November 22, 2014
November 22 stays in my mind of course because of “that death,” but also there was another death that day in Dallas, Texas - The death of J.D. Tippit. He was a police officer with the Dallas Police Department. His initials were believed to stand for Jefferson Davis, but alas, the truth is the J.D. Didn’t stand for anything in particular. He married his high school sweetheart, they had children and he shortly worked for Sears, Roebuck and Company in the installation department, but then was laid off. J.D. and his family moved to Lone Star, Texas where he attempted to farm and raise cattle. The farming world didn’t pay off so he resolved to go to Dallas and became a police officer. His salary at the time of his death amounted to $490 a month. He also had two part-time jobs: worked at Austin’s Barbecue restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights and at the Stevens Park Theater on Sundays as security. The theater mostly attracted a sizable Hispanic crowd, so he studied Spanish from a language book that he got from the local library. He was willing to learn the language so he could understand what the customers were saying to ward off any problems. On November 22, he left early, leaving his wife before breakfast, who besides being a full-time housewife and mother, had a job babysitting neighborhood’s children at their home.
He did his patrol in his assigned area Oak Cliff, which was quiet that morning. Most of the police action was in downtown Dallas, due to the President and his wife coming to the city. After his morning patrol, Tippit went back home to have lunch with his wife. She made him a sandwich and fried potatos on the side. He usually has an hour lunch, but wanted to get back to duty in case there was any trouble due to the President’s visit. He admired Kennedy and both he and his wife voted for him. J.D. wished he could see the President, but at the some time he was relieved to be working at his regular assigned area. For a cop, there is usually that tension when someone important visits the city, and there could be trouble due to crowd control or “one nut might try something.” So he ate his lunch quickly and went back to his patrol.
One of J.D.’S nieces went to the corner of Harwood and Main in front of Titche-Goettinger’s department store to get a glimpse of the President and his wife. She saw Jackie and President Kennedy as they drove by, and she commented that “it was like I could have reached out and touched them. We were standing right on the corner. They looked like gods and goddesses. It was almost unreal.” Seven minutes later President Kennedy was dead.
An eyewitness, by the name of Howard Brennan, said he saw the gunman and gave the police a description. “White male, approximately thirty; slender build; height five feet, ten inches; weight 165 pounds…” Police Dispatcher Murray Jackson realizing that he was draining Oak Cliff of available officers ordered Tippit to move into the central Oak Cliff area. “You will be at large for any emergency that comes in,” said Jackson. It was an inside joke between Jackson and J.D; sometime in the early 1960s he needed assistance to arrest several ‘unruly teenagers’ who didn’t want to be arrested. Tippet was the first to respond, and since then he always joked with Jackson that he had to “come to save his life.” J.D. acknowledged Jackson’s joke/request with a very dry “10-4.” That would be Tippet’s last radio transmission.
About two miles away from the Texas School Book Depository, on a residential street in Oak Cliff, J.D. saw a nervous looking man walking down the sidewalk. What was common practice than with the police was to pull over and chat with the person through the passenger window. A police officer wouldn’t necessary leave the car. The figure in question walked up to the passenger window to talk to Tippit. For whatever reason, J.D. decided to get out of the car to talk to the suspect, and in doing so, either by habit or training he rested his hand on the butt of his gun in the holster. Once he was out of the car, the suspect immediately shot him three times in the chest, and then when he was on the ground, shot him directly through Tippit’s right temple which killed him instantly.
Later that night, Attorney General Robert Kennedy called Marie Tippit (J.D.’S wife) and told her they were “extremely sorry and wanted to offer their deepest sympathy in this time of grief.” Marie told him on the phone “to express my concern to Mrs. Kennedy and tell her I certainly know how she feels.” Kennedy then mentioned that if his brother didn’t come to Dallas, her husband would still be alive. Marie told him “But, you know, they were both doing their jobs. They got killed doing their jobs. He was being the president, and J.D. was being the policeman he was supposed to be.” A few days later Marie got a letter from Mrs. Kennedy: “I feel like we were somewhat responsible for your husband’s death because of the fact that he was killed by the same person.” In that same letter she wrote “I hope you’re not bitter toward us because of what happened, and if there is anything I can ever do, well let me know.” Marie didn’t know how to answer that. Her husband’s best friend wrote a note letting Mrs. Kennedy know that Marie received the letter, and that both Marie and her late husband loved the President. He then wrote (on behalf of Marie)., “There’s no bitterness, we just have a very lonesome feeling. We love you and always have loved the president. If you want to do something for me, well send me a portrait of your family. Just a picture from everyday life.” Not long afterwards, Mrs. Kennedy sent a photograph of the Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, framed in a beautiful gold leaf.
The inscription below the photograph read: “For Mrs. J.D. Tippit - with my deepest sympathy - and the knowledge that you and I now share another bond - reminding our children all their lives what brave men their fathers were - With all my wishes for your happiness, Jacqueline Kennedy. ”