Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

JFK Assassination

Jack Ruby

The Warren Commission report featured a 15,000-word biographical portrait of Jack Ruby that is remarkable for its detailsome of it remarkably peculiar.

One brief section cogitates over whether Ruby was a homosexualapparently based on anonymous statements of acquaintances that he spoke with a lisp, acted effeminately and sometimes spoke in a high-pitched voice when angry.

The Warren sleuths managed to discern that Ruby had had an 11-year relationship with a woman. The report concluded, The record indicates that Ruby sought and enjoyed feminine company.

Another section reviewed Rubys affection for dogs. He owned several and referred to them as his children. The report noted Ruby became extremely incensed when he witnessed the maltreatment of any of his dogs.

Jack Ruby was born Jacob Rubenstein in Chicago in 1911, one of eight children of Jewish parents who had immigrated from Poland.

His mother was illiterate, his father a heavy drinker and member of the carpenters union, although he rarely worked. Joseph Rubensteins drinking and chronic unemployment drove the couple apart in 1922.

Son Jack soon landed in juvenile detention as truant from school and incorrigible at home. He spent time in foster homes, as did several of his siblings. The drain of supporting eight children overwhelmed Jacks mother, Fannie, and she would later spend time in mental hospitals.

Jack made it through eighth grade, then found himself on Chicago streets attempting to provide for himself and other members of his family, as the Warren report put it. He earned money by scalping tickets to sporting events and by selling sports-related novelties, such as Cubs banners.

In 1933 Ruby moved to California to find Depression-era work. Among other things, he sold a handicappers tip sheet at two race tracks, Santa Anita in Los Angeles and Bay Meadows in San Francisco. He also worked as a waiter and sold newspaper subscriptions door-to-door.

Ruby returned to Chicago in about 1937 and spent four lean years before founding the Spartan Novelty Co., which sold small cedar chests filled with candy and punchboard lottery tickets. He later sold a plaque commemorating Pearl Harbor and a bust in honor of Franklin Roosevelt.

One acquaintance told Warrens investigators that Ruby was a cuckoo nut on the subject of patriotism. Others said he was motivated purely by money.

Although just 5-foot-9, Ruby was a stout, 175-pound fitness buff. 

Friends and siblings said he had a volatile temper; he grew up with the nickname Sparky because his rage would strike like lightning.

The umbrage that Ruby felt over mistreatment of canines carried over to other underdogs, as well.

He often picked fights over slurs or attacks against Jews, blacks and women, and he would put up his dukes against anyone spouting pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic sentiments. 

Yet Ruby was not eager to join the war effort.

He sought a draft deferral based upon his age (30 in 1941), and he faked a hearing loss after the age deferral was abolished. He was drafted into the Army Air Forces in 1943 and spent three uneventful years at military bases in the south.

He returned to Chicago in 1946 and formed a mail-order novelties business with his brothers. (They legally changed their name from Rubenstein to Ruby, fearing some Americans would not do business with Jews.)

The brothers bought out Jack Ruby in 1947, and he moved to Texas with a $14,000 stake to join a sister, Eva Grant, who was running a Dallas nightclub.

Ruby would spend the next 16 years running nightclubs, saloons and strip jointsthe Silver Spur Club, the Ranch House, the Vegas Club, the Sovereign Club and, finally, the Carousel Club.

The Carousel was a four-stripper burlesque joint in downtown Dallas. Ruby ran the place with an iron fist, and most employees didnt last long.

He argued about work rules with his musicians. He wrangled over wages with the union that represented his showgirls. He battled the government over his accounting practices (strictly cash and usually kept in the trunk of his car or in his hip pocket) and delinquent taxes. And as the clubs owner/bouncer, he fought with unruly customers.

The Carousels regular clientele included a couple dozen Dallas cops, a few of whom worked for Ruby and one of whom married a stripper from the club.

The Warren Commission reported, Ruby's police friendships were far more widespread than those of the average citizen.

The police friendships did not keep his record spotless. Ruby was arrested eight times before shooting Oswald: for disturbing the peace in 1949; for carrying a concealed weapon in 1953 and 1954; for violating state liquor laws in 1954; for allowing dancing after hours in 1959 and 1960; for simple assault in 1963, and for ignoring a traffic summons in 1963.

The government also hounded Ruby for delinquent taxes, including about $5,000 in income tax and $40,000 in federal excise taxes he had neglected to charge patrons because he claimed his establishments were restaurants, not cabarets.

As a strip club owner, Ruby became acquainted with many of the more unsavory individuals of the Dallas underworld.

The Warren Commission report said that while he was friendly with numerous underworld figures, evidence does not establish a significant link between Ruby and organized crime.

This odd canard has been a favorite bone of contention used by conspiracy theorists against the Warren Commission.

Ruby probably was allowed to stay in business by paying off the Dallas mob, then led by Joseph Civello. Among his closest friends was Civellos No. 2 lieutenant, and Ruby also was tight with three brothers who led another Dallas Mafia unit.

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