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On November 24, 1963, this nightclub owner catapaulted himself into the history books by killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy, in front of television cameras and the Dallas Police Department.
Jacob Rubenstein was born in Chicago on March 25, 1911, the fifth of ten surviving children born to Polish Jewish immigrants Joseph Rubenstein and Fannie Turek Rutkowski. It is known that he attended school through the 1924-25 term, but whether he attended any school after 1925 is unknown. Other details about his childhood and adolescence are equally unclear, but it is known that his father was arrested for assault and battery several times and that many of the complaints were filed by his mother. It is also known that he was placed in the care of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the age of 11 due to chronic truancy, but how long he remained in that agency's care and to what degree is unknown.
In 1933, Rubenstein decided to move to Los Angeles in order to find work. There, he made a decent living selling a handicapper's tip sheet for horse races at the Santa Anita racetrack. He then moved to San Francisco, where he sold tip sheets at Bay Meadows racetrack before becoming a door-to-door salesman of subscriptions to San Francisco newspapers.
Returning to Chicago in 1937, Rubenstein became active in Local 20467 of the Scrap Iron and Junk Handlers Union, for which he worked as a union organizer and negotiated with employers on its behalf until early 1940. He ended his association with the union after its president, John Martin, shot and killed Leon Cooke, Rubenstein's friend and the local's financial secretary. He unofficially added "Leon" to his name at this time.
In 1941, Rubenstein, one of his brothers, and three friends organized the Spartan Novelty Co., a small firm that sold small cedar chests containing candy and gambling devices known as punchboards. After the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, he and several friends decided to design and sell plaques commemorating the "Day of Infamy," but by the time the group had finalized its design the market was already flooded with commemoratives. In late 1942 and 1943, Rubenstein was employed by the Globe Auto Glass Co. and Universal Sales Co. He also peddled busts of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While none of his ventures were very successful financially, they provided him with a fair income and he lived relatively well.
Inducted into the US. Army Air Forces on May 21, 1943, Rubenstein spent almost all of his military days at various airbases in the South. After attaining the rank of private first class and receiving the good conduct medal, he was honorably discharged on February 21, 1946. He then returned to Chicago and joined three of his brothers in the Earl Products Co., which manufactured and sold small cedar chests and distributed punchboards. In addition, it made aluminum salt and pepper shakers, key chains, bottle openers, screwdrivers, and small hammers. His brothers paid $14,000 for his share in the company in 1947.
Moving to Dallas, Rubenstein assumed management of the Singapore Supper Club, which he also co-owned (along with a sister and two brothers). On December 30, 1947, he changed his name to Jack L. Ruby by securing a decree from the 68th Judicial District Court of Dallas. Except for a brief period in about 1953, when Ruby managed the Ervay Theater, a motion picture house, the operation of nightclubs and dance halls was his primary source of income, and his basic interest in life, for the next 16 years.
On November 24, 1963, Jack Ruby walked to the Dallas Police Headquarters, where Lee Harvey Oswald was being held for the murder of President John F. Kennedy, and went to the basement, apparently unimpeded. At 11:21 a.m. CST, while authorities were preparing Oswald for transport by armored car to the nearby county jail, Ruby stepped from a crowd of reporters and shot Oswald in the abdomen with his .38 revolver, fatally wounding him. The incident was broadcast live nationwide on television. Ruby was arrested immediately after the shooting, and he told several witnesses that Oswald's death would spare "Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial."
After appealing the death sentence handed down at his trial, Ruby died of a pulmonary embolism on January 3, 1967, at Parkland Hospital, where Oswald had died and where President Kennedy had been pronounced dead after his assassination.
Library >> American History >> United States: General History and Description >> Late 20th Century, 1961-2000 >> John F. Kennedy's Administration, 1961-1963
This page was last updated on April 12, 2017.