taking phenmetrazine, a central nervous system stimulant.

Another motive was put forth by Frank Sheeran, 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.

Prosecution and conviction

Prominent San Franciscomarker defense attorney Melvin Belli agreed to represent Ruby free of charge. 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. Instead, Belli attempted to prove 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 assassinationmarker, 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 Michiganmarker and other commission members went to Dallas and met with Ruby. Ruby asked Warren several times to take him to Washington D.C.marker, 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.

Ruby 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 Appealsmarker, 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."

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 ____. 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."

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."

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, Texasmarker, 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.

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. "There is nothing to hide... There was no one else.", Ruby said.


He died of a pulmonary embolism, secondary to bronchogenic carcinoma (lung cancer), on January 3, 1967 at Parkland Hospital, where Oswald had died and President Kennedy had been pronounced dead after his assassination. He was buried in the Westlawn Cemeterymarker in Chicagomarker.

Criticisms of conspiracy theories

In Gerald Posner's book Case Closed, 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.

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." 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. It has been claimed that many of Ruby's statements were also taken out of context by conspiracy theorists in order to fit in with their claims.

In 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 and books.

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.

A lunch meeting between Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) and Dean Andrews (John Candy) is expanded to include the comment by Andrews, “Jack Ruby gets a new trial and dies of cancer a few days later. That's some kind of cancer. I'd say that's a going out of business kind of cancer.” When this conversation took place Ruby would still have been alive.


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 assassination of Kennedy, and speculates about the links of many historical characters with Mafia and anti-Castroist groups.


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 convinces Ruby to kill Oswald.


  1. Martin Waldron, "Ruby Seriously Ill In Dallas Hospital," New York Times, December 10, 1966, p. 1.
  2. Spartacus Educational
  3. Summers, Anthony. Not in Your Lifetime, (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998), pp. 336-39. ISBN 1-56924-739-0
  4. House Select Committee on Assassinations, vol 9, 5C, p. 177
  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. Hollington, Kris. How To Kill. The Definitive History of the Assassin, (London: Arrow Books, 2008), pp. 93. ISBN 978-0-099-50246-3
  12. Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission: "I think I used the words, 'You killed my President, you rat.' The next thing, I was down on the floor. I said, 'I am Jack Ruby. You all know me.' I never used anything malicious, nothing like s.o.b."
  13. Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 5, pp. 198–99 Testimony of Jack Ruby.
  14. Ruby, ibid., p. 199
  15. History Matters Archive - Warren Commission Hearings, Volume V
  16. Charles Brandt, 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, Steerforth Press, Hanover, New Hampshire (USA): 2004, p. 242
  17. Warren Commission Hearings, vol V, p. 194
  18. 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."
  19. Jack Ruby (Oswald's assassin) makes a statement to reporters after his trial ntlworld
  20. Marrs, Jim. Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, New York: Carroll & Graf, 1989, p. 432; ISBN 0-88184-648-1
  21. Dallas Deputy Sheriff Al Maddox, videotape interview
  22. Marrs, Crossfire, p. 431
  23. JFK Lancer
  24. Associated Press, "Ruby Asks World to Take His Word", New York Times, December 20, 1966, p. 36
  25. "A Last Wish", Time, December 30, 1966.
  26. Case Closed by Gerald Posner, published in 1993 by Warner Books
  27. Spartacus Educational
  28. In Defense of Jack Ruby: Was Lee Harvey Oswald's killer part of a conspiracy? Copyright © 2000, 2003 by David Reitzes

Further reading

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