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Dallas Man Eyewitness To Two Historic U.S. Events

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Jim Leavelle keeps a piece of attire that connects him to a segment of history for Dallas and the nation. His gray hat dates back to 1963. Once he puts it on, people connect his face to the images of that era.

Leavelle was the Dallas Police homicide detective, assigned to escort Lee Harvey Oswald from the police station to the county jail.

Oswald had been taken into custody two days earlier, November 22, 1963, accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy, along the downtown Dallas parade route.

Leavelle was handcuffed to Oswald, while they walked through a crowd of reporters, when Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby pulled a handgun, and shot and killed Oswald.

For decades, Leavelle was part of one of the most famous photographs in U.S. History.

“A lot of people ask we what I was thinking,” he said Friday, while speaking to members of the White Rock Rotary Club.

Leavelle said his answer is the same in relation to another history making event he found himself a part of.

“I didn’t know what to think when it happened,” he said of the day he watched Japanese planes initiate an attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Leavelle was a young sailor serving aboard the USS Whitney. The ship sat one mile from the area where the attack began.

“The only thing I was thinking about was getting my gun ready, but I never used it,” he recollected.

Leavelle has been part of two historic events in his lifetime, and says he actually planned for both.

“We were always preparing for war with Japan,” he said. And in 63’, while preparing to escort Oswald, he jokingly said to the suspect he hoped if someone shot at him, they’d better be a good aim.

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