J. D. Tippit: Wikis


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J. D. Tippit

Dallas Police Department

Dallas Police Department photo of Tippit in 1952
September 18, 1924(1924-09-18)–November 22, 1963 (aged 39)
Service/branch United States
Years of service 1952 – 1963
Relations Marie Frances Gasway
Edgar Lee Tippit and Lizzie Mae Rush

J. D. Tippit (September 18, 1924 – November 22, 1963) was a police officer with the Dallas, Texas Police Department who, according to numerous witnesses and multiple government investigations including the Warren Commission, was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald after Tippit stopped Oswald following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.



Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1944 – 1946
Unit 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of the Bulge
*Operation Varsity
Awards Bronze Star
World War II Victory Medal

Tippit was born in Clarksville, Red River County, Texas, to Edgar Lee Tippit, a farmer, and Lizzie Mae Rush. The Tippit and Rush families were of English ancestry, their ancestors having immigrated to Virginia from England by 1635.[1] It is sometimes reported that J.D. stood for "Jefferson Davis", but in fact, the letters did not stand for anything in particular.[2] Tippit attended public schools through the tenth grade and was raised as a Baptist. He entered the United States Army on July 21, 1944, and was assigned to the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 17th Airborne Division. He saw combat in Operation Varsity, the airborne crossing of the Rhine River in March 1945, earning a Bronze Star, and remained on active duty until June 20, 1946.

Tippit was married to Marie Frances Gasway on December 26, 1946, and the couple became the parents of three children. That same year, he went to work for the Dearborn Stove Company. He next worked for Sears, Roebuck and Company in the installation department from March 1948 to September 1949, when he moved to Lone Star, Texas, and attempted cattle raising.

Tippit attended a Veterans Administration vocational training school at Bogata, Texas, from January 1950 until June 1952. He was then hired by the Dallas Police Department as a patrolman on July 28, 1952. Officer Tippit served capably and was cited for bravery in 1956 for his role in disarming a fugitive.

At the time of his death, Tippit was assigned to Dallas Police vehicle #10, had badge #848 and was earning a salary of $5,880 a year as a Dallas police officer ($41,500 in 2009 dollars). He was also working two other part-time jobs.

Murder by Lee Harvey Oswald

Tippit's squad car on E. 10th Street in Dallas shortly after his shooting.

On November 22, 1963, J.D. Tippit was working beat number 78, his normal patrol area in south Oak Cliff, a residential area of the city.[3] At 12:45 p.m., 15 minutes after the assassination, Tippit received an order by radio to proceed to the central Oak Cliff area as part of a concentration of patrol car activity around the center of the city. At 12:54 Tippit radioed that he had moved as directed. Tippit had heard his radio broadcast several messages alerting the police to the suspect described by a witness at the scene of the assassination[4] of a slender white male, about 30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) tall, and weighing about 165 pounds (75 kg). The description resembled that of Lee Harvey Oswald.[5]

At approximately 1:11–1:14 p.m.,[6] Tippit was driving slowly in an easterly direction on East 10th Street in Oak Cliff. About 100 feet (30 m) past the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue, Tippit pulled up alongside Oswald, who was walking in the same direction.[7] Oswald then walked over to Tippit's car, and apparently exchanged words with Tippit through the open vent window.[8] Tippit opened the door on the left side and started to walk around the front of his car. As he reached the front wheel on the driver's side, Oswald drew a revolver and fired several shots in rapid succession, hitting Tippit three times in the chest. He then walked up to Tippit's fallen body and shot him directly in the head, killing him instantly.

Twelve people witnessed the shooting or its aftermath.[9] Domingo Benavides saw a policeman standing by the left door of the police car parked along the side of the street, and a man standing at the right side of the parked police car. When he heard shots and saw the policeman fall to the ground, he stopped his pickup truck on the opposite side of the street near Tippit's car. He observed the shooter fleeing the scene, removing the empty cartridge cases from the gun as he went. After waiting in his truck until the gunman disappeared, Benavides rushed to Tippit's side, and finding him apparently dead, attempted to report the shooting to police headquarters over the radio in Tippit's car.[10] Helen Markham witnessed the shooting and then saw the man with a gun in his hand leave the scene.[11] Markham identified Lee Harvey Oswald as Tippit’s killer in a police lineup she viewed that evening.[12] Barbara Jeanette Davis and her sister-in-law Virginia Davis heard the shots and saw the killer crossing their lawn and shaking a revolver as if he were emptying it of cartridge cases. Later each woman found a cartridge case near the scene and submitted them to police. On the evening of November 22, Barbara Jeanette Davis and Virginia Davis viewed a group of four men in a lineup and each one picked Oswald as the man who crossed their lawn while emptying his pistol.[13]

William W. Scoggins, sitting in his taxicab nearby, saw a police car pull up alongside a man on the sidewalk, the man approach the police car, and a police officer exit the car. He heard three or four shots, and then saw the policeman fall. As Scoggins crouched behind his cab on the street side, he saw the man leave from the scene with a pistol in hand, passing within twelve feet of him, and muttering words which sounded to him like "poor dumb cop" or "poor damn cop."[14] The next day Scoggins viewed a lineup of four men and identified Oswald as the man whom he had seen.

The Commission also named several other witnesses[15] who were not at the scene of the murder, but who did see a man they identified as Oswald running between the murder scene and the Texas Theater, where he was subsequently arrested.[16]

Four cartridge cases were found at the scene by eyewitnesses. It was the unanimous testimony of expert witnesses before the Warren Commission that these used cartridge cases were fired from the revolver in Oswald's possession to the exclusion of all other weapons.[17]


Criticism of the case against Oswald

Since the Warren Commission Report was published in 1964, some researchers have uncovered evidence and witness testimony that calls into question some of the Commission conclusions regarding Tippit’s murder. Some of this evidence indicates that Oswald may have had an accomplice in the killing, or that possibly Tippit was killed by an assailant other than Oswald.

According to some researchers, the murder may have occurred earlier than the time of 1:15 p.m. given in the Warren Report. The timing is of critical importance, because Oswald is known to have arrived at his rooming house at around 1:00 p.m.,[18] then to have left 3 to 4 minutes later[19] and finally to have been seen a moment later standing by the corner bus stop.[20]

The Commission’s own test[21] and estimation of Oswald’s walking speed[22] demonstrated that one route to the Tippit shooting scene took 17 minutes and 45 seconds to walk.[23] No witness ever surfaced who saw Oswald walk from his rooming house to the murder scene.[24] Additionally, although the Commission stated in its Report that Domingo Benavides called police from Tippit’s radio immediately after the killing, Benavides had testified that he did not approach the car "for a few minutes" after the shooting.[25] He was also assisted in using the radio by T.F. Bowley, who testified to Dallas police that he had arrived at the scene after the murder, and that the time was 1:10 p.m.[26] Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig also stated that when he heard the news that Tippit had been shot he noted the time was 1:06 p.m. according to his watch.[27] Eyewitness Helen Markham said the shooting occurred "possibly around 1:30 p.m."[28]

Only two Commission witnesses were identified as actually having seen the shooting, Helen Markham and Domingo Benavides. Joseph Ball, senior counsel to the Commission, has referred to Markham's testimony as "full of mistakes," and characterized her as "utterly unreliable."[29] Markham made numerous false statements before the Commission, such as claiming to have been alone with Tippit's body for twenty minutes after the killing.[30]

Benavides was not taken to a police lineup. He later testified that he had told police after the killing that he did not think he could identify the assailant,[31] but he did say that the killer resembled pictures he had seen of Oswald.

Additionally, certain witnesses who did not appear before the Commission identified an assailant who was not Oswald. Both Acquilla Clemons and Frank Wright witnessed the scene from their respective homes within one block of the murder. Clemons saw two men near Tippit’s car just before the shooting. After the shooting she ran outside and saw a man with a gun, whom she described as "kind of heavy". He waved to the second man, urging him to "go on".[32] Frank Wright also emerged from his home and observed the scene seconds after the shooting. He described a man standing by Tippit’s body who had on a long coat, and who immediately ran to a car and left the scene.[33]

There is also evidence to indicate that the cartridge shells recovered from the scene may not have been those subsequently entered into evidence. Two of the shells recovered at the scene were given to police officer J.M. Poe. Poe testified to the Commission that he believed that he had marked the shells with his initials, although he couldn’t "swear to it".[34] However, no initials were found on the shells later produced by the police.[35] Poe later told researchers that he was absolutely certain that he had marked the shells.[36] Further the appearance of cartridge shells at the crime scene raises question for some because, according to Officer Hill, who took possession of Oswald's revolver at his arrest, the gun's six chambers were fully loaded with unspent cartridges and that Oswald had no ammunition on his person.[37]

William Alexander, the Dallas assistant district attorney who had recommended that Oswald be charged with the Kennedy and Tippit murders, has also been critical of the Commission's version of the murder, stating that its conclusions on Oswald's movements "did not add up", and that "certainly, he may have had accomplices."[38]


On the evening of the assassination, both Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, called Tippit's widow to express their sympathies. Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a letter expressing sorrow for the bond they shared. The plight of Tippit's family also moved much of the nation and a total of $647,579 ($4.5 million in 2009) was donated to them following the assassination. One of the largest individual gifts was the $25,000 ($176,600 in 2009) that Abraham Zapruder donated after selling his film of the assassination.

A funeral service for J.D. Tippit was held on November 25, 1963, at the Beckley Hills Baptist Church, with the burial following at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas.

In January 1964, Tippit was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor from the American Police Hall of Fame, and he also received the Police Medal of Honor, the Police Cross, and the Citizens Traffic Commission Award of Heroism.

Tippit's widow married Dallas police lieutenant Harry Dean Thomas in January 1967.

In movies, Tippit has been portrayed by Price Carson in 1991's JFK, and David Duchovny in 1992's Ruby.


  1. ^ Skordas Gust, The Early Settlers of Maryland: An Index To Names of Immigrants Compiled From Records of Land Patents, 1633–1680, in The Hall of Records, Annapolis, Maryland, 1968, Genealogical Publishing Co., p.465
  2. ^ Dale K. Myers, "Biography: A Boy Named J.D.", J.D. Tippit Official Home Page.
  3. ^ Warren Commission Report, Chapter 4 — The Assassin, The Killing of Patrolman J. D. Tippit, p. 165.
  4. ^ Warren Commission Report, page 5.
  5. ^ Oswald was 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kg). Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, p. 521.
  6. ^ The first report of Tippit's shooting was transmitted over Police Channel 1 some time between 1:16 and 1:19 p.m., as indicated by verbal time stamps made periodically by the dispatcher. Specifically, the first report began 1 minute 41 seconds after the 1:16 time stamp. Before that, witness Domingo Benavides could be heard unsuccessfully trying to use Tippit's police radio microphone, beginning at 1:16. Dale K. Myers, With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit, 1998, p. 384. ISBN 0-9662709-7-5.
  7. ^ Warren Commission Report, page 7.
  8. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 19, p. 113, Barnes Exhibit A, Right side of Tippit squad car, showing open wing vent window. Mrs. Markham was on the opposite side of the street and a half block back.
  9. ^ By the evening of November 22, five of them (Helen Markham, Barbara Jeanette Davis, Virginia Davis, Ted Callaway, Sam Guinyard) had identified Lee Harvey Oswald in police lineups as the man they saw. A sixth (William Scoggins) did so the next day. Three others (Harold Russell, Pat Patterson, Warren Reynolds) subsequently identified Oswald from a photograph. Two witnesses (Domingo Benavides, William Arthur Smith) testified that Oswald resembled the man they had seen. One witness (L.J. Lewis) felt he was too distant from the gunman to make a positive identification. Warren Commission Hearings, CE 1968, Location of Eyewitnesses to the Movements of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Vicinity of the Tippit Killing.
  10. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 6, Testimony of Domingo Benavides.
  11. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 305, Testimony of Mrs. Helen Markham.
  12. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 318, Testimony of Helen Markham.
  13. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 342, Testimony of Mrs. Barbara Jeanette Davis. Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 6, p. 454, Testimony of Mrs. Charlie Virginia Davis.
  14. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 322, Testimony of William W. Scoggins.
  15. ^ Warren Commission Report, pp. 166–169. Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 23, p. 817, CE 1968, Location of eyewitnesses to the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald in the vicinity of the Tippit killing.
  16. ^ Warren Commission Report, page 8.
  17. ^ Warren Commission Report, Appendix 10: Expert Testimony, Revolver Cartridges and Cartridge Cases.
  18. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 6, p. 440, Testimony of Earlene Roberts. His housekeeper testified that "it must have been around 1 o'clock, or maybe a little after," but then concluded, "what time I wouldn't want to say." The Warren Commission estimated that Oswald arrived at his rooming house "about 12:59 to 1 p.m." (Warren Commission Report, Chapter 4: The Assassin, p. 163). The HSCA, in its reconstruction of the event, concluded Oswald arrived at “approximately 12:55 P.M.” (HSCA Record 180-10115-10004, September 19, 1977, p. 2).
  19. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, 4H438, testimony of Earlene Roberts, 4/8/64
  20. ^ Warren Commission 7H439, affidavit of Earlene Roberts 12/5/63.
  21. ^ Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 6, p.434, Testimony of William W. Whaley. The route Commission investigators walked "at an average walking pace" to the Tippit shooting site in 17 minutes 45 seconds was described in testimony as the "long way around route", and "not the most direct route."
  22. ^ calculated from the time of events given in the Warren Report by researcher Sylvia Meagher, see Accessories After the Fact, Vintage Books, ISBN 0679743154, p. 255
  23. ^ Other researchers disagree. The distance from Oswald's rooming house to the site of Tippit's shooting is 0.85 miles (1.4 km). A person walking at a pace of 4 miles (6.4 km) per hour would take 12 minutes 45 seconds to make the journey. Oswald's housekeeper testified that when he entered, "he was all but running."
  24. ^ Hurt, Henry, Reasonable Doubt, Henry Holt & Co., 1988. ISBN 0030040590 p.145
  25. ^ Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VI, p.448
  26. ^ Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXIV, p.202
  27. ^ Craig, Roger, When They Kill a President, 1971, ASIN: B00072DT18. Yet Craig wrote in that same account,
    At that exact moment [of the discovery of Oswald's rifle in the Texas School Book Depository] an unknown Dallas police officer came running up the stairs and advised Capt. Fritz that a Dallas policeman had been shot in the Oak Cliff area. I instinctively looked at my watch. The time was 1:06 p.m. A token force of uniformed officers was left to keep the sixth floor secure and Fritz, Day, Boone, Mooney, Weitzman and I left the building.
    Oswald's rifle was in fact discovered about 1:22 p.m. (Testimony of Seymour Weitzman, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 7, p. 109) Craig gave an even later time for the Tippit shooting — 1:40 p.m. — in an interview with Penn Jones published in the Los Angeles Free Press in March 1968. He accepted Jones' correction that it was "a little before 1:15."
  28. ^ FBI report of interview with Helen Markham on November 22, 1963, Warren Commission Document 5, FBI Gemberling Report, p. 79.
  29. ^ Summers, Anthony, Not in Your Lifetime, Warner Books, 1998, ISBN 0751518409, p. 68.
  30. ^ Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XX, p.590
  31. ^ Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VI, p. 452
  32. ^ Summers, Anthony, Not in Your Lifetime, Warner Books, 1998, ISBN 0751518409, pp. 70–1. Two eyewitnesses to the aftermath, Sam Guinyard and Ted Callaway, ran to 10th and Patton and found Tippit lying in the street beside his car. Callaway picked up Tippit's gun, which lay beneath him outside of the holster. He and Scoggins attempted to chase down the gunman in Scoggin's taxicab. Warren Commission Report, p. 169.
  33. ^ Interview November 12, 1964 by George and Patricia Nash for The New Leader, also, Anthony Summers. Wright claimed that the killer escaped the crime scene in a gray automobile; he later altered his story, claiming that it was another man who drove off in the gray coupe, while the killer ran alongside, yelling back and forth with the driver. Myers, pp. 76–78.
  34. ^ Warren Commission Hearings Vol. VII, p.69
  35. ^ Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXIV, pp. 131–5.
  36. ^ Hurt, Henry, Reasonable Doubt, Henry Holt & Co., 1988. ISBN 0030040590 p.153
  37. ^ Groden, Robert, "The Killing of a President," Penguin Books, 1993 ISBN 0-670-85267-8 pp. 97–100.
  38. ^ Summers, Anthony, p. 75.

Further reading

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