The Last Words of Lee Harvey Oswald
Compiled by Mae Brussell
(from The People's Almanac #2)
Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone in shooting Pres. John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, or did he conspire with others? Was he serving as an agent of Cuba's Fidel Castro, himself the target of American assassins? Or in squeezing the trigger of his carbine was he undertaking some super "dirty trick" for a CIA anxious to rid itself of a president whose faith in the "company" had evaporated in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco? Or was he representing a group of Cuban exiles, the Teamsters Union, the Mafia? Indeed, was it Lee Harvey Oswald at all who killed JFK? Or was there a double impersonating Oswald? These questions continue to nag many people more than a decade and a half after that dreadful day in Dallas, in spite of the 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits served up by the Warren Commission, the congressional investigations, the release of heretofore classified FBI documents.
Almost everyone, it seems, has been heard from on the Kennedy assassination and on Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt or innocence, except one person -- Lee Harvey Oswald himself. From the time of Oswald's arrest to his own assassination at the hands of Jack Ruby, no formal transcript or record was kept of statements made by the alleged killer. It was said that no tape recordings were made of Oswald's remarks, and many notes taken of his statements were destroyed.
Determined to learn Oswald's last words, his only testimony, The People's Almanac assigned one of the leading authorities on the Kennedy assassination, Mae Brussell, to compile every known statement or remark made by Oswald between his arrest and death. The quotes, edited for space and clarity, are based on the recollections of a variety of witnesses present at different times and are not verbatim transcripts. "After 14 years of research on the JFK assassination," Mae Brussell concludes, "I am of the opinion that Lee Harvey Oswald was telling the truth about his role in the assassination during these interrogations."
12:30 P.M., CST, NOV. 22, 1963
Pres. John F. Kennedy Assassinated
Lee Harvey Oswald left work, entered a bus, and said, "Transfer, please."
12:40 - 12:45 P.M.
Oswald got off the bus, entered a cab, and said, "May I have this cab?" A woman approached, wanting a cab, and Oswald said, "I will let you have this one. . . . 500 North Beckley Street [instructions to William Whaley, driver of another cab]. . . . This will be fine." Oswald departed cab and walked a few blocks.
1:15 P.M. Officer J. D. Tippit Murdered
1:45 P.M. Arrest at the Texas Theater
"This is it" or "Well, it's all over now." Oswald arrested. (Patrolman M. N. McDonald heard these remarks. Other officers who were at the scene did not hear them.) "I don't know why you are treating me like this. The only thing I have done is carry a pistol into a movie. . . . I don't see why you handcuffed me. . . . Why should I hide my face? I haven't done anything to be ashamed of. . . . I want a lawyer. . . . I am not resisting arrest. . . . I didn't kill anybody. . . . I haven't shot anybody. . . . I protest this police brutality. . . . I fought back there, but I know I wasn't supposed to be carrying a gun. . . . What is this all about?"
2:00 - 2:15 P.M. Drive to Police Dept.
"What is this all about? . . . I know my rights. . . . A police officer has been killed? . . . I hear they burn for murder. Well, they say it just takes a second to die. . . . All I did was carry a gun. . . . No, Hidell is not my real name. . . . I have been in the Marine Corps, have a dishonorable discharge, and went to Russia. . . . I had some trouble with police in New Orleans for passing out pro-Castro literature. . . . Why are you treating me this way? . . . I am not being handled right. . . . I demand my rights."
2:15 P.M. Taken into Police Dept.
2:15 - 2:20 P.M.
"Talked to" by officers Guy F. Rose and Richard S. Stovall. No notes.
2:25 - 4:04 P.M. Interrogation of Oswald, Office of Capt Will Fritz
"My name is Lee Harvey Oswald. . . . I work at the Texas School Book Depository Building. . . . I lived in Minsk and in Moscow. . . . I worked in a factory. . . . I liked everything over there except the weather. . . . I have a wife and some children. . . . My residence is 1026 North Beckley, Dallas, Tex." Oswald recognized FBI agent James Hosty and said, "You have been at my home two or three times talking to my wife. I don't appreciate your coming out there when I was not there. . . . I was never in Mexico City. I have been in Tijuana. . . . Please take the handcuffs from behind me, behind my back. . . . I observed a rifle in the Texas School Book Depository where I work, on Nov. 20, 1963. . . . Mr. Roy Truly, the supervisor, displayed the rifle to individuals in his office on the first floor. . . . I never owned a rifle myself. . . . I resided in the Soviet Union for three years, where I have many friends and relatives of my wife. . . . I was secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans a few months ago. . . . While in the Marines, I received an award for marksmanship as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. . . . While living on Beckley Street, I used the name 0. H. Lee. . . . I was present in the Texas School Book Depository Building, I have been employed there since Oct. 15, 1963. . . . As a laborer, I have access to the entire building. . . . My usual place of work is on the first floor. However, I frequently use the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh floors to get books. I was on all floors this morning. . . . Because of all the confusion, I figured there would be no work performed that afternoon so I decided to go home. . . . I changed my clothing and went to a movie. . . . I carried a pistol with me to the movie because I felt like it, for no other reason. . . . I fought the Dallas Police who arrested me in the movie theater where I received a cut and a bump. . . . I didn't shoot Pres. John F. Kennedy or Officer J. D. Tippit. . . . An officer struck me, causing the marks on my left eye, after I had struck him. . . . I just had them in there," when asked why he had bullets in his pocket.
NBC newsman Bill Ryan announced on national television that "Lee Oswald seems to be the prime suspect in the assassination of John F. Kennedy."
4:45 P.M. At a Lineup for Helen Markham, Witness to Tippit Murder
"It isn't right to put me in line with these teenagers. . . . You know what you are doing, and you are trying to railroad me. . . . I want my lawyer. . . . You are doing me an injustice by putting me out there dressed different than these other men. . . . I am out there, the only one with a bruise on his head. . . . I don t believe the lineup is fair, and I desire to put on a jacket similar to those worn by some of the other individuals in the lineup. . . . All of you have a shirt on, and I have a T-shirt on. I want a shirt or something. . . . This T-shirt is unfair."
4:45 - 6:30 P.M. Second Interrogation of Oswald, Captain Fritz's Office
"When I left the Texas School Book Depository, I went to my room, where I changed my trousers, got a pistol, and went to a picture show. . . . You know how boys do when they have a gun, they carry it. . . . Yes, I had written the Russian Embassy. (On Nov. 9, 1963, Oswald had written to the Russian Embassy that FBI agent James Hosty was making some kind of deals with Marina, and he didn't trust "the notorious FBI.") . . . Mr. Hosty, you have been accosting my wife. You mistreated her on two different occasions when you talked with her. . . . I know you. Well, he threatened her. He practically told her she would have to go back to Russia. You know, I can't use a phone. . . . I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don't know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act, [which made it illegal to teach or advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government] . . . I don't know him personally, but that is the attorney I want. . . . If I can't get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney."
"I went to school in New York and in Fort Worth, Tex. . . . After getting into the Marines, I finished my high school education. . . . I support the Castro revolution. . . . My landlady didn't understand my name correctly, so it was her idea to call me 0. H. Lee. . . . I want to talk with Mr. Abt, a New York attorney. . . . The only package I brought to work was my lunch. . . . I never had a card to the Communist party. . . . I am a Marxist, but not a Leninist-Marxist. . . . I bought a pistol in Fort Worth several months ago. . . . I refuse to tell you where the pistol was purchased. . . . I never ordered any guns. . . . I am not malcontent. Nothing irritated me about the President." When Capt. Will Fritz asked Oswald, "Do you believe in a deity?" Oswald replied, "I don't care to discuss that." "How can I afford a rifle on the Book Depository salary of $1.25 an hour? . . . John Kennedy had a nice family. . . ." (Sheriff Roger Craig saw Oswald enter a white station wagon 15 minutes after the assassination. Oswald confirmed this in Captain Fritz's office. A man impersonating Oswald in Dallas just prior to the assassination could have been on the bus and in the taxicab.) "That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Ruth Paine. Don't try to tie her into this. She had nothing to do with it. I told you people I did. . . . Everybody will know who I am now."
"Can I get an attorney?. . . I have not been given the opportunity to have counsel. . . . As I said, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee has definitely been investigated, that is very true. . . . The results of that investigation were zero. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee is not now on the attorney general's subversive list."
6:30 P.M. Lineup for Witnesses Cecil J. McWatters, Sam Guinyard, and Ted Callaway
"I didn't shoot anyone," Oswald yelled in the halls to reporters. . . . "I want to get in touch with a lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City. . . . I never killed anybody."
7:10 P.M. Arraignment: State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald for Murder with Malice of Officer J. D. Tippit of the Dallas Police Dept.
"I insist upon my constitutional rights. . . . The way you are treating me, I might as well be in Russia. . . . I was not granted my request to put on a jacket similar to those worn by other individuals in some previous lineups."
7:50 P.M. Lineup for Witness J. D. Davis
"I have been dressed differently than the other three. . . . Don't you know the difference? I still have on the same clothes I was arrested in. The other two were prisoners, already in jail." Seth Kantor, reporter, heard Oswald yell, "I am only a patsy."
7:55 P.M. Third Interrogation, Captain Fritz's Office
"I think I have talked long enough. I don't have anything else to say. . . . What started out to be a short interrogation turned out to be rather lengthy. . . . I don't care to talk anymore. . . . I am waiting for someone to come forward to give me legal assistance. . . . It wasn't actually true as to how I got home. I took a bus, but due to a traffic jam, I left the bus and got a taxicab, by which means I actually arrived at my residence."
8:55 P.M. Fingerprints, Identification Paraffin Tests -- All in Fritz's Office
"I will not sign the fingerprint card until I talk to my attorney. [Oswald's name is on the card anyway.] . . . What are you trying to prove with this paraffin test, that I fired a gun? . . . You are wasting your time. I don't know anything about what you are accusing me."
11:00 - 11:20 P.M. "Talked To" by Police Officer John Adamcik and FBI Agent M. Clements
"I was in Russia two years and liked it in Russia. . . . I am 5 ft. 9 in., weigh 140 lb., have brown hair, blue-gray eyes, and have no tattoos or permanent scars."
(Oswald had mastoidectomy scars and left upper-arm scars, both noted in Marine records. "Warren Report," pp. 614-618, lists information from Oswald obtained during this interview about members of his family, past employment, past residences.)
11:20 - 11:25 P.M. Lineup for Press Conference; Jack Ruby Present
When newsmen asked Oswald about his black eye, he answered, "A cop hit me." When asked about the earlier arraignment, Oswald said "Well, I was questioned by Judge Johnston. However, I protested at that time that I was not allowed legal representation during that very short and sweet hearing. I really don't know what the situation is about. Nobody has told me anything except that I am accused of murdering a policeman. I know nothing more than that, and I do request someone to come forward to give me legal assistance." When asked, "Did you kill the President?" Oswald replied, "No. I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question. . . . I did not do it. I did not do it. . . . I did not shoot anyone."
12:23 A.M., NOV. 23, 1963 Placed in Jail Cell
12:35 A.M. Released by Jailer
Oswald complained, "This is the third set of fingerprints, photographs being taken."
1:10 A.M. Back in Jail Cell
1:35 A.M. Arraignment: State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald for the Murder with Malice of John F. Kennedy
"Well, sir, I guess this is the trial. . . . I want to contact my lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City. I would like to have this gentleman. He is with the American Civil Liberties Union." (John J. Abt now in private practice in New York, was the general counsel for the Senate Sub-Committee on Civil Liberties from 1935-1937, and later served as legal adviser for the Progressive party from 1948-1951. Mr. Abt has never been a member of the ACLU.)
10:30 A.M.-1:10 P.M. Interrogation, Capt. Will Fritz's Office
"I said I wanted to contact Attorney Abt, New York. He defended the Smith Act cases in 1949, 1950, but I don't know his address, except that it is in New York. . . . I never owned a rifle. . . . Michael Paine owned a car, Ruth Paine owned two cars. . . . Robert Oswald, my brother, lives in Fort Worth. He and the Paines were closest friends in town. . . . The FBI has thoroughly interrogated me at various other times. . . . They have used their hard and soft approach to me, and they use the buddy system. . . . I am familiar with all types of questioning and have no intention of making any statements. . . . In the past three weeks the FBI has talked to my wife. They were abusive and impolite. They frightened my wife, and I consider their activities obnoxious."
(When arrested, Oswald had FBI Agent James Hosty's home phone and office phone numbers and car license number in his possession.)
"I was arrested in New Orleans for disturbing the peace and paid a $10 fine for demonstrating for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. I had a fight with some anti-Castro refugees and they were released while I was fined. . . . I refuse to take a polygraph. It has always been my practice not to agree to take a polygraph . . . The FBI has overstepped their bounds in using various tactics in interviewing me. . . . I didn't shoot John Kennedy. . . . I didn't even know Gov. John Connally had been shot. . . . I don't own a rifle. . . . I didn't tell Buell Wesley Frazier anything about bringing back some curtain rods. . . . My wife lives with Mrs. Ruth Paine. She [Mrs. Paine] was learning Russian. They needed help with the young baby, so it made a nice arrangement for both of them. . . . I don't know Mrs. Paine very well, but Mr. Paine and his wife were separated a great deal of the time."
(Michael Paine worked at Bell Aerospace as a scientific engineer. His boss, Walter Dornberger, was a Nazi war criminal. The first call, the "tipoff," on Oswald, came from Bell Aerospace.)
"The garage at the Paines' house has some seabags that have a lot of my personal belongings. I left them after coming back from New Orleans in September. . . . The name Alek Hidell was picked up while working in New Orleans in the Fair Play for Cuba organization. . . . I speak Russian, correspond with people in Russia, and receive newspapers from Russia. . . . I don't own a rifle at all. . . . I did have a small rifle some years in the past. You can't buy a rifle in Russia, you can only buy shotguns. I had a shotgun in Russia and hunted some while there. I didn't bring the rifle from New Orleans. . . . I am not a member of the Communist party. . . . I belong to the Civil Liberties Union. . . . I did carry a package to the Texas School Book Depository. I carried my lunch, a sandwich and fruit, which I made at Paine's house. . . . I had nothing personal against John Kennedy."