History In Ink  Historical Autographs


[Kennedy Assassination]

James R. Leavelle

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Beautiful cacheted first day cover honoring President John F. Kennedy

signed by the Dallas, Texas, homicide detective handcuffed to Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald,

when Oswald was himself murdered by Jack Ruby

James Robert Leavelle, 1920–.  Detective, Dallas Police Department.  Cacheted First Day of Issue airmail letter sheet inscribed and signed, James R. Leavelle, Detective Dallas Police Dept, and hand dated 9/4/91.

This first-day cover is a pristine, outstanding association piece.  It is postmarked first day of issue in Chicago on May 29, 1967, which would have been President John F. Kennedy’s 50th birthday.  This cover bears a cachet showing a portrait of President Kennedy, the presidential seal, and an image of the 1943 collision in which PT-109, the patrol torpedo boat that Kennedy commanded during World War II, was split in two by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri in the Solomon IslandsThe cachet identifies Kennedy as the 35th President of the United States and as the “Naval Hero of PT Boat 109.”

Leavelle was the Dallas homicide detective who was handcuffed to President Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, when Oswald himself was shot by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby in the basement of the Dallas Police Department.  Leavelle and another detective, L. C. Graves, were escorting Oswald to a waiting armored car for transfer to the Dallas County Jail when Ruby stepped out of the crowd and fired a single round from a snub-nosed Colt Cobra .38 revolver into Oswaldʼs abdomen at 11:21 a.m.  Because the national networks covered Oswald’s transfer on live television, the shooting was immediately broadcast nationwide.  Oswald, unconscious, died at 1:07 p.m. at Parkland Hospital, where President Kennedy had died almost exactly two days before.

In this questionnaire that we sold several years ago, Leavelle recounted that he spoke with Oswald first about the shooting of Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit, not realizing that Oswald was also a suspect in the Kennedy assassination.  “During the time I talked with him,” he writes, “he was polite and answered my questions even though he did not answer some of them truthfully.”  Later, Leavelle said, he talked with Oswald briefly as he prepared to move him from the Dallas Police Department to the Dallas County Jail.  “About the only conversation I had with Oswald on Sunday was to say to him ‘Lee if any one shoots at you I hope that they are as good a shot as you are’ meaning of course that they would hit him and not me.  He gave a short laugh and said ‘no one is going to shoot at me.’”   But, Leavelle wrote, when Ruby stepped from the crowd and fired the fatal shot, “I knew exactly what was happening.  As did Oswald.”  Oswald, he said, “was unconscious almost immediately after the shot and never said a word afterwards[.]  I was with him the entire time until he was pronounced dead.”

As a naval lieutenant junior grade during World War II, Kennedy commanded PT-109, patrolling the waters in the Blackett Strait for Japanese destoyers.  Around 2 a.m. on August 2, 1943, PT-109 was rammed broadside by the Amagiri.  PT-109 was cut in two, and two seamen on Kennedy’s crew were killed and two others badly injured.  The survivors clung to the forward hull, which remained afloat.  When it began to sink, Kennedy and the others who were able to swim, taking the injured along, swam about 3½ miles to small Plum Pudding Island.  Kennedy held a life jacket strap between his teeth to tow a badly burned crewmate.  He later swam 2½ miles round trip in search of help and food and led his crew to Olasana Island, which had coconut trees and potable water.  The men survived on coconuts until they were rescued six days later.  Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat decoration that the Navy awards for heroism, and the Purple Heart for injuries that he sustained in the collision.

This piece is in extra fine condition.  It is folded in typical style, allowing the user to write on the inside, seal the flap, and address the outside.  It has never been used, however, and the flap, which has never been sealed, retains the original glue.  Leavelle has inscribed and signed it in the address space in black ballpoint pen. 

Unframed.  Click here for information about custom framing this piece.

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 Registered Dealer # RD281