Friday, August 13, 2021

Joyce F. DeBord dies at 88

Sister of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit
 
By DALE K. MYERS 
 
The sister of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit is dead at 88. 
 
Joyce Floranze DeBord, spent a lifetime keeping the memory of her dear, departed brother alive for future generations. She passed away at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday afternoon. 
 
She was born in in the Jakes Creek Community near Clarksville, Texas, on March 28, 1933 to Edgar Lee Tippit and Lizzie Mae Rush. The fourth of five children born to Edgar and Lizzie, Joyce grew up in the Clarksville area with two older brothers – J.D. and Donnie; one older sister, Christine; and three younger brothers – Wayne, Edward and Ronnie. 
 
Edward and Ronnie were sons born to Edgar and his second wife, Mary Lee Daniels. 
 
Joyce had fond memories of living on a farm in the 1930s and 1940s. The work was hard, but their close-knit family and surrounding neighbors created an enjoyable life. And she idolized her eldest brother, J.D. 
 
She recognized early on that while most of the Tippit men were quiet and reserved, her brother J.D. was loud, boisterous and quite a character around family and friends – especially Uncle George Rush, her mother’s brother. 
 
When the Christopher family moved next door to their farm on Baker Lane in the early 1940’s, J.D. began chumming around with Jack Christopher, a prankster and cutup who matched J.D. joke-for-joke. Joyce observed that J.D. and Jack soon became closer than most brothers were. 
 
Joyce remembered the day that J.D. enlisted in the army during World War II. 
 
“He kept being given deferments by the army because he was helping Daddy with the crop,” Joyce said. “It was so crucial for the nation to balance the defense workers with the people producing food. In fact, he wouldn’t have had to have gone when he did, because he did have another deferment. But it bothered him, because his friends were all going. One day, we were washing up by the well and he was kind of frustrated. He just left, went into town, and enlisted.” 
 
After the war, Joyce traveled to Dallas and stayed with J.D. and Marie in their rented flat on East Commerce Street. 
 
“I’d never been to a big city like Dallas,” Joyce remembered. “It was like a whole new world opened up to this little country girl.” 
 
On August 18, 1950, Joyce married Alvie D. DeBord. They had two sons, Bryant and Daniel. 
 
Joyce remained close with her brother throughout the years. In July, 1963, the older Tippit brothers and sisters, and their spouses, vacationed in Colorado. It turned out to be their only vacation together. 
 
A week before his death, Joyce attended a south Oak Cliff High School football game with her sister Christine, her brother-in-law Jack, and J.D. Halfway through the game, J.D. scooted passed Joyce. He was heading to his Friday night job – moonlighting as a security guard at Austin’s Barbecue. 
 
“I’ll see you later,” he said. It was the last time Joyce saw her brother alive. 
 
On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, the telephone rang at the DeBord household in Garland, Texas. 
 
“It was my sister Chris,” Joyce said. “And she just said, ‘J.D. was killed.’ That’s all I remember her saying. I don’t remember if I hung the phone up or put the phone down. I just remember going up and down the hall. And then I heard a wailing, like a wounded animal. And it took a minute before I realized it was me. There was so much pain and hurt, you can’t even imagine. I had heard all my life about someone’s insides twisting at a time like that. But I didn’t know that it could really happen.” 
 
Joyce never felt animosity toward Lee Harvey Oswald for what he had done to her brother. She only felt sorry for him; sorry that his young mind became so twisted that he thought his deed could lead to anything but destroyed lives. 
 
Joyce was always open to talking about her brother and embraced anyone who approached her. In May, 1978, she welcomed a young man into her home who claimed to be writing a book about her late brother. She opened her heart and her photo albums and talked to the young man about J.D.’s character and upbringing at length. When the conversation turned to Joyce’s belief in Oswald’s guilt, the young man objected vehemently and an argument ensued. Joyce realized she had been betrayed and the young man, who had gained her trust using an alias, had to be forcibly escorted from the home by Joyce’s husband, Alvie. 
 
The incident soured the entire Tippit family on having any more interactions with people interested in their brother. The subject, even amongst themselves became off-limits. I met Joyce in the summer of 1999 – twenty-one years after her confrontation with the young man in her kitchen. I was vouched for by her older sister, Christine, husband Jack, and their two daughters, Carol and Linda. I think Joyce had always been ready to talk about J.D. again (despite the family directive) and was simply looking for some assurances. 
 
The meeting opened an old, dormant wound, but it also served as a catalyst for discussion about the events of 1963 that allowed the family to grieve once again for the life lost and to, finally, let it all go. It needed to be done, and I was grateful that I could help. 
 
Our friendship led to Joyce asking me to help her with an application to the Texas Historical Commission to have a marker erected to honor her late brother. I was very pleased to accept. It had been a longtime dream of both Joyce and her older sister, Christine, to have their brother forever remembered in that manner. 
 
Joyce later told me that she cried when she read the dissertation that I had prepared to petition the State to erect the marker. I was touched. 
 
On November 17, 2001, at Joyce’s request, I served as the guest speaker at the dedication ceremony just south of Clarksville near the site of the Tippit’s 1940 farm. 
 
Afterwards, as the sun broke through the clouds, I approached Joyce, her face beaming with a huge smile. She was practically floating three feet off the ground. 
 
“I think J.D. is looking down on us and smiling,” she said. 
 
“I do too,” I replied and gave her a hug
 
In the years that followed, I produced a documentary film, “Ordinary Hero: The J.D. Tippit Story.” Joyce was instrumental in arranging family interviews to be filmed at her home, and corralling her somewhat reluctant brothers to participate. 
 
We spoke on the telephone often and I never missed an opportunity to stop by and visit her anytime I was in the Dallas area. 
 
She was preceded in death by her husband, Alvie, who died in 2021; and her eldest son, Bryant Wayne DeBord, who died of a heart attack in 2015, at age 63. She is survived by her son, Daniel Ray; and grandchildren, family and friends. A private gathering will be held in her honor. 
 
I will always remember Joyce as a kindly, sweet soul, whose love for J.D. knew no limits. Rest in peace, dear sister. [END]