Who was Jack Ruby? The debate continues

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on October 24, 2013 at 2:53 AM

DALLAS — Tough guy, sweet and caring.

A wannabe.

A flake.

Just a few ways to describe Jack Ruby, the Dallas strip club owner who nearly fifty years ago took it upon himself to avenge the assassination of a president.

So who was Jack Ruby? It all depends on who you ask.

The video from November 24, 1963, showing the shooting death of Lee Harvey Oswald looks like something out of an old mobster movie.

Even back then, it was surreal.

Oswald, the man who assassinated President Kennedy, is seen being gunned down by a Mafioso-looking figure in a brown suit coat and a black fedora hat.

They both are then swarmed by a team of detectives and police brass, all of it playing out on live TV.

As it turned out, the man with the black hat and brown coat was Dallas strip club owner Jack Rubenstein, A.K.A. Jack Ruby.

A.K.A. the man everyone thought they knew... until that day.

Bob Huffaker of Denton was there that Sunday morning. He was a young, out-of-breath reporter down in the basement of the Dallas Police Department who was calling the shots live on the air for CBS News.

He describes the Ruby that the reporters and cops thought they knew. "At first Ruby told them, 'I did it because you couldn't,' as though he felt he was helping the police out,” Huffaker said. “He was really that naive, and he was really that flaky, and he was hooked on Preludin and Benzedrine, and was not playing with a full deck. He wanted to be a reporter and he also wanted to be a police officer, and he hung around with the police as much as he could, and I know a number of reporters who hated to see him coming because they considered him to be a pest."

Gary Mack, curator at the Sixth Floor Museum, says Ruby was known for his hot temper, and Ruby’s nickname was "Sparky."

"Jack Ruby acted as his club's own bouncer,” Mack said. “He would punch first and ask questions later."

But some who worked closely with him knew a softer side to Jack Ruby.

Nancy Myers of Grand Prairie was a stripper for Ruby at his Carousel Club on Commerce Street in downtown Dallas. She said Ruby paid her well, treated her well, and made sure the customers did, too.

"He was kind of a tough guy image, like no funny business," said Myers, who danced under the name of "Tammi True." "He was real serious about his club and what went on in there. And he was extremely sensitive to other people. He had a big heart, I mean a big heart... but he didn't want people to know that."

Myers said it was that big heart that motivated him to avenge the President's death.

"He went down there to wire some money to Little Lynn and saw stuff going on over there at the jail... and he just walked right down and they brought Oswald out and he shot him,” Myers said.

Why was Ruby was carrying a gun that day? “He always had a gun, because he always carried money on him,” Myers explained.

The one thing about Ruby that perhaps everyone agrees on: That his actions that day in 1963 were spur of the moment, and not part of any conspiracy.

"But I can tell you this, Ruby was no conspirator,” Huffaker said. “Nobody in his right mind would have chosen Jack Ruby to be a conspirator. He never shut up."

Ruby did stop talking, eventually. Four years after killing Oswald, while awaiting a new trial, 55-year-old Jack Ruby died of cancer, giving birth to the debate: Who was Jack Ruby?

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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