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Below is the unedited transcript from interviews with witnesses to the Kennedy assassination: Rosemary Willis Roach, her sister Linda Willis Pool, and mother Marilyn Willis; Bill and Gayle Newman; Pierce Allman; Bobby Hargis and James Leavelle. Interviewed by Joe Nick Patoski
Rosemary Willis Roach: I was taken out of school that day to go see the president. My whole family went downtown and we selected the area along Dealey Plaza to watch for the presidential motorcade to come by.... My mother as well as both of her parents -- my grandparents -- were there. My father was there, who, by the way, was taking pictures opposite Zapruder -- and my father's pictures are copyrighted, but we have those pictures.
Marilyn Willis: He was an executive salesman for Downtown Lincoln.
Rosemary: I was ten years old.
Linda Willis Pool: I was fourteen years old.
Marilyn: We stopped there because we had a place to leave the car at Downtown Lincoln. Somebody dropped us off and we walked up there and we were standing at the corner of Main and Houston and watched them make the right turn onto Houston. My husband ran and Rosemary ran with him and I went this way and my family went around to the other side. Linda was right behind them too. And all of a sudden we heard the noise. To a woman I said, 'Oh, they're shooting firecrackers.' Bang. Bangbang, you know it went. Then I said, 'No, that's gunshots.' Then I looked up and his head was blown up like that. I heard three shots. I was too excited. All my family was scattered to the winds. I had to find them. I didn't know where they were. But I was standing in the center of the Dealey Plaza park...opposite Zapruder.... I could see him [in the Zapruder film, Rosemary's running alongside the limousine]. Yes, and her daddy steps off of the curb -- and we have a close up of the picture, it's a little out of focus. He had an Argus Autronic 35 millimeter camera that makes slides. And it wasn't self-focusing at that time. It was a state of the art camera, but they didn't, you know, self-focus. And he ran along shooting them, coming down Main, making the right turn, the president's car. He got the last picture of President Kennedy and Johnson together. In fact, the way they turned the Secret Service car, the old Queen Mary was left out because they had to turn way out, and he got the last picture of Kennedy and Johnson together.
Rosemary: When I could first see them, they were coming down Main and I could just see them coming. And then they make the turn onto the next street, which is Houston, and so when they make that turn, that's about the time that there was a kid on the corner that had an epileptic seizure. Or appeared to have an epileptic seizure. Which was most interesting because an ambulance came, and if you followed this story, nothing ever became of that. We'll discuss that later. Anyway, no hospital ever received him. Anyway, I always thought at the time that person acted real strangely. Even at age 10, it didn't look like a normal emergency epileptic seizure. There was something strange about it.
Linda: It seemed staged.
Linda: We thought it seemed staged.
Marilyn: But there was a woman that took her handkerchief and dipped it in the reflecting pool there and wiped his brow. She really did.
Rosemary: Anyway, it seemed strange to me. Then the next thing I know, the limousine is turning the corner again. Onto Elm. From Main to Houston to Elm. And so, just as they start, they've just made that turn, they're going along, and the first gun shot was fired. Immediately, I look up to where I thought I heard the sound, and what I notice is this pigeon, upon the impact ....
(Jim Leavelle enters)
Rosemary: Hello, Rosemary Roach. I saw you in Toronto, Canada last time we visited.
Jim Leavelle: Oh, yeah. The little Willis. You doing all right?
Rosemary: Nice to see you. Remember my mother, Marilyn Willis?
Jim: Hello, Marilyn, how are you?
Marilyn: Oh, I'm fine. You're Mr. Leavelle.
Rosemary: As they made the turn from Houston to Elm Street, they'd just gone a few feet when the first shot rang out, and upon hearing the sound, my normal body reaction was to look up and follow the sound that I heard, it was so abrupt. I didn't know what it was, but I was looking for what I heard. And the pigeons immediately ascended off that roof of the school book depository building and that's what caught my eye. My eyes were searching for what I heard and I see the pigeons, you know, they're scared to death, and take off in abrupt flight. Next thing I know, right after that, there's another shot. And after that, there's another shot and another shot. We disagree, between me and her (nodding towards her mom and sister). My ears heard four shots. If you ask me how many I think there were, I really think that there were six, but I heard four and I'll tell you why: the first one, you know I'm right across from Zapruder. I'm wherever the limousine is. It's almost like I could...I'm right there. Anyway, the first shot rang out. It was to the front of me, and to the right of me, up high. The second shot that I heard came across from my right shoulder. By that time, the limousine had already moved further down. And that shot came across my shoulder. And the next one, right after that, still came from the right but not from as far back, it was up some. Still behind me, but not as far back as the other one. And the next one that came was from the grassy knoll and I saw the smoke coming through the trees, into the air.... Fragments of his head ascended into the air, and from my vision, focal point, the smoke and the fragments, you know, everything met. I mean, there's no question in my mind what I saw or what I heard.
(Pierce Allman, who's walked in earlier, introduces himself to Bill and Gayle Newman, identifying himself as the man who helped them up after they ducked to the ground to take cover during the shooting.)
Bill Newman: Good to meet you, at long last.
Gayle Newman: Bill and I had gone with our kids out to the Love Field airport, and Bill and our youngest son were able to get over to see Kennedy. Billy, our oldest son, was not able to get over to the fence area. So we knew the parade route, and we came on downtown, and parked the car, and walked down the street until the crowd thinned out because the children were quite small, and we were standing at the edge of the curb; we'd only been there just a few minutes. You could hear the sounds of the crowd, and the car coming. And as the car turned the corner, and came towards us, we heard a noise. I thought it was a firecracker. And the people in the car reacted, especially President Kennedy. He threw his hands up, I thought he was going, you know, going along with a bad joke. You know, a firecracker, someone popped a firecracker, 'Oh!, my head.... '(mimics waving with both hands), I didn't realize that it was a gunshot at all. Then, as they got closer to us, directly in front of us, when the other shot that [was] shot, you know, the side of his head, you could see the white matter coming out of his head, then red, and we heard her [Jackie] holler, 'Oh my God, no, they shot Jack!' And Bill turned to us and he said, 'That's it. Put the children on the ground.' We put the children on the ground and shielded them with our bodies because we thought we were in, you know, direct crossfire (nervous laugh). I was terrified.
Texas Monthly: Now from where you were standing, do you remember if the shots all came from the same direction?
Gayle: I have no idea.
TM: You just heard bangs?
Gayle: Just the noise, and the reaction of the people, we thought that they were coming [from] directly behind us.
TM: Who were you with?
Gayle: My husband, Bill, and my two children, Clayton, he was two years old at the time, and Billy was four years old.
TM: And ya'll hit the ground?
Gayle: We hit the ground.
TM: What was going through your mind?
Gayle: I was just terrified because I was scared to death that something was going to happen to my children. I wasn't afraid for myself, I was afraid for my children and Bill. Well, we just sort of laid on the ground and looked around, you know, and photographers were coming around and taking pictures and everything. I remember looking up at one photographer who was taking pictures and thinking to myself, 'My heavens, doesn't he realize that he could get killed?' I didn't know what was going to happen. After a few moments, not really long at all, we got up and started walking slowly towards that concrete deal and at that time, two men from Channel 8 [one of them Jerry Haynes -- Mr. Peppermint] asked us what had happened, and we told them that the president had just been shot. They asked us if we'd go to Channel 8 and be interviewed. We started walking back towards the television studio and we got to Houston Street and they stopped a man and asked him if he'd take us to the TV studio. The president had been shot and these people were witnesses. So we went on to the TV studio. They kept us there. Evidently, they had to wait for permission to put this story on the air. We just sat around and everybody was really shook up, trying to get everything set up and they put us on the air and [we] told all we had seen.
TM: Looking back, what do you think?
Gayle: It'll probably never go away. When I look back at that day, I can see a young mother scared to death. In my heart, I don't think that one person could have pulled the whole thing off by himself. I don't know who did it, or anything, but I don't think it was the act of just one person.
Bill: You're going to hear a repeat. We've done this so many times. We realized president and [Mrs] Kennedy were coming in to Love Field so we first drove out to Love Field to see them come in and there was a large crowd in the parking lot and we saw the plane come in. The president and the first lady got out the plane, and they came over close to the fence where the people were; they came along the fence line and were shaking hands. Let's see, their car drove by -- 'scuse me, it's been awhile -- their car drove by the fence line and they were waving at the crowd. Well, myself and Clayton, our youngest son -- I was carrying him...ran up to the edge of the fence, and I got a real good look at them, but Gayle was caught up in the crowd.... The parade route had been published in the paper and so we jumped in our car and drove downtown to the head of the parade to where we could get somewhere along the parade route.... Being familiar with the area, we parked in behind, not the school book depository, but the building across the street, back behind there, and walked up to the intersection of Houston and Elm Street. There [were] a lot of people at that intersection, so we just walked behind the crowd along the sidewalk toward the triple underpass, where the last two people were, against the curb, [and] we ...fell in beside them. And I believe it was two women -- one that I called the 'Older Woman' who's probably younger than I am now, and then this second was younger. And we just stood there, we'd been there for a very short time, probably less than five minutes, and you could hear the parade coming towards us down Main Street. You could hear the excitement of the crowd, the noise. I can remember seeing the president's car turn right onto Houston Street, go that one short block towards Elm Street, [and] turn left coming towards us. His car, the parade cars, were out one lane from the curb. They were not against the curb. When his car was probably a hundred fifty feet or so from us, the first two shots rang out: and it was a boom! (smacks his hand) boom! (smacks his hand again) like that. And at that moment, I didn't even realize that it was gunfire. I thought maybe somebody had thrown a couple firecrackers beside the car and I thought, 'You know, that's a pretty poor joke for somebody to pull.' I can remember seeing President Kennedy's hands go up. Even in our testimony that day -- Gayle and I were two of sixteen people that gave an affidavit in Sheriff Bill Decker's office -- I said that he came up out of his seat, which in fact he just kind of raised up and brought his arms up. But as the car got closer to us, you could tell something was wrong. You could see the president kind of looking at the crowd, you could see Governor Connally sort of stretched out, holding himself, eyes protruding, you could see the blood on him -- you know it's just moments or seconds we're dealing with -- just as the car got right in front of us, the president was probably...some ten or twelve feet from me, maybe, or even less. The third shot rang out -- boom! (slaps hand again) and I can remember seeing the side of his head come off. His ear -- at the time I said it was his ear, I found out later his ear was intact -- the side of his head blew off. I remember seeing this white matter fly out and then the red, and he went across the seat into Mrs. Kennedy's lap. She hollered out, 'Oh my God, no, they shot Jack!' I turned to Gayle and said, 'That's it. Hit the ground.' We [threw] our children down on the grass and covered them up. And I can remember glancing back, seeing the car momentarily stop -- when I say stop, I don't mean for a long period of time. I saw the taillights come on -- and I cannot tell you whether it was the driver or the passenger, there [were] two men in the front seat and it looked like one of them had a radio, you know, up to his ear, trying to communicate with someone, and then they just floorboarded it, took off.
TM: What's going through your head?
Bill: Well, the visual impact that it had on me was that shots were coming from straight behind us. What you've got to remember was the testimony that I gave that day was probably pure testimony, but over the years I've been influenced -- picket fence, storm sewer, and, you know, all this. But my reaction at that moment, what was going through my mind, was that we were narrowly being missed by that third shot...I thought the shot must have come from behind because [of] the way President Kennedy reacted to it. It was a visual impact. And, when I'm talking with people, I'll say it came from behind, lot of times I'll pause to wait -- if you're a researcher, you've already got an opinion, you want to know [from] behind where: to my left, meaning the school book depository? To my right, meaning the picket fence?... I always just leave it with 'behind,' because I reacted to what...I saw in the car. So we stood up. Maybe we stayed on the ground a minute, or two, or three minutes. I can't tell you now. But we stood up. And about that time, Jerry Haynes and another man came up there to us, you know he was Mr. Peppermint at the time....
(Pierce Allman enters the studio, we exchange greetings and I introduce him to the Martins, and he tells them he helped them up, saying to the Martins, "You're the family with the two small girls.")
Bill: You're close. They were boys, but they were small, two and four.
Pierce: On that side of the street, right?
Bill: Yeah. Grassy knoll. Yeah.
Bill: We had stood up, and this gentleman picked us up (nods to Allman, chuckling). And Jerry Haynes came up there, and another gentleman, then he said, 'What happened?' We said, 'The president's been shot.' And he said, 'Would you people come with me to the studio,' meaning WFAA, which we said we would. We started across there, and it was, I want to say Commerce Street. He just stopped a car, 'cause traffic was tied up, and he asked this man, 'Would you carry us to WFAA?' These people were witness[es] to seeing the president being shot. And the man said, 'Sure. Jump in.' He drove us over to WFAA, and then we were put on the air there, said what we saw. Then after that, I'm going to assume it was a sheriff's deputy, I think, I believe I'm correct in that, was waiting there for us and they carried us over to Bill Decker's office. And each one of us that [was] there gave a deposition. Then they detained us for the purpose of selective review of all those statements...to see if there [were] any inconsistencies in them. They didn't call me back, but we just sat in his office for several hours, I'm going to say three or four hours, then they turned us loose.
TM: What was your employment at the time?
Bill: I was working as an electrician.
TM: (To Gayle) Were you working?
TM: What do you think, looking back?
Bill: Well, in the early days of it, it kind of irritated me...the phone calls that we'd receive and the people that we talked with, because early on...there were a lot of kooks kind of involved in it, but it more or less died off up until ...the 25th Anniversary. And it's never let up since. I was interviewed one time by the newsman that was mayor of Dallas.
TM: Wes Wise.
Bill: Wes Wise. And he explained to me that it more than likely will never stop because we're still searching and reviewing the Lincoln assassination, for example. So it's going to be an on-going project, you know, for years to come. And I've had a lot of people interview us who, to me, I think were really legitimate people that were trying to reach some conclusion to the assassination. And so, I don't resist people when they call me. If they sound like they're on the up and up, or, I mean, if it's a high school kid working on a research paper, I'll let them interview me. So I think it will go on. I don't know for how long. I don't know we'll ever know what actually did happen. Like I heard Gayle say, it's hard for me to believe it was the lone act of Lee Harvey Oswald. Why [do] I say that? There may have only been one person at the assassination site, but I have to believe there [were] more people involved than just him. You know, if evidence is the correct word, there's good evidence that there was somebody behind the picket fence. In talking with people, and most of the time they're going in some direction, it seems like they never find the final solution in all the research.... It seems like they never get to the bottom. But I see no harm in people researching the assassination.
TM: Do you see yourself as helping them by talking to them?
Bill: I help them. One thing I've realized, the true researchers, they can tell you verbatim what I'm going to say. They just want to hear it from me.
TM: Is it a blessing or a curse? You saw history. Are you pleased that you happened to be there?
Bill: It hasn't been a difficulty for me. I don't think saying you were pleased that you were there would be correct. But it hasn't had that big an impact on my life. When people want you to say what impact it's had on your life, well, there'[ve] been a lot of things that's happened over the years of my life that'[ve] probably had more impact than the assassination. There's some excitement to it, the fact that we were there. It's a terrible thing. It's a terrible thing for something like that to happen.
TM: Who coined the term 'grassy knoll'?
Bill: Well, I don't know. You know I just hate to see that interview of me on WFAA back then. I sound like I'm straight out of Hicks.... .I know I don't sound like that today. But I sound like I'm straight out of East Texas. But I said, 'That little knoll, that little knoll back there' -- something like that, you can get the film from Channel 8 and hear it yourself if you want to, but I said something about 'the little knoll.' And I did have a man tell me, 'You know, you're the first person to use that term.' Whether that's true or not, I can't confirm that.
TM: What's your line of work and where do you live?
Bill: We're in the electrical contracting business. We live in Mesquite,Texas.
TM: Next we have here Mr. Pierce Allman.... What was your position at WFAA radio?
Pierce: I was manager of programming and production.
TM: Could you tell me where you were November 22, 1963?
Pierce: Early in the morning I was back at the studio, watching the landing, and I was so struck by the natural political mastery of Mr. Kennedy and watching him as he arrived, how he worked the crowds, just had an innate sense to work them. I decided at the last minute to go over during the noon hour and catch the end of the parade. I asked a sales associate there at the station if he wanted to walk over. So, we walked over, ended up standing on the corner, directly opposite the School book depository building, and I'm standing right next to Mr. Brennan, the retired pipefitter or something who ended up giving a lot of testimony to the Warren Commission. It was a pretty good view of everything that happened. One unfortunate, ironic observation I made on the way over, I remember looking at all of the buildings and rooftops and windows, and thinking there's no way the Secret Service, or intelligence, or whoever it is, could cover all these parapets, and all of the openings, and as we neared the corner there, I remember turning over my shoulder to Terry walking with me and saying, 'If anyone were ever going to attempt an assassination, it seems like this would be the likely spot,' glancing up at all the open windows on the depository building and all of the open rooftops.... The only time I was really nervous during the weekend, was during the funeral cortege: very, very nervous, because had there been a conspiracy, that was the one time most of the leadership of the free world had been at one place at one time. And our early warning system was at best 90% efficient. All it would have taken was one airplane. That was...very much on my mind right after the incident. I was quite struck by the persona of Jackie and Jack. Mr. Kennedy had a wave...it wasn't a wave, it was sort of an acknowledgment, the guy looked great, just looked great. And so did Jackie. I don't remember John and Nellie that much. And the first shot, that loud explosion -- it wasn't a sharp, flat crack sound at all, the first shot. It didn't enter my mind at all that it was a shot. I thought, 'Now that was poor taste, this is firecrackers...' Then bam! the second one. And you realized indeed that it was shooting, then the third shot. My memory was so vivid that during the interview with the Secret Service the next day, they asked me to recall the timed sequence, and I came out to six and a half seconds. But on the second shot, I glanced up, my gaze stopped one floor below on the depository building, I saw the three guys looking out of the window, looking up. And I went back to the scene on the street and it was pretty obvious Kennedy had been hit. And, as the car drove off, a uniformed policeman came over and said, 'Everybody down.' On about the second shot, we all got down and of course popped back up as the car sped off. As the car sped off, that's when the Secret Service man from the back had vaulted over and pushed Jackie back in the seat, she was trying to come up, and that's when the body assumed that grotesque position we saw on the way to Parkland. Then I ran across the street, spoke to the Newmans and said, 'Stop!' And why we were running that direction, I couldn't tell you. It was just sort of a flow. I stopped and said, 'Are youok?' He said, 'Yeah, but they got the president. They blew the side of his head in.' I remember thinking, 'I've got to get to a telephone.' But we continued up the little hill there -- I won't say 'knoll' -- the little hill...
Bill: That's all right.
Pierce Allman: And Bob Jackson from the Times-Herald was running behind me. And why we went up there, I don't know, except there was just sort of a movement up there. And then I turned around, ran back down the hill, ran up the sidewalk, went into the depository building, asked the guy where the phone was, went inside, got on the phone, called the station, and had trouble getting through. By the time I got through, said here's what happened, I was more concerned about the implications of what to say. I was fairly sure that...first of all, he was hit. You can't go on air and say the president's been killed. You don't know that. So you can't do that. And I realized you just can't do this. You can't go on the air and say the leader of the free world has just been cut down, you know, in Dallas, during the noonday parade. So I [don't] remember exactly. I heard the tape later, saying that he was hit. Witnesses reported he was hit, slumped forward, you know, and more later. Put the phone down, ran upstairs, then realized, whoop, need the phone, went back down, actually hung up one time, and then realized what I had done, and called back and said, 'Just leave the line open, strap on a tape.' A little later, they did bring, they brought Oswald...they brought the rifle down. A distinct impression: and that was, while I was on the phone, no one ever challenged me. No one ever said, 'Who are you? Who are you calling?' And no one took charge. See, at the time, what you really had was a local homicide. It wasn't against federal law to kill a president. But no one took charge. Lot of uniforms milling around, a lot of plainclothesmen milling around. No one ever said, 'Stop! Hit the wall!,' you know.... Nobody. So it was just this constant milling around. Finally, sometime later, you got back to the station before I did (nodding towards the Newmans) because it was sometime later when a gray-haired guy in a gray suit said [he wanted] to know who I was and what I was doing. And I identified myself and he suggested I wrap it up. I identified him later as Army intelligence. They said that was inaccurate, he might have been CIA or Secret Service, more likely. And when I tried to leave the building I couldn't because it was cordoned off. So I had to stay inside for awhile. And when I went outside, [I saw] clusters of people around transistor radios,and I realized what was happening. And sure enough, by that time, what was it, 98% of the [television] sets in the United States were on. So it was birth, the advent of electronic journalism, for better or for worse.
TM: It sounds like once you saw what you saw, you were in newsman mode.
Pierce: Very much. I was really concerned, he was not pronounced dead until after.... In fact I didn't know he had been pronounced dead until I got back to the station, walked into the door, and I've forgotten who I talked to, Jay Watson, I think it was, was temporary PD [program director] on the TV side, and he said, 'Get into the studio.' I said, 'What's happened? How's the president?' He said, 'He's been declared dead.' I said, 'okay, that doesn't surprise me.' But I could not say that...the other thing that goes through your mind very honestly is, 'okay, you realize the president's been shot. Is that merely, if you'll allow that term, an assassination? Is it a coup? Is it a conspiracy?' And if you go on the air and say the president's been shot, who's listening, and what does that trigger?
TM: Are you thinking of all these things?
Pierce: Yeah, yeah, yes. This is going through [my] mind, the whole time I was writing and looking for a phone, and I'm thinking I need to call in. No. You can't say the president's dead, even though your emotions are saying, your eyes are saying, that it was a bad hit. You can't say that. You don't know it for a fact and the implications of saying that are staggering. So you really have to hold off of that. I don't think the conspiracy thing, it was prevalent in everyone's mind, especially after the, uh, you know, the Oswald incident [when he was killed]. The Secret Service when they came to see us a couple days later, they wanted to talk. They went through the timing, the sequence, where did you go, what did you say, what did you do, and they kept going through that. They wanted to know about hand gestures, the whole thing. And they said, 'Are you familiar with the testimony of Lee Harvey Oswald?' They said, 'He states that as he was leaving the depository building, a young man with a crew cut rushed up, identified himself as a newsman and asked him where the phone was.' And they said, 'Your sequence, your gestures, your...everything you've said corroborates exactly what he has said. Can you give us an identification?' I said, 'No.' And we went through this time after time. I said, 'Guys, this is going to be power of suggestion. All I can remember is White Male, and about this height, and the whole thing, not the dark hair, the gestures, and whatever.' At one time, somebody, I think it was the House Select Committee wanted to see if I would undergo hypnosis. I said, 'Sure, I'd do that.' I was fascinated. Anyway, I said, 'Are you saying that I asked Oswald where the phone was?' And they said, 'Yes,' and they wanted an identification. And I couldn't ID him, even after looking at the pictures, you know, later on.
TM: What do you think when you look back at all this? You're an eyewitness to history, this terrible event. Do you feel like time has given you any greater perspective on what you saw then, today? Or was it just coincidence?
Pierce: I think it was coincidence. But insofar as an event that you remember, an event that no one is ever prepared for, cataclysmic, traumatic in the classic sense of the term, changing a lot of things, very much a milestone for electronic journalism, probably for laws -- at that time, as I say, it was not against a federal law to kill a president -- made people think afresh, I think, about the mortality of the office, the line of succession. I think it brought some profound changes in Dallas. And it was something Dallas did not deal with until the 25th Anniversary and the creation of the Sixth Floor Museum. One of the interesting overriding impressions, one of the vivid memories I had is the guys from the BBC. By the time I got back to the station that night, Germans were there, Japanese, BBC, and you realize how small the world really is, and how fast communications were at that time, and of course, that pales beside now. The BBC asked me to assemble a crew for a special broadcast and I got together some folks, and afterwards, this is after the Oswald thing, they said [assumes Brit voice], 'You know, we were terribly shocked about Mr. Kennedy, but we weren't at all surprised you did away with Oswald.' I said, 'Beg your pardon?' They said, 'Oh, no no. We never expected him to come to trial.' I said, 'Why?' They said, 'You Texans are a violent lot. You carry guns, you don't discuss, you go shoot it out. We see it all the time on the telly at home. Wyatt Earp. Bat Masterson.' And I thought, wow, what represents us overseas, what is the image? After you travel for awhile, I think even today, there is an association. There's no association with Tennessee and with Newman Luther King, or L.A. and Bobby Kennedy, but Dallas and JFK, I think, are inextricably intertwined forever, for eternity. And why it has bred the industry that it has is not totally beyond thinking since political assassinations seem to fascinate everyone. I'm rather convinced that Oswald did act alone. I think physically it can be done. The adrenaline is flowing, the motivation, I don't think we'll ever know. Unfortunately it may have died with Oswald.
Marilyn: My husband was an executive salesman at the Downtown Lincoln and he had a friend that worked in the used car department and someone that identified himself as Oswald took him on a wild, wild ride. A test drive. Oswald couldn't even drive a car.
TM: When the gunshots went off, what were you doing? Your kids were running around.
Marilyn: Looking for them. My parents had gone around the end, if you're familiar with Bronson's picture, the jacket on his book. It shows my mother. She's in a white coat with a blue scarf tied around her head. My daddy's following her. They went around the south end of the center of Dealey Plaza. My husband had gone up the sidewalk, and the two kids following him, and I was stuck there in the last window of the pavilion in Dealey Plaza by the reflecting pool. Well, I didn't know where they were, and I set out to find ...the Roaches.
TM: Linda, you were following your dad?
Linda: I followed my dad the whole time he photographed the presidential motorcade. The cars came toward the old red courthouse proceeding down Main Street, made a right onto Houston then left on Elm. So my dad began to run along the side of the limousine when the car made the turn onto Houston. As he ran along the side of the car, snapping pictures, I was on his shoulders the whole time. We were running at a pretty good clip to keep up with the motorcade. And so when they turned the corner in front of the School book depository they were moving along slowly so the crowd could wave. And when the shots rang out, my impression was firecrackers at first. But the report was loud and came again and again, I began to realize that trouble was brewing. And I saw the president's hands come up to his throat and then I saw the head shot and I never took my eyes away from the president during those shots, so I didn't look at the buildings up high or anything like that. But my impression after the shots were over, the crowd in the triangle area where the concrete arcade and the reflecting pool is, they all ran across the street toward what everybody calls the grassy knoll. Nobody ran towards the School book depository. Because of the canyon effect and the reverberation of the shots, it would probably be difficult for the average person not expecting it to identify where the shots came from if they were coming from buildings up high. But everybody who made movement after the motorcade took off went toward the grassy knoll.
Marilyn: That's right. The policeman that was on the right-hand motorcycle threw his machine down in the pavement and ran up the grassy knoll. Sure did.
Linda: There was a lot of commotion behind the fence and people went toward that.
Marilyn: We, on our own, went to Eastman Kodak on Main, and at the same time, Zapruder was already in tow with the Secret Service and they stopped everything and developed both [the rolls] at the same time.
Linda: Also, my dad had been in Texas politics. He was in the 1947-49 Texas Legislature. He was personally acquainted with Lyndon Johnson, Ralph Yarborough, Sam Rayburn. He campaigned for Kennedy, he was friends with Connally. All these people were his friends. And that was the main reason my dad took my sister and me out of school that day because of his friend and because of his involvement in politics. He had always made us aware of current events and politics, and so we were probably more interested than just the average children at ten and fourteen years old. And so it was doubly exciting to me, not only to see the president and all those other important people, but in my mind's eye those were my dad's friends. So it was really upsetting to me anyway. It was a glorious day. You know, it'd been raining that morning, cool, then the sun broke and the sky was pretty and blue and, you know...kind of warm, and they decided to take the bubble-top off. It was like a carnival atmosphere. We were just so excited, and then for it to fall apart like that, and everybody just in tears. We were crying.
Marilyn: My husband had a stomach ulcer and it upset him so that he had to absolutely vomit. It made him ill.
TM: What do ya'll think, looking back now, I mean, again, what you saw, as time has passed, what you may have learned, what do you think about this day? What was this event?
Marilyn: It was a coup.
Linda: I agree. I agree. I do. I don't think that one person could have orchestrated all that. It's possible. But there were too many other things that seem to have gone wrong to make that happen.
TM: Has it changed the way you look at the world?
Marilyn: Yes, it has. It's changed.
Linda: I think the innocence of America was taken away that day for sure. It may have started before that, but it really....
Marilyn: It's really on the slide now. (chuckling)
Marilyn: We didn't get home until dark. We stayed at Eastman Kodak, then my husband went to WFAA, well, wherever, and showed his slides to somebody or other. And, we, let's see, that was the 22nd on Friday, so you had the weekend to look at them. The Secret Service interviewed me, at home, and they took Linda and my husband downtown to the old post office building and grilled him and interviewed him. Who was it. Spector? I think it was Spector. He's now a Congressman. My husband disagreed and said (assuming a stern voice), 'You won't let me tell what I saw.' He was just as mad as he could be about it. This was long after, this was the commission, and he was as mad as he could be. They wouldn't let him say what he wanted to. He just wanted to tell how it really happened
Rosemary: The first shot got my attention, like I said, the pigeons immediately ascended, and I was following the sound that I heard. Of course, by the time the third shot ring out, that was the one that I saw the gunfire coming out of the grassy knoll, saw his head fragmenting into the air. By the time the second shot came out, I knew it was gunfire. First shot, I wasn't sure what was going on. All of a sudden it happened. But by the time of the second shot, then the third shot, and then the fourth shot (!), I knew what was going on. If you watch me in the Zapruder film, you see my body react to each of the shots, and that's one reason so many people have been interested in me. It's because of watching my body. Every time a shot rings out, you know, I react. Strongly.
TM: Now, 35 years later, what do you think?
Rosemary: In terms of what? Who did it? Why? I know that Kennedy was assassinated. I heard and saw many shots from many directions, so I know it was a conspiracy. And the Warren Report is totally invalid.
TM: Has it changed the way you look at life and government?
Rosemary: Sure it does. Sure it does. Because our government has been for a long time manipulating various things around the world, and various factions of our government can do that. I do not feel like the United States of America is a genuine democracy.
TM: That's pretty profound, from one event.
Rosemary: That's right, with a lot of fascist overtones.
TM: What happened after the shooting?
Rosemary: After, afterwards, you know, a lot of people, pandemonium, down on the ground. And as people get to... the limousine drives off, lot of people, FBI, CIA, policemen, lot of impostors, lot of people suddenly on the scene, and they roped off the area, they just kind of told everybody to stay put. But they really didn't do anything. It was rather strange. Kept us there for, I don't know, 30 minutes, maybe an hour. The interesting part is after we left the roped-off scene and went to the Eastman-Kodak plant, that's where it becomes real interesting. And we'll continue....
(Rosemary recalls being interrogated later by investigators)
.... .tell you over and over you didn't see what you saw, you didn't hear what you heard. When they asked you what happened, you say, 'I heard a shot from over here, I heard a shot and saw smoke from other here,' and they're going (assumes mean voice), 'No, you didn't. Look at me: you didn't. I'm telling you, you didn't.' Very adamantly and depending who they were talking to, they were very strong about it, they did not want you to tell the truth. It was messing everything up.
TM: Who were these people?
Rosemary: Well, some of them, like I say, were impostors, and that's where you get into that part about Eastman-Kodak.
TM: All right, well, ya'll get set. This is Bobby Hargis, Dallas Police Department Motorcycle Officer
TM: What were you doing on November 22, 1963?
Bobby Hargis: I was riding a motorcycle beside the limousine of President Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy.
TM: You were an officer with the Dallas police department?
Bobby: That's true. I was a motorcycle officer.
TM: And your job that day was to follow the president throughout the whole parade route?
Bobby: That's true.
TM: And what happened?
Bobby: There were so many people, we couldn't ride our assigned positions because of the people, the crowds along the side of the streets. We got to Main, to Houston, we made a right-hand turn, went down to Elm Street, and turned left to go down the triple underpass. About ten seconds after we made that left-hand turn, that first shot rung out. It sounded like a firecracker. First thing that came to my mind was, it was a firecracker. I was kind of hoping it would be a firecracker, but it wasn't. I thought Connally was the first one shot because he turn[ed] around and looking at the president like, you know, he'd been shot. And I remember Kennedy leaned forward to listen to what he had to say. And then when he raised back up, that second shot hit him in the head. But we figured out that he had got shot -- that first bullet had gone through the upper part of his back, well through the seat, and hit Connally's wrist and glanced off and went into his thigh. That was the first shot. The second shot was what killed him. He'd have lived over that first shot.
TM: You were on the driver's side of the limousine?
Bobby: Yes, I was on Jackie's side.
TM: What was your reaction? You hear these shots, you see these things?
Bobby: Yeah, I was trying to find out where those shots came from, 'cause... the triple underpass is kind of a depression. It kind of rang out everywhere. You didn't know where the shot was coming from. I was looking around to see where it was coming from and I saw up on the grassy knoll people falling down, people around me were hitting the ground. I didn't know where the shot had come from. So I ran up to the grassy knoll to look at the railroad tracks and couldn't see anybody up there, so I ran back down, and, it struck my mind the president's head went to his left and, to his forward and left, so it meant that anything hit him in the head had to come over his right shoulder. From that, I was looking up at the School book depository. I couldn't see, all the windows were open -- not all of them, but most of them were open, and I didn't see anyone up there. Then I ran back and got on my motorcycle and I thought, well, maybe he might be on the other side, so I motored down underneath the underpass and looked on the other side and didn't see anyone over there, so I came back. And that was when we all surrounded the School book depository and took our positions around it. Marion Baker, one of our motorcycle officers was behind us, took the building manager and was going up the stairs to the upper floors of the School book depository and met Oswald coming down. And the building manager says, 'That's okay. He works here.' And Marion Baker had drop on him, had a handgun right on him. 'Course, Oswald was armed at that time. [Baker] let him pass, because the building manager said that he worked there. Well, they had found out, they went up there to where he'd eaten his lunch up there and found a bunch of chicken bones, and shells from the rifle.
TM: Did you park your bike?
Bobby: Yeah. I parked it. It didn't fall down. It was parked.
TM: What do you think about this when you look back? Here's this event, 35 years ago, you were just doing your business, instead you're an eyewitness to this historic event, this tragedy. What do you make of it all?
Bobby: Well, I've heard a lot of conflicting stories about it. And I don't really believe.... I think the simple explanation is Oswald was a nut case to begin with, and you look at his past record and you'll see. He was very mentally unstable. And Jack Ruby, we all knew Jack Ruby. I don't know how he got down underneath the underpass and shot Oswald because Jim Leavelle's right next to him. (nodding towards Leavelle)
TM: It's an event that will never go away.
Bobby: Yeah. We'll never know. You know, I have heard conflicting stories about Oswald and Ruby, but I don't believe them because Ruby was that kind. He was just a guy that had to be on top all the time. Had to get his name out there in public. I'm the only one of the motorcycle officers that [was] right beside the car that's still alive. Because Billy Joe Martin's dead. Jim Cheney is dead. And Douglas Jackson is dead. And all four of us were right next to the car.
TM: You told me the other day about the grassy knoll, that you came up with that
Bobby: I coined that word, for any better reason than saying grassy bank, I just said grassy knoll. And it stuck. I've seen movies with it, the grassy knoll. For want of a better word, 'grassy knoll.'
TM: Boy, it stuck.
Bobby: It stuck (laughing).
TM: (To Jim Leavelle) What were you doing during the month of November, 1963?
Jim Leavelle: I was a homicide detective.
TM: Where were you on November 22?
Jim: Since my partner was on vacation, I was assigned to cover anything that came in the office. And all my other cohorts in homicide were given different assignments, some of them on the street, a lot of them out at the trade mart, and two of them [were] in the motorcade.
TM: You had work to do on the 22nd. At what point did you come in contact with Lee Harvey Oswald?
Jim: After he was arrested, they brought him in and set him in the interrogation room and I talked to him strictly about the shooting of Officer Tippit. I didn't have any idea he was going to be a suspect in the Presidential assassination.
TM: As the reports of the crime came in, did it seem clear that this guy did the crime?
Jim: We didn't know at the time. 'Course, another thing that we didn't know was whether he was acting alone or had somebody with him and it took a lot of legwork and time for us to determine he actually was alone.
TM: So you had an opportunity to interrogate him?
Jim: I talked to him, yeah, about 10, maybe 15 minutes one-on-one before Captain Fritz and the other officers came back from the book depository, preparatory to going [to] look for him, and found out he was already there. When the Captain [came] in and asked me what his name was, and I told him, he asked me where he worked, and he said the book depository, he said, 'You're the one I want to talk to.' So, in essence, they took my prisoner away. I lost my prisoner. He and Chief Charles of the Secret Service.
TM: When did you see him again?
Jim: Oh, I saw him off and on for the next day or so, but I didn't talk to him because the powers that be were talking to him. But I spent my time making a case on it for the shooting of the officer.
TM: Now on the 24th, there was a transfer that had to be done. Why were you with Oswald then?
Jim: I imagine the reason I was with him is because I was working the day shift out of there and had been involved in everything from just shortly after the president was assassinated 'round up till that time. And had worked to make the case on Tippit. So, I don't know, just being there on duty that morning, I suppose, is the only reason I can think of. I'd like to think it was because I was the meanest and toughest one down there, but that ain't right. He had to be escorted, and like I said, I was working the day shift, I was in there, that was my job, and when we got ready to make the transfer, Captain Fritz said, 'Handcuff yourself to him.' The main reason for this was, because there'd been so many threats that they was going to take him away from us and do bodily harm to him, so with me handcuffed to him, if they took him, they'd have to take me too.
TM: He was handcuffed to your left wrist?
TM: On his right wrist?
TM: Anything said as you enter the basement?
Jim: Well, I said this several times, but anyway, I did tell him on the way down, I said, 'Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they're as good a shot as you are.' Meaning they'd hit him and not me. And he kind of laughed and he said, 'Ah, you're being melodramatic.' Or something like that. 'Nobody's going to shoot me.' I said, 'Well, if they do start, you know what to do, don't you?' He said, 'Well, Captain Fritz told me to follow you, and I'll do whatever you do.''
TM: And you're starting to walk out there. This is not your typical prisoner transfer.
Jim: No. Right. And another thing, that car was supposed to be sitting crossways on that ramp as it went out. But when they abandoned the armored motor deal, they [were] trying to back that car into position. As you would note in some of those pictures, especially the one that Jack shot in the Morning News, you see Ruby standing right in front of us with the gun there, everybody looks unconcerned. But I'm looking at the car off to my right as it's being backed into position. So, Jackson shot his less than half a second after Beers' shot was fired. He caught the actual, as the bullet hit Oswald. I tried to pull him behind me. I saw Jack when he came out of the crowd with that pistol, out of the corner of my eye...I could see Jack when he [came] out of the crowd with that pistol, but we timed it with the cameras, and it took a little less than a second and a half, or like two seconds, one-thousand-and-one, for that to take place. So you can't do too much in that length of time. I had jerked on him to pull him behind me, but I was so close to him instead of moving him, I just turned his body, and instead of hitting dead-center, it hit about four inches to the left of the navel and went all the way through and lodged just under the skin back here (around his back). And had it gone all the way through him, it would have hit me in roughly the same place over here. I could roll the bullet around just like that under the skin over here on this side. And the first thing I did when I got to the department in the trauma room, I told the doctor, 'Before you do anything else, I want that bullet out of there.' So he just pinched it up, and hit it with a scalpel and dropped it down into a tray that a nurse was holding, so I wrapped it in tissue and put it in an evidence bag, turned it in. I had her mark it while I watched it because I told her, 'You and I will both be testifying in this later on, so you mark it so you'll know it. I'll watch you.' I took the handcuffs off of him right after he was shot because there was no use me dragging him around laying like that, so I took the handcuffs off of him. Billy Combest helped me carry him back inside and lay him down and I gave Bill my handcuff key and he took the handcuffs off. 'Cause he wasn't going [anywhere] and there wasn't [any] use [in] me being handcuffed to him.
TM: Was he being worked on then?
Jim: Oh yeah. There was an intern by the name of.... name slips me right now, long name, German name...that was on duty, have to explain that part of it: The city had an agreement with the southwestern medical school, that they would furnish a senior intern down on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, to be on duty down in the basement of the City Hall in case they had some kind of emergency or something up in the jail, that they could call on to come up and take care of, it was usually minor stuff. Anyway, they had that contract with southwestern medical school and they had a senior intern there. And he was out there watching the transfer, so he was on the job just like that (snaps finger).
TM: Did Oswald say anything?
Jim: He never said a word all the time. I know it's been said many times that he made some dying declarations and this kind of stuff, but I tell you just like I did to everybody else, if he made any dying declarations, he made it after I locked him in the morgue, because he didn't make it before.
TM: What was going through your mind? Were you in officer mode?
Jim: I knew exactly what was happening and I just reacted to it. When you've been around as many years as I had been, let's see, nearly 14 years there already, when you're in there like that, like Bobby can tell you, when something like that happens, you just react to it.... Now if it'd been my first day or two, I'd of probably had to think. But if you're on the scene there and it takes place, you just react, you don't have to.... if you have to stop and think, you've already lost. You've already lost if you have to stop and think, 'cause you just react to it.
TM: Hindsight, was there any way, have you ever thought, 'Oh, if for this or that, it wouldn't have been this way?'
Jim: Well, if the chief had followed my suggestion that morning it wouldn't have happened. I talked to the chief that morning up on the first floor and I told him, I said, 'You know this elevator from the jail stops right here on the first floor.' And I said, 'We could take him off here on the first floor, put him in a car on Main Street and be in the county jail before any people realized we've even moved.' And his answer to me was, 'Leavelle, I've given my word they can film the transfer and I'm going to keep it.' So, if he'd have followed my suggestion, why, we'd have got him down there safely, we'd have got him in the county jail without any problem, we'd of got him to court without any problem, we could have got him convicted and got the death penalty on him, and he could still be down there on Death Row with appeals pending, 35 years later.
TM: Thirty-five years after the fact, what do you make of all this?
Jim: Same thing I did years ago there. He's assassinated, it's over with and done, and we ought to get on with it. Forget it. This is not helping anybody or doing anybody any good.
TM: Why do you think people won't let go of this?
Jim: I don't know. But you can get all kinds of stories. You heard some this morning. Some of them [are] surprising, 'cause I've heard them, too. I heard them back then. What's amazing to me is every time they retell it, it gets better. Isn't that right (to Bobby Hargis)?
Bobby: Yeah. Bigger and bigger.
Jim: I been hearing this fellow, just a few days ago, about a week or so ago, he was telling somebody about Oswald and Marina coming by his station where he worked and buying gasoline and that they'd come there that morning and put gas in their.... .Oswald couldn't even drive. He didn't have a driver's license. He couldn't drive. He didn't own a car. Neither could Marina drive. And here he's telling this bullshit about them coming by, putting gasoline in there, you can hear all kinds of stories. That's just part of it. Everybody wants to be in on the case. And I have talked to different organizations and colleges, and high schools in 8 different states. Just a couple years ago I was keynote speaker for the Pennsylvania State Police Chiefs Association. Everybody's still interested, it seems like. Not all of them are as big a fool as some of them I've heard around here. I heard a story, right in here this morning, from that young lady (Rosemary Willis Roach) and I've known her for several years, and I started to tell her, 'Honey, you've remembered more already than you had a year or two ago when I was on a program with you, and you [were] telling me everything.' Like that -- here's a good example: talking about that rifle firing and smoke coming out and all that kind of stuff.... What they don't realize is that the munitions makers back in the late forties got away from black powder and they went to smokeless powder and you can stand within 10 feet of a rifle and you can't see [any] smoke come out of it because all munitions are made of smokeless powder. It has been since the late forties. They don't realize that. And that last one, Oliver Stone was making his picture down there, and he started that, talking about that, and I said, 'Stone, that's a bunch of bullshit.' He had all these smoke bombs going off and you'd have thought the Battle of the Bulge had taken place there with all that smoke he had going down there.
TM: Why do people want to make more out of it
Jim: Well, they'd like to put themselves closer to the scene and have some part in it. I was talking to a group of people in West Texas and...there were some preachers in the group. One of them [came] up to me and he says, 'You know, I was almost right there, I was right there when that took place, I was driving right up Main Street when that shooting took place.' I didn't correct him because Main Street was blocked, there wasn't [any] moving traffic on it. [There} wasn't [any] traffic on it, but here was a preacher wanting to put himself into the picture. I'm sure he gets pleasure out of telling people that 'I was there.' You know if everybody was there on that grassy knoll that was there when they told me they'd been there, you couldn't put them in the damn Cotton Bowl. Right?
Bobby: Right (chuckling).
Jim: The only people over the last 35 years that told me they were, they had been there, you couldn't put them in the Cotton Bowl. (Had he lived) We could have proven without a doubt that he acted alone, that the rifle that he used, you could trace it from the place in Chicago, I can't think [of] the name of it right now. We could trace it two different ways. We had the serial number and we had his application. We could prove it from the serial number on the rifle that he ordered it. We could prove it by the application to the company, the handwriting analysts said yes, he filled this out. We could prove that it came to the box that he had rented in Dallas, the main post office. And the postal inspector with the handwriting on it proved he filled out the application for that mail box. So when you put all of these things together, and on top of that, even though he had this mailbox in a different name, when he went down to New Orleans, he transferred it down there under the name of Oswald. So that wasn't too smart, if you want to try to hide something. He had his mail transferred down there.
TM: Do you think he was just some guy who wanted to be somebody and here was this opportunity handed him on a silver platter?
Jim: Yeah. That's exactly it. Robert, his brother -- [who] I think is a fine fellow -- when he came in over from Russia, Robert met him up there, he looked all around and says, 'Where's all the cameras and newspapers?' He thought there was going to be a big bunch of people there. He was a man who defected to Russia and he announced he's coming back and he's going to be big news. He was disappointed. I forget what Robert said he told him, 'Well, I kind of gave them the slip.'
Bobby: I tell you what: you want to know how Oswald grew up weird like he was? If you'd have ever listened to his mother. His mother was a ding-a-ling. She was really awful. Way awful.
Jim: She cared no more about that boy than she did a molehill until this happened. And it's 'My dear son.' She could care less of what happened to him.
Bobby: It made me sick to watch her on TV. After all this has happened, she's talking about her poor son, what stress and stuff that had [been] put on her. That he wasn't guilty and he wasn't this and he wasn't that. She didn't know.
TM: We talk today about dysfunctional families. They didn't have that name back then, but moving all around, no father figure at home, father not there, and the stepfather that he likes she got rid of, and she kept jerking him around, we're going here, we're going there, every few months they're moving. That tells me a lot about this guy being troubled.
Jim: Putting him in a home somewhere like she did a few times.
Bobby: One more thing, I got to be going. You know when Kennedy was shot in the head, the big hole, and brain matter and blood and stuff had all come over and hit me as I rode through it. Well, I did all the rest of these things that I talked to you about, went up to the School book depository and waited there till I found out that he wasn't in the School book depository, then I walked over to the DSO, and while I was walking over to the DSO, a guy come up to me and offered me $17,000 for my helmet. And old Bud Brewer says, 'Bob, you got something on your lip.' And he did like that (flick at it) and it was a piece of Kennedy's brain and a piece of skull bone. I told the guy, 'You're going to have to talk to the City of Dallas 'cause it didn't belong to me.'
Jim: I never did ask you, how many shots did you remember hearing?
Bobby: Two. That's all.
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