DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On Friday it will be 50 years since the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But there was another murder on that dark day in Dallas — one you don’t hear as much about.
Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit was killed while trying to capture Lee Harvey Oswald.
In a CBS 11 exclusive, Tippit’s partner shared his memories of that day for the first time.
It’s not easy for R.C. Nelson to go back to that day nearly 50 years ago. “For 20 years I wouldn’t even talk about it,” he admitted. When asked what it is that really ‘gets to him’ specifically he said, “Pretty much that day.”
In 1963 Nelson was a 26-year-old Dallas police officer and often a patrol partner of J.D. Tippit. Oswald gunned down Tippit in Oak Cliff just minutes after President Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas.
When asked about Tippit Nelson said, “You know I think about him more than Kennedy.”
Nelson was nearby when where Oswald shot his partner. He raced to the scene of Tippit’s murder and later helped other officers capture Oswald at the Texas Theater.
Nelson is now a 76-year-old retiree, but he believes Oswald targeted Tippit intentionally because he wanted to be captured. “I have to believe Lee Harvey Oswald flagged Tippit down. Oswald had not had his glory.”
Nelson found no glory in his next assignment. He was assigned to protect the man the man who killed his friend during an escort from the Dallas City Jail. He said he was, “Pretty mad. Mad indeed.”
When Jack Ruby executed Oswald in front of television cameras, Nelson was the one who put handcuffs on the well-known nightclub owner.
“He turned over and said ‘hey guys it’s Jack. It’s me.’ I honestly believe Jack Ruby thought he was going to be the biggest hero in the world for killing this dastardly guy.”
When asked why he had been silent for so long Nelson said, “Several authors contacted me for a story and I blew them off.”
As legends, both true and false, grew Nelson became bitter over conspiracy stories that even tried to falsely include him.
Nelson told CBS 11 that he ended that dreadful November day in a quiet Oak Cliff park. He sat alone in the darkness, so no one could see his tears.
Now 50 years later, he’s still wiping teardrops away. “A tough day,” he said.
Nelson retired from the department years later wishing his patrol partner could have done the same. Reflecting on his time with DPD he admitted, “I loved chasing crooks and putting bad guys in jail.”
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