J. D. Tippit

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J. D. Tippit
J. D. Tippit in his Dallas Police Department photo distributed in 1963.jpg
Tippit c. 1963
Born(1924-09-18)September 18, 1924
DiedNovember 22, 1963(1963-11-22) (aged 39)
Dallas, Texas
Cause of deathHomicide (Gunshot wound)
Resting placeLaurel Land Memorial Park
Dallas, Texas, US
32°40′29.06″N96°49′13.16″W / 32.6747389°N 96.8203222°W / 32.6747389; -96.8203222
Marie Frances (née Gasway)
(m. 1946)
Police career
Country Flag of the United States.svg United States of America
AllegianceFlag of Dallas.svg Dallas
Department Dallas Police Department
Service years1952–63
Rank Patrolman
Badge no.848
AwardsCertificate of Merit (1957)
Medal of Valor †
Police Medal of Honor †
Police Cross †
Citizens Traffic Commission Award of Heroism †
† posthumously
Memorials Historical marker on SH 37 at
CR 1280 southwest of Clarksville
(dedicated November 17, 2001) [1]
 Historical marker on northeast corner of East 10th Street and South Patton Avenue in Dallas
(dedicated November 20, 2012) [2]

J. D. Tippit (September 18, 1924 – November 22, 1963) was an American police officer who served as an 11-year veteran with the Dallas Police Department. [3] About 45 minutes after the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Tippit was shot dead in a residential neighborhood in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was initially arrested for the murder of Tippit and was subsequently arrested for killing President Kennedy. Oswald was charged with both crimes shortly after his arrest.


Early life

J. D. Tippit was born near the town of Annona, Texas, in Red River County. [4] He was the eldest of seven children [5] (two girls and five boys) to Edgar Lee Tippit (1902–2006), [6] a sharecropper cotton farmer, [6] and Lizzie Mae "May Bug" Tippit (née Rush; 1905–1990). [3] [7] [4] [8] The Tippit and Rush families were of English ancestry, their ancestors having immigrated to Virginia from England by 1635. [9] It is sometimes reported that J. D. stood for "Jefferson Davis", but in fact, the letters did not stand for anything. [10]

Tippit attended public schools through the tenth grade and was raised as a Baptist, a faith he practiced for the rest of his life. [8] In the fall of 1939, when he was 15 years old, his family moved to Baker Lane, a stretch of dirt road six miles southwest from Clarksville, Texas. [3] 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, [11] [12] and remained on active duty until June 20, 1946.


Tippit began working for the Dearborn Stove Company in 1946. He next worked for Sears, Roebuck and Company in the installation department from March 1948 to September 1949 when he was laid off. [13] Tippit and his wife Marie moved to Lone Star, Texas, where Tippit attempted to farm and raise cattle. [4] [8]

In January 1950, Tippit enrolled in a Veterans Administration vocational training school at Bogata, Texas. He left the school in June 1952. [4] After several setbacks as a farmer and rancher, Tippit decided to become a police officer. [8] The Tippit family then relocated to Dallas where Tippit was hired by the Dallas Police Department as a patrolman in July 1952. [12] During his time with the Dallas Police Department, Officer Tippit was cited twice for bravery. [14]

At the time of his death, Tippit was assigned to Dallas Police vehicle #10, had badge #848 and was earning a monthly salary of $490 (equivalent to $4,092in 2019) as a Dallas police officer. [15] [16] He was also working two part-time jobs; he worked at Austin's Barbecue restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights and at the Stevens Park Theatre on Sundays. [17]

Murder and investigation

Murder of J. D. Tippit
Part of Assassination of John F. Kennedy
LocationEast 10th Street and South Patton Avenue, Dallas, Texas
Coordinates 32°44′50″N96°49′06″W / 32.74722°N 96.81833°W / 32.74722; -96.81833 Coordinates: 32°44′50″N96°49′06″W / 32.74722°N 96.81833°W / 32.74722; -96.81833
DateNovember 22, 1963 (1963-11-22)
1:04–1:07 p.m. [18] (CST)
Attack type
Weapon Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 Special revolver
Perpetrator Lee Harvey Oswald

On November 22, 1963, Tippit was working beat number 78, his normal patrol area in south Oak Cliff, a residential area of Dallas. [19]

At 12:45 p.m., 15 minutes after Kennedy was shot, Tippit received a radio order to drive to the central Oak Cliff area as part of a concentration of police around the center of the city. At 12:54, Tippit radioed that he had moved as directed. By then, several messages had been broadcast describing a suspect in the shooting at Dealey Plaza [20] as a slender white male, in his early 30s, 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) tall, and weighing about 165 lb (75 kg). Lee Harvey Oswald was a slender white male, 24 years old, 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) tall, and an estimated weight of 150 lb (68 kg) at autopsy. [21]

At approximately 1:11–1:14 p.m., [18] Tippit was driving slowly eastward on East 10th Street — about 100 feet (30 m) past the intersection of 10th Street and Patton Avenue — when he pulled alongside a man who resembled the police description. [22] [23] Oswald allegedly walked over to Tippit's car and exchanged words with him through an open vent window. [24] Tippit opened his car door and as he walked toward the front of the car, Oswald allegedly drew his handgun and fired four shots in rapid succession. One bullet hit Tippit in the chest, one in the stomach, another in his right temple (one bullet hit a button and did not penetrate his skin). Tippit's body was transported from the scene of the shooting by ambulance to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:25 p.m. by Dr. Richard A. Liguori. [7]

A short time later, Hardy's shoe store manager Johnny Brewer observed Oswald acting suspiciously as police cars passed nearby with sirens blaring. Oswald then ducked into the Texas Theatre without purchasing a ticket. The police were notified by the theater's cashier and responded by surrounding the theater. Oswald was arrested after a brief struggle. [25]

Location on East 10th Street marked by an "X" where Oswald allegedly killed Tippit in Oak Cliff neighborhood X Marks Spot Where Oswald Killed Officer J.D. Tippit - Oak Cliff Neighborhood - Dallas - Texas - USA (19474820384).jpg
Location on East 10th Street marked by an "X" where Oswald allegedly killed Tippit in Oak Cliff neighborhood

Twelve people who witnessed the shooting or its aftermath were mentioned in The Warren Report. [26] Domingo Benavides saw Tippit standing by the left door of his parked police car, and a man standing on the right side of the car. He then heard shots and saw Tippit fall to the ground. Benavides stopped his pickup truck on the opposite side of the street from Tippit's car. He observed the shooter fleeing the scene and removing spent cartridge cases from his gun as he left.

Benavides waited in his truck until the gunman disappeared before assisting Tippit. He then reported the shooting to police headquarters, using the radio in Tippit's car. [27] Helen Markham witnessed the shooting and then saw a man with a gun in his hand leave the scene. [28] Markham identified Oswald as Tippit's killer in a police lineup she viewed that evening. [29] Barbara Davis and her sister-in-law Virginia Davis heard the shots and saw a man crossing their lawn, shaking his revolver, as if he were emptying it of cartridge cases. Later, the women found two cartridge cases near the crime scene and handed the cases over to police. That evening, Barbara Davis and Virginia Davis were taken to a lineup and both Davises picked out Oswald as the man whom they had seen. [30]

Taxicab driver William Scoggins testified that he was sitting nearby in his cab when he saw Tippit's police car pull up alongside a man on the sidewalk. Scoggins heard three or four shots and then saw Tippit fall to the ground. As Scoggins crouched behind his cab, the man passed within 12 feet of him, pistol in hand, muttering what sounded to him like, "poor dumb cop" or "poor damn cop." [31] The next day, Scoggins viewed a police lineup and identified Oswald as the man whom he had seen with the pistol. [32]

The Commission also named several other witnesses [33] who were not at the scene of the murder, but who identified Oswald running between the murder scene and the Texas Theatre, where Oswald was subsequently arrested. [34] Four cartridge cases were found at the scene by eyewitnesses.

It was the unanimous testimony of expert witnesses before the Warren Commission that these spent cartridge cases were fired from the revolver in Oswald's possession to the exclusion of all other weapons. [35]

Upon his arrest and during subsequent questionings by police, Oswald denied any involvement in Tippit's murder. Based on eyewitness' statements and the gun found in Oswald's possession at the time of his arrest, he was formally charged with the murder of J. D. Tippit at 7:10 p.m. on November 22. During the course of the day, police began to suspect that Oswald was also involved in the shooting of President Kennedy.

At approximately 1:00 am on November 23, Oswald was also charged with assassinating President John F. Kennedy. [36] Oswald continued to maintain his innocence in connection with both murders. In the late morning of November 24, while being transported from the Dallas City Jail to the Dallas County Jail, Oswald was fatally shot in the abdomen by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby. The shooting was broadcast throughout the United States and Canada on live television. [37]

As Oswald was killed before he was tried for either crime, President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned a committee of US Senators, Congressmen and elder statesmen to investigate the events surrounding the deaths of Kennedy, Tippit, and Oswald in an effort to answer questions regarding the events. [38] President Johnson also hoped to quell rumors that arose after Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby that the assassination and subsequent shootings were part of a conspiracy. The committee, known as the Warren Commission (named for the commission chairman, Chief Justice Earl Warren), spent ten months investigating the murders and interviewing witnesses. [38] On September 24, 1964, the Warren Commission released an 888-page report that concluded there was no evidence of a conspiracy and Oswald had acted alone in killing President Kennedy and Officer Tippit. [39] [40] The report also concluded that Jack Ruby acted alone in the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. [41]

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations reported: "Based on Oswald's possession of the murder weapon a short time after the murder and the eyewitness identifications of Oswald as the gunman, the committee concluded that Oswald shot and killed Officer Tippit." [42]

Conspiracy theories

Some conspiracy theorists have alleged that the murder of Officer Tippit was part of a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, implying that two murders could not have happened so closely together by coincidence. Warren Commission attorney David Belin referred to Tippit's killing as the "Rosetta Stone to the JFK assassination". [43] [44] [45]

Some critics dispute that Oswald shot Tippit, arguing that the physical evidence and witness testimony do not support that conclusion. [43] [46] New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, who investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy and brought evidence in his 1969 trial of businessman Clay Shaw, contended in his book On the Trail of the Assassins that the witness testimony and handling of evidence in the Tippit murder was flawed and that it was doubtful that Oswald was the killer or even at the scene of the crime. According to Garrison, numerous witnesses that were not interviewed by the Warren Commission reported seeing two men fleeing the scene of Tippit's murder. He also claimed that Helen Markham, the Warren Commission's star witness, expressed uncertainty as to her identification of Oswald in the police lineup. Garrison also claimed that bullets recovered from Tippit's body were from two different manufacturers, and the gun found on Oswald at his arrest did not match the cartridges found at the scene. Garrison accused the Dallas Police Department of mishandling the evidence and of possibly firing Oswald's revolver to produce bullet cartridges for the FBI to link to his gun. [47]

Other critics state that Tippit himself was a conspirator, tasked to kill Oswald by organized crime or right-wing politicians in order to cover up the search for other assassins. [46] [48]


Texas historical marker at 10th Street and Patton Avenue in Dallas J D Tippit historical marker.jpg
Texas historical marker at 10th Street and Patton Avenue in Dallas

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. [49] Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a letter expressing sorrow for the bond they shared. [50] The plight of Tippit's family also moved much of the nation and a total of $647,579 was donated to them following the assassination. One of the largest individual gifts was $25,000 that Dallas businessman Abraham Zapruder donated to Frances Tippit after selling his film of the president's assassination to Life magazine. [51]

A funeral service for Tippit was held on November 25, 1963, at the Beckley Hills Baptist Church, with the burial following at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas. [49] His funeral was held on the same day as those of both President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald. [2] [52] [53]

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. A state historical marker to Officer Tippit was unveiled November 20, 2012, at the location where the shooting occurred. [2]

Tippit's widow married Dallas police lieutenant Harry Dean Thomas in January 1967. They were married until his death in 1982. Marie Tippit later married Carl Flinner; the marriage ended in divorce after which Marie resumed using the surname of Tippit. [54]

Personal life

Tippit married Marie Frances Gasway on December 26, 1946. The couple had three children: Charles Allan (born 1950), Brenda Kay (born 1953) and Curtis Glenn (born 1958). [8] Charles died of cancer on May 22, 2014, at age 64.

In films, Tippit has been portrayed by Price Carson in 1991's JFK , [55] and David Duchovny in 1992's Ruby . [56] He was also portrayed by Matt Micou in the 2013 television drama Killing Kennedy .

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  18. 1 2 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.
  19. "Chapter 4: The Assassin". Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1964. p. 165.
  20. "Chapter 1: Summary and Conclusions". Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. 1964. p. 5.
  21. Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Chapter 4 1964, p. 144.
  22. Oswald was 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall and weighed 150 pounds (68 kg). Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXVI, p. 521.
  23. Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Chapter 1 1964, p. 7.
  24. 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.
  25. Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Chapter 1 1964, pp. 7–8.
  26. By the evening of November 22, five of them (Helen Markham, Barbara Davis, Virginia Davis, Ted Callaway, Sam Guinyard) had identified 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 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.
  27. Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 6, Testimony of Domingo Benavides.
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  30. 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.
  31. Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, pp. 322–27, Testimony of William W. Scoggins.
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  34. Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Chapter 1 1964, p. 8.
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