Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Officer witnessed Oswald’s shooting, brought Ruby to the ground

by MELISSA REPKO / Dallas Morning News

Don Ray Archer, a police officer who helped wrestle Jack Ruby to the ground after he shot Lee Harvey Oswald, died Saturday in Rockwall.

Archer, 81, a retired Dallas police lieutenant, died of respiratory failure at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Rockwall. He worked for the Police Department for 36 years.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Williams Funeral Home in Garland. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at Lavon Drive Baptist Church in Garland.

Archer was a detective in the auto theft bureau in 1963, when he was assigned Nov. 24 to keep the corridor clear for the suspect in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Archer later testified that he saw a man step from crowd of reporters in the blinding TV camera lights and heard a gunshot.

Archer, along with a few other officers, forced Ruby to the ground as they took him into custody and searched him. He spent hours in a jail cell with Ruby to make sure he didn’t harm himself.

Archer told his family that Ruby was shaking and sweating but became calm when he heard Oswald was dead. He told Archer he didn’t want the president’s widow to have to come to Dallas for Oswald’s trial.

“I always felt like … [my father] was one of the unsung heroes when Ruby shot Oswald,” said son David Ray Archer of Quinlan. “He was right in the middle of all that. To me, he’s a part of history.”

Archer testified at Ruby’s murder trial, and he gave a deposition to the President’s Commission on the Kennedy assassination and was interviewed by the FBI.

“When the FBI came to the house to question him one night, I thought Daddy had done something wrong,” recalled David Ray Archer, who was 11.

Two days before Oswald was shot, Archer had nearly crossed paths with the president when he was stationed at the Dallas Trade Mart for the president’s speech. Kennedy was assassinated before he could make the speech.

Archer’s survivors include his wife, Patsy June Adams Archer of Sasche; his son, David Ray Archer of Quinlan; a daughter, Virginia Marie Brown of Dallas; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren

1 comment:

Barry Ryder said...

Don Archer’s presence and actions at Oswald’s murder made him a key witness at Ruby’s subsequent trial, of course.

Wade – for the state – sought to use Don Ray to demonstrate premeditation on Ruby’s part.

Many visitors to this site will be familiar with the courtroom exchanges between the volcanic Melvin Belli and Don Ray.

‘The Trial Of Jack Ruby’, by Kaplan & Waltz, (Macmillan, 1965), captures some of these moments really well. One of my favourite moments in the book occurs on page 327; Belli is summarising his case to the jury.

“Archer!” he spat out in a voice tinged with contempt. It was Archer, Belli reminded the jurors, who had related Ruby’s purported statement that, “I intended to shoot him three times,” and “Do you think I was going to let the so-and-so get by with it?” “Mr Archer,” Belli asserted, “is the keystone.”

In view of the jury’s eventual verdict, he may well have been.

Barry Ryder