Lee Harvey Oswald Biography

(1939–1963)
Lee Harvey Oswald was a former U.S. Marine who was accused of killing President John F. Kennedy. While in police custody, Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby.

Synopsis

Born on October 18, 1939, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lee Harvey Oswald eventually joined the U.S. Marines and later defected to the Soviet Union for a period of time. He returned to America with a family, and eventually acquired firearms. Oswald allegedly assassinated President John. F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. While being taken to county jail, on November 24, 1963, Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby.

Early Life

Lee Harvey Oswald was born on October 18, 1939, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Marguerite and Robert Oswald Sr., who died of a heart attack two months prior to Lee's birth. Following her husband's death, Marguerite Oswald sent Lee and his two older brothers to live in an orphanage.

Remarried for a few years, Marguerite eventually moved with her children to the Bronx, New York. With his mother working long shifts, the young Oswald was often left to fend for himself, spending time at the library while developing a habit of playing hooky from his eighth-grade classes. He was eventually picked up and placed in a detention hall, where his social worker described him as emotionally detached, giving off "the feeling of a kid nobody gave a darn about."

Moves to the Soviet Union

Marguerite and Oswald eventually moved back to New Orleans, where Oswald continued to develop his interest in socialist literature, which he'd begun to read in New York. In 1956, he joined the U.S. Marines. He was a better-than-average marksman, yet was court-martialed twice in 1958 for having an illegal weapon and displaying violent behavior. Oswald ended his military service the following year and arranged a trip to Moscow, where he informed Russian authorities that he wanted to move to the Soviet Union. After some debate by government operatives over Oswald's possible role as a spy, he was allowed to stay in the city of Minsk, where he was monitored closely by the KGB.

Oswald wed Marina Prusakova in April 1961. Dissatisfied with the quality of life in the Soviet Union, Oswald returned to the United States in June 1962, bringing his wife and their newborn daughter with him.

The family set up residence in Dallas, Texas, with Oswald taking on the post-office alias of Alek J. Hidell. Around this time, Oswald's interest in communism tranformed into support for Cuba. In early 1963, he ordered a .38 handgun via the mail and later acquired a rifle. He had Marina take a picture of him with the weapons—a document that would later be used as criminal evidence, as Oswald's rifle was eventually identified as the firearm used to murder President John F. Kennedy.

In April 1963, Oswald allegedly tried to shoot right-wing ex-general Edwin A. Walker through the window of his home, but missed. After returning to New Orleans by himself for a short stint, in September 1963, Oswald took a trip to Mexico City, where he attempted to obtain passage to Cuba and the Soviet Union to no avail.

Oswald then returned to the states, where he got a job working at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. His family stayed with a friend in a nearby suburb, and Marina gave birth to a second daughter that October.

President John F. Kennedy Killed

On the afternoon of November 22, 1963—around the time of President John F. Kennedy’s approaching motorcade through Dallas—Oswald was seen on the sixth floor of his work building, holding a rifle. At 12:30 p.m., three shots were fired, with the second and third hitting President Kennedy. Texas Governor John B. Connally was also hit and wounded. President Kennedy died at Parkland Memorial Hospital shortly after the attack, at the age of 46.

Oswald was spotted leaving the scene of the shooting and was later confronted some distance away by police officer J.D. Tippit, who Oswald then allegedly shot and killed. Oswald was later found and apprehended by the police at the Texas Theater, located the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff. Over the next two days, he was arraigned, interrogated and placed in lineups.

Oswald Killed, Questions Remain

Oswald would never see a trial for his alleged crimes. On November 24, 1963, the 24-year-old Oswald, while being taken to the county jail, was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a club owner with mob affiliations. Ruby stated that he acted out of outrage over Kennedy's assassination. There have also been theories that Ruby’s actions might have been part of a larger web.

Over the years, the question of conspiracies has continued to follow the Oswald case. The 1964 Warren Commission declared that no evidence of a conspiracy had been found. Yet an investigation initiated by the House of Representatives Assassination Committee in 1979 eventually found that another shooter could have been involved in the assassination. Debate and much speculation—including who Oswald met with during his final stay in New Orleans—continue to this day.

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