On this day in 1963, Jack Ruby shot accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live television, thus providing material for thousands of conspiracy theory books (including mine).
Ruby, the owner of a strip club in Dallas, said he was distraught by the tragedy of the John F. Kennedy assassination, and especially by its effect on Jacqueline Kennedy. He had visited the Dallas police station a couple of times during the 48 hours since Kennedy had been shot, milling around with reporters. On November 24, he wandered into the city jail basement just moments before the police moved Oswald to the county jail. As the prisoner moved past, Ruby lunged forward and shot him in the stomach:
Ruby’s murder of the man who had earlier shouted “I’m a patsy” caused millions to suspect a wider plot. Although the government’s official report on the assassination dampened speculation for a time, by the mid-1970s upwards of 90 percent of Americans believed in a conspiracy. The list of potential villains includes the Soviets, the CIA, the FBI, the secret service, the military-industrial complex, the mafia, Fidel Castro, anti-Castro Cubans, the Masons, the Jews, the Federal Reserve bank, aliens, J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, and Aristotle Onassis.
Ruby (born Jacob Rubenstein) had his own conspiracy theory: that anti-Semites would falsely accuse him of Kennedy’s murder and use his alleged guilt to justify a new holocaust. He told the Warren Commission that they had already begun their work and were torturing and killing Jews in Dallas. He died of cancer in 1967.