Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Inside Story Behind This Photo. 
Robert Jackson shot this photo of Jack Ruby gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963. Jackson won the Pulitzer Award for Photography for the picture in 1964.

By Paul Iorio


Fifty years ago this month, photographer Robert Jackson

shot the famous picture of Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey

Oswald in a Dallas police station basement.




And fourteen and a half years ago – on July 1, 1999 – Jackson

revealed fresh new details about that event (and about

the assassination of President Kennedy) in an exclusive

one-on-one interview with me that has not been published

until now.




In my interview, he discloses information he didn’t even

tell the Warren Commission (which inexplicably never

questioned him about the shooting of Oswald, though

he was the most prominent eyewitness).




Among other things, Jackson never told the Commission

about hostile placards in the crowd greeting Kennedy

that read, “Let’s Barry King John” – a reference to

“Barry” Goldwater that would seem innocent in any

other context except this one.




Though Jackson has granted interviews before – most

notably for TNT’s original documentary “Moment of Impact”

(’99) – he goes into greater detail in my interview,

even correcting inaccuracies in previous Q&As.




Jackson – a staff photographer for the Dallas Times Herald

in ’63 who went on to win the 1964 Pulitzer award for

photography for his picture -- was also one of three people

to have witnessed a rifle being withdrawn from the 6th floor

window of the schoolbook depository (at a moment when

his camera wasn't loaded!) in the seconds after the

assassination.




And he got a close look at Oswald's wounds as he was being

put into an ambulance, clearly recalling there was

absolutely no blood on either Oswald or his clothing.




In this interview, he gives moment-by-moment descriptions

of the tragic weekend that began on a Friday morning

(Nov. 22d) with J.F.K.'s murder in Dallas and ended on

that Sunday morning (the 24th) with the shooting of Oswald.




PAUL IORIO: ON THE DAY OF THE OSWALD PICTURE THAT YOU TOOK,
WHAT KIND OF CAMERA DID YOU HAVE?

ROBERT JACKSON: It was a Nikon S-3 Rangefinder camera.

IORIO: AND YOU FOCUSED IT AT 10, 11 FEET?

JACKSON: Yeah, about 10, 11 feet. A hair over 10 feet. That was about the distance where I was standing and where [Oswald] would step into the clearing.

IORIO: YOU WERE STANDING TO THE LEFT OF JACK RUBY.

JACKSON: Uh, huh.

IORIO: DID YOU NOTICE HIM PRIOR TO –

JACKSON: Never noticed him. Never saw him. Don’t know where he came from.

IORIO: THEN OSWALD COMES OUT. [DESCRIBE] THE MOMENT OF IMPACT AND…THE MOMENTS AFTER YOU TOOK THE PICTURE.

JACKSON: When the gun goes off, then I realize he’s been shot and my first reaction is, I can’t believe this is happening here in front of me in the basement of the police station. I didn’t have time to think of anything else.

The next thing is mass confusion. There’re plainclothes cops everywhere there. There was not a big crowd of people down there. The next thing I was aware of is there was a cop in front of me with his hand over my camera lens and he’s shoving me back. And I’m really not going anywhere….And I’m thinking, get more pictures. But it’s just a mass of police jumping on Ruby. I shot one more frame right away, knowing my strobe wasn’t going to recycle, because it would take probably six seconds for it to recycle.

IORIO: WAS THERE ANY SENSE OF PHYSICAL DANGER, TOO?

JACKSON: I never thought of that. I wasn’t thinking there was anyone shooting wildly down in the crowd. It was obvious his target was Oswald. And the next instant, I had the cops shoving me back, and I said, “Get your hand off my camera.”

By then, they’re taking both the victim and the shooter into the building. And of course we knew we couldn’t follow. And we kind of waited till they brought an ambulance in and they brought him out and I was able to get one more shot.

IORIO: WAS THERE A SPLATTERING OF BLOOD AT THE POINT WHEN OSWALD WAS SHOT?

JACKSON: No. And this is really puzzling thing to me, because…I saw the wound. When they put him in the ambulance, his sweater was up, I could see the spot and I saw no blood around it at all.

Later, when I heard that he’d bled to death internally, I thought, that’s why I didn’t see a lot of blood. The other day, I’m looking at a magazine, Texas Monthly, from last November [1998] and there’s an almost full-page picture there of his bloody t-shirt and, I mean, it’s almost covered [with blood]. And when I saw that all these years later, I thought, he must have bled later.

* * * *


IORIO: KENNEDY WASN’T VERY POLITICALLY POPULAR [IN TEXAS] BACK THEN. ALONG THE MOTORCADE ROUTE, WERE THERE PROTESTERS WHO WERE HOSTILE?

JACKSON: I didn’t see any along the route…And there were some signs in the crowd that were obviously Barry Goldwater supporters with [signs] like, “Let’s Barry King John.” That was the harshest one I saw.

IORIO: YOU WERE LATER QUESTIONED BY THE WARREN COMMISSION AND THE DALLAS P.D. DID YOU MENTION TO THEM THE “LET’S BARRY KING JOHN” [SIGN]?

JACKSON: No, I didn’t mention it to them, because the people at the airport…saw it. Of course, the Secret Service saw those signs, too.


IORIO: YOU HAD JUST FINISHED A ROLL OF FILM MINUTES BEFORE [KENNEDY WAS SHOT]?

JACKSON: …I had unloaded my camera in that last block…and I put it in an envelope and tossed it out to Jim Featherston, a reporter. And there was a gusty wind and the wind caught the envelope and he didn’t catch it and he had to chase it. And we were kind of laughing in the car -- and that’s when we heard the first shot.

At that point, we were making the turn and were straightened out and facing the book depository. Within a matter of seconds, we heard the other two shots in the space of – I think I told the Warren Commission, eight seconds. I think officially it’s a little less than that.

IORIO: YOU HEARD THE SHOTS FROM DEALEY --

JACKSON: Oh, yeah. We heard the three shots and everybody in the car, we all heard three shots, there was no conflict there.

IORIO: FROM THE DIRECTION OF –

JACKSON: They were all from right in front of us. And then I just happened to look up and I looked in the direction the sound came from and obviously, instantly, we knew someone was shooting at the motorcade. And I looked up there and saw these two guys hanging out of the window and looking up above them [to the sixth floor].

And then I looked up to the next window and I saw the rifle being drawn in. I was amazed I was seeing this weapon. And I had an empty camera with a long lens and it didn’t do me any good…

In those days, that particular type of Nikon, you had to take the back off to reload. You couldn’t just pop it open. So that made it doubly hard to try to get another roll of film in the camera.

Especially when the car is moving and the driver doesn’t know whether to go or stop, kind of jerky. And then he sped up down to the corner. And that’s where I could see all of this happening, people covering up their kids, and I could see the president’s car disappear under the bridge.

IORIO: YOU GET BACK TO THE NEWSROOM, IT’S FRIDAY AFTERNOON BY THIS POINT, AND YOU’RE DEPRESSED.

JACKSON: But first I ended up going to the hospital. We hitched a ride with a lady in a car and she took us to Parkland Hospital, because I knew that’s where they’d probably take him if he was hit. That was just a guess.

So I was at Parkland Hospital in the yard until the rest of the afternoon, until the body was removed. Security kept all of us outside…

* * *

IORIO: ON THAT SATURDAY, WAS THERE ANY [POLICE] STATION HOUSE TALK ABOUT, “I WISH I COULD TAKE OUT OSWALD”…WAS THERE A SENTIMENT AROUND DALLAS OF PEOPLE WANTING TO KILL OSWALD?

JACKSON: I never heard anything to that effect….

IORIO: IN [THE DOCUMENTARY] “MOMENT OF IMPACT” YOU DESCRIBE SUNDAY [THE DAY OSWALD WAS SHOT], SAYING THAT WHEN YOU ARRIVED AT POLICE HEADQUARTERS, THERE WAS “NO SECURITY TO SPEAK OF, NOBODY CHECKED MY PRESS PASS.” IT SEEMS LIKE AN EVENT LIKE THIS WOULD’VE BEEN FULL OF SECURITY.

JACKSON: Right. There’s one thing in [“Moment of Impact”] that makes you think one thing, when it was really something else. When they filmed me walking down the ramp [to the basement where Ruby was shot] and I’m saying, “Nobody checked my press pass.”

Well, I didn’t walk in that way…Actually, I went in the regular door and got on the elevator and went up to the press room. And I was one of the early arrivals….And a public affairs person said, “We’re gonna take you down to the basement.” And that’s really how I got down to the basement.

They had a policeman guarding the ramp [to the basement]. I guess they figured that one guy could certainly not miss anyone trying to walk in there.















Museum Hop in San Francisco -- For Free!

A Pictorial of the Main Galleries.

By Paul Iorio

A lion guards the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.
[photo by Paul Iorio.]


The secret to seeing half a dozen world class museums in San

Francisco for free is to visit them on the first Tuesday of

the month, when they don’t charge admission.



In a single day of gallery binging, one can save around seventy

bucks while checking out some of the smartest art collections

in the U.S.



Most visitors see only the top three – the California Palace of

the Legion of Honor, the M.H. deYoung Memorial Museum and the

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (the latter closed until

2016). But there are other, smaller ones that are fascinating

and lots of fun.



And most are within walking distance of each other – or a short

train ride away.



The exception is the relatively far-away Palace of the Legion of

Honor (100 34th Ave.), in far west S.F.’s Lincoln Park, worth

visiting as much for its art as for its grounds, acres of hilly

parkland, sculpture gardens and golf courses that lead to

dramatic Pacific Ocean cliffs.



The art starts before the entrance with a bronze cast of Rodin’s

“The Thinker” in the courtyard. Inside are other Rodin classics

and paintings by (among many others) impressionist

and post-impressionist masters.


Rodin’s “The Thinker” in the courtyard of The Legion of Honor.
[photo by Paul Iorio]


Dramatically beautiful scenery is all around the Legion of Honor.
[photo by Paul Iorio.]

............................


To the east of the Legion of Honor, in Golden Gate Park, is the M.H.

de Young Memorial Museum (50 Hagiawara Tea Garden Drive). It has

a vast collection of colonial-era American art, among its many

diverse gems.


The view from the top of the de Young museum’s tower.
[photo by Paul Iorio]


The front of the de Young. [photo by Paul Iorio.]


The author of this article in front of Edward Hopper’s
“Portrait of Orleans,” in the de Young.
[photo by Paul Iorio.]


........................................


After the de Young, check out the next-door Conservatory of

Flowers, a museum devoted to exotic plants from all over the

world (and, when I was there, a collection of dazzling

butterflies!).


The Conservatory of Flowers. [photo by Paul Iorio.]


Exotic elephant ears in a sea of green in the Conservatory.
[photo by Paul Iorio.]

.............................................


Downtown, near Third Street on Mission Street, there are

several museums you can see in one fell swoop.



The best is The Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission St.),

one of the most imaginative in the Bay Area. Its art includes

a Rothko, an early Pollock, a Rauschenberg, several Klees – and

even a Muslim prayer rug reimagined as a work of art.


The Contemporary Jewish Museum. [photo by Paul Iorio.]


A Muslim prayer rug as art, by Mona Hatoum, a Palestinian
artist, at the Contemporary Jewish Art Museum.
[photo by Paul Iorio.]

................................................


A few blocks east is the Cartoon Art Museum (655 Mission St.).

It’s said to be the only collection in the western U.S. of

comic books and cartoons. Lots of rarities on display.


Part of a recent exhibition of all-things Superman at the
Cartoon Art Museum (CAR). [photo by Paul Iorio.]


A classic cartoon by Bill Mauldin at CAR.
[photo by Paul Iorio.]

............................................


Also in that neighborhood is the Yerba Buena Museum of the

Arts (701 Mission St.). Though its collection is not too

extensive, its exhibitions are consistently interesting.


A novel work – Ishmael Randall Weeks’ “Ibeam” (2012) – on
display at the Yerba Buena Museum. [photo by Paul Iorio.]

..................................


And, finally, let’s not forget the San Francisco Museum of

Modern Art (151 Third Ave.), which is currently undergoing a

major renovation. One of the world’s top modern art museums,

it has works by virtually all the giants of modernism.


A walkway at SFMoMA that connects its two buildings and
provides marvelous views of downtown San Fran.
[photo by Paul Iorio.]



A sculpture in SFMoMA’s outdoor plaza.[photo by Paul Iorio.]