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National Law Enforcement Museum Hosts Inaugural Event of a New Lecture Series

“Witness to History: The Shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald”

June 9, 2011

Washington, DC — The National Law Enforcement Museum kicked off their “Witness to History” lecture series last Tuesday with special guest James R. Leavelle, (Ret.) Homicide Detective from the Dallas (TX) Police Department. Mr. Leavelle shared his personal account of a notorious date in U.S. history: November 24, 1963, the day Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed, two days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Detective Leavelle was assigned to escort Lee Harvey Oswald, who had been taken into custody in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy, from police headquarters to the county jail. It was during that transport that Oswald was shot and killed by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

For many who lived through it, mention of that day conjures up strong feelings and memories of how, when and where the news struck, but for Mr. Leavelle, that day evokes feelings few can imagine. While only a handful can say they were present to witness the shooting, millions more either watched it on national television, read about it in the newspapers, or heard it described on the radio. Mr. Leavelle is the only man in the world who can truthfully say he was right there—handcuffed to Oswald—when he was shot and killed.

Mr. Leavelle recalled the words he said to Oswald as they stood shackled to one another during the transport: “Lee, if anybody shoots, I hope they’re as good a shot as you are, meaning they would shoot him and not me,” Leavelle explained. “He (Oswald) kind of laughed and said, “Well nobody’s going to shoot at me.”

Ironically yet appropriately, Leavelle referred to these as “famous last words,” as Oswald was painfully mistaken. The shooting was captured by a Dallas Times-Herald Pulitzer Prize winning black and white photograph picturing Detective Leavelle handcuffed to Oswald—a photograph that undoubtedly made him one of the most famous police officers in America.

Also in attendance was (Ret.) United States Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, who was assigned to protect the first lady during the November 1963 Dallas presidential visit. Mr. Leavelle displayed an epic photograph of Agent Hill leaping to shield the first lady after the first shot was fired at President Kennedy. Mr. Hill explained that while three shots were fired, he only heard two, since he was so frantically running to protect Jackie when the second shot was released.

The evening closed with a lively Q&A session, with several curiosities about the Kennedy assassination, the killing of Oswald, and the many conspiracy theories fleshed out and explained by two men—Leavelle and Hill—who lived and breathed the historic events.

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO Craig W. Floyd thanked Mr. Leavelle for sharing his story, for being the first in the new Museum program “Witness to History”, and for his incredible service to our country.

“The National Law Enforcement Museum is proud to host Mr. Leavelle tonight, and to showcase his first-person account of one of the most poignant moments in America’s past when the Museum opens in late 2013,” said Floyd. "The personal recollection we were just so fortunate to hear will be shared with millions of visitors to ensure that Mr. Leavelle’s lifetime of contributions will not be forgotten, and his story will continue to be told for generations to come,” he added.

The Museum’s next “Witness to History” lecture series event is currently being planned for this fall.

Steve Groeninger
steve@nleomf.org | (202) 737-7135