Jack Ruby, born Jack Rubenstein, is best known as the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy. On 24 November 1963, while surrounded by detectives and journalists, Ruby fatally shot Oswald at point-blank range. The incident was broadcast live on TV to thousands of Americans.
Because the murder ensured that Oswald never stood trial, conspiracy theorists have long debated whether Ruby was part of a wider cover-up concerning the murder of Jonh F. Kennedy. Official US investigations have found no concrete evidence to support this claim, however.
Aside from the infamous murder, Ruby was born in Chicago and endured a difficult childhood. He later moved to Texas, where he carved out a career as a nightclub owner and was occasionally involved in violent altercations and minor crimes.
Though he was initially sentenced to death for murdering Oswald, the verdict was thrown out. Ruby died of lung complications before he could stand trial again.
Here are 10 facts about Jack Ruby, the man who killed JFK’s assassin.
1. He was born in Chicago
Ruby was born in Chicago in 1911, then known as Jacob Rubenstein, to Polish immigrant parents of Jewish heritage. The exact date of Ruby’s birth is disputed, though he tended to use 25 March 1911. Ruby’s parents split up when he was aged 10.
2. He spent time in foster care
Ruby’s childhood was chaotic and he himself was a difficult child. He was supposedly “incorrigible” at home, rarely attended school and into his teens developed a violent temper which earned him the nickname ‘Sparky’.
Aged around 11, Ruby was sent to the Chicago Institute for Juvenile Research, which conducted psychiatric and behavioral studies. The centre deemed Ruby’s mother an unfit carer: she was institutionalised more than once throughout Ruby’s childhood, forcing him in and out of foster care.
3. He served in the armed forces during World War Two
Ruby dropped out of school aged around 16 and took an array of odd jobs, working as a ticket scalper and a door-to-door salesman before joining the armed forces.
During World War Two, Ruby worked as an aircraft mechanic at American airbases.
4. He became a nightclub owner in Dallas
After the end of World War Two, Ruby moved to Dallas, Texas. There, he operated gambling houses and nightclubs, initially running the Singapore Supper Club and later becoming the owner of the Vegas Club.
This period saw Ruby become embroiled in minor crimes and altercations. He was arrested, though never convicted, for violent incidents and for carrying a concealed weapon. He is thought to have had tenuous links to organised crime, though was by no means a mobster.
5. He killed Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV
On 22 November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy during a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas.
2 days later, on 24 November 1963, Oswald was being escorted through a Dallas jail. Surrounded by officers and journalists, Ruby lunged at Oswald and shot him at point-blank range in the chest. Americans across the country watched the incident unfold on live TV.
Ruby was tackled and arrested by officers, while Oswald died in hospital shortly after.
6. Ruby said he killed Oswald for Jackie Kennedy
When asked why he killed Oswald, Ruby claimed that he did it so that Jackie Kennedy, President Kennedy’s widow, would be spared the ordeal of returning to Texas for Oswald’s murder trial where she would have to testify to the court.
7. He was initially sentenced to death
During the murder trial in February-March 1964, Ruby and his attorney, Melvin Belli, claimed that Ruby had blacked out during the murder due to psychomotor epilepsy, committing the crime while mentally incapacitated. The jury dismissed this argument and found Ruby guilty of murder. He was sentenced to death.
Belli demanded a retrial and was ultimately successful. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the initial conviction in October 1966, citing the admission of illegal testimony. A new trial was arranged for the following year.
8. He died at the same hospital as John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald
Ruby never made it to his second murder trial. He was admitted to hospital with pneumonia in December 1966, where doctors detected lung cancer. He died from a blood clot in the lung on 3 January 1967 at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Strangely enough, this was the same hospital in which both President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald had died from gunshot wounds some years earlier.
9. His motives have been hotly debated by conspiracy theorists
Ruby’s murder of Oswald ensured that Oswald never went to trial, meaning the world was robbed of Oswald’s account of the assassination of President Kennedy. As such, it has been claimed that Ruby is part of a larger conspiracy and cover-up surrounding JFK’s death, perhaps killing Oswald to conceal the truth or doing so because of his supposed links to organised crime.
Despite these theories, Ruby always insisted that he had acted alone in the killing of Oswald. Moreover, the Warren Commission, the official inquiry into Kennedy’s assassination, found that Ruby had no real ties to organised crime and had likely acted as an individual.
10. The fedora he wore during the killing sold for $53,775 at auction
When Ruby fatally shot Oswald, he was wearing a grey fedora. In 2009, that very hat went on auction in Dallas. It sold for $53,775, while the restraints he had worn on his deathbed at Parkland Hospital fetched roughly $11,000.