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Like millions of Americans, Craig watched Oswald’s murder live on television. Soon afterward, he and his mother heard the name of the gunman.
“Did you ever hear the expression ‘The color drained from her face?’ I literally saw my mother’s face go from flesh to green,” he recalled. “At age 12, that was a little freaky to watch.”
Half a century after the fact, Craig is still bitter over the dramatic effect his childless uncle’s act had on the extended family, including bomb threats and huge legal bills. Given his last name, Craig was an easy target for bullies during his junior high school years in Dallas. But worst of all was facing Uncle Jack himself.
“One Sunday my dad insisted we go to see Jack in jail,” Craig said. “Outside, a police car’s siren started up, and my uncle was standing there with this incredibly intense, wild-eyed look on his face, and he yelled, ‘You hear that? You hear that? They’re torturing Jews in the basement!’ That particular experience was traumatic enough to where talking about it right now, 50 years later, is turning my gut into a knot.”
Silverman, who later testified before the Warren Commission, also vividly remembers his jailhouse visits.
“In prison, he deteriorated psychologically,” the rabbi said. “One time I walked in and he said, ‘Come on, rabbi, duck underneath the table. They’re pouring oil on the Jews and setting it on fire.’ He was quite psychotic.”
My initial connection to the Ruby family was through Eva, who I convinced to appear on ABC’s “Good Night America” program in 1976. Later I visited her several times at her apartment in Los Angeles, where she once gave me the last piece of stationary from Jack’s Carousel Club.
She introduced me to her brothers — Earl, who owned a dry cleaning store in Detroit, and Sam, who lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar. Sam showed me the one picture he had of their immigrant parents as well as the rusting car Jack drove to the Dallas police station the morning he shot Oswald.
In 1991, Earl allowed me to rendezvous with him in Dallas on the day he retrieved Jack’s gun, which he won after a decades-long legal battle. I later showed the weapon on television for the first time since 1963, shortly before it was auctioned off for $220,000.
The brothers also downplayed Jack’s ties to the mob. Sam, who died in 2008 at age 95, leaned in close and lowered his voice, confiding: “These guys would come into Jack’s club, and you had to be nice to them, ya know.”
Ironically, when Earl chose a place for us to meet in Dallas the day he was given Jack’s gun, he picked an Italian restaurant better known for its links to the Mafia than its lasagna. (Earl died in 2006 at 90.)
Some conspiracy theorists believe Ruby was ordered to silence Oswald by his organized crime contacts. Others, who think the murder was an impulsive act, point to Ruby’s fury over an anti-Kennedy advertisement in a Dallas newspaper the morning of the president’s visit. It was paid for by a right-wing Jewish activist named Bernard Weissman, which Ruby thought put Jews in a bad light.
We will never know for sure. What Craig Ruby knows for certain is that he did not mourn his uncle’s death from cancer in 1967. His family had moved to Chicago by then and when he saw the headline announcing Ruby’s death, he felt like a weight had lifted.
As for having a connection to one of the darkest moments in American history, Craig Ruby’s view has not changed in 50 years.
“I wish to God it hadn’t happened to us.”
(Steve North is a broadcast journalist with CBS News who’s been reporting on the Kennedy assassination since 1976.)