Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Historical marker for slain police officer J.D. Tippit unveiled in Oak Cliff ceremony

by ROY APPLETON / Dallas Morning News

Dallas police Chief David Brown, left, and Farris Rookstool III help Marie Tippit unveil a historical marker honoring her late husband, J.D. Tippit (Brad Loper / Dallas Morning News)
President Kennedy had been shot in downtown Dallas. A police dispatcher ordered Officer J.D. Tippit into central Oak Cliff and minutes later told him to be “at large for any emergency that comes in.” 

Police broadcasts described the shooting suspect as a “white male, approximately 30, slender build, height 5 foot 10 inches, weight 165 pounds.” 

At about 1:15 p.m. a cruising Tippit stopped a man walking on a sidewalk along Patton Avenue near 10th Street. Within seconds, four gunshots erupt. 

This afternoon, almost 49 years later, a crowd gathered at that crossing to honor the officer, slain outside his squad car that tragic day in Dallas. 

“On November 22, 1963, at this intersection, Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, 45 minutes after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza.”

So begins the inscription on a state historical marker unveiled today at a corner of the Adamson High School campus, an area with little resemblance to the residential neighborhood there in 1963.

“Although the intersection of 10th and Patton Streets has changed,” the marker inscription concludes, “Officer Tippit’s actions and subsequent murder at this site are remembered for setting into motion a series of events that led directly to Oswald’s arrest.”

An 11-year veteran of the police force, Tippit received posthumous honors and praise for heroism – for doing his job, sending the gunman, later identified by witnesses as Oswald, the suspected presidential assassin, toward his capture at the Texas Theatre six blocks away.

A touched nation donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the 39-year-old officer’s family. But the site of his slaying had never been publicly designated for history’s sake.

Brad Watson, a reporter for WFAA-TV, Channel 8, questioned the lack of recognition for Tippit in a broadcast two years ago. Michael Amonett, then president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, took up the cause, with help from Farris Rookstool III, a Kennedy assassination historian.

The school district provided the land. And the Texas Historical Foundation donated $5,000 to the project.

The crowd of about 200 people Tuesday included Tippit’s widow Marie; his children, Allan, Brenda and Curtis Tippit; his sister Joyce DeBord; other family members; and police officers past and present.

Standing and sitting under a cloudless sky, they watched members of the Adamson ROTC present the colors, heard the Dallas police choir sing "God Bless America" and listened while speakers praised the slain officer and his family.

“Officer Tippit did what hundreds of Dallas police officers do and have done every day since this tragedy,” said Dallas school trustee Eric Cowan. “He did his job, and as a result he gave the ultimate sacrifice and we as a community should — now thanks to this marker – never forget what happened on that day.”

Said Amonett: Forty-nine years ago “no one’s life was more impacted than the two families that lost their loved ones that day. … We have spent a lot of time honoring one of those families and that is right because he was our president. But we have also neglected one of those families.

“We honor Officer Tippit here today to try in a small way to right that. This has been a long time coming. I hope this is a way to say we are grateful for your sacrifice and that we are sorry for your loss.”

Dallas police Chief David Brown told those gathered that “there is no greater love than this: That a man would lay down his life for his fellow man.”

And after recounting details of the Tippit shooting and Oswald’s arrest, he said, “May God’s grace continue to bless and heal this family.”

Before the ceremony, Marie Tippit said, “It’s such an honor what they are doing for J.D. I appreciate it so much.”

Curtis and Brenda Tippit said they were thankful for the public support and recognition of their father. “It validates his service,” Curtis said. And the marker “should remind people of what police officers go through every day.”

In her brief remarks, Mrs. Tippit noted her husband “died just a few steps from here, doing his job, enforcing the law.”

And then with the help of Brown and Rookstool, she unveiled the marker, smiling as the crowd applauded.

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