Infamous Jack Ruby had ties to Wilmington prior to JFK’s assassination

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Friday marks the 56th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Lee Harvey Oswald fired a series of shots on November 22, 1963, as the President’s motorcade traveled through downtown Dallas.

Two days later, Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, who also has a connection to the Cape Fear.

“Its kind of a truism that everybody that day who received the news remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing,” said Ev Smith, a retired University of North Carolina Wilmington history professor.

When Kennedy was assassinated, Smith was 13 years old and a student at St. Alban’s School in Washington, DC.

“The monthly edition of the school newspaper had just been distributed and the assistant headmaster broke in to lunch, made the announcement that President Kennedy had been shot which is all that we knew at that time and I wrote that down on the margin of that newspaper,” he said.

Smith and his classmates went to the school’s chapel to hold a vigil where they soon learned that Kennedy had succumbed to his injuries.

“We were in prayer at the time that we learned he had died,” Smith recalled.

Among other memorabilia from this period of history, Smith cherishes a special tie pin call a PT-109 from Kennedy’s presidential election campaign.

“This little trinket conferred a good little bit of prestige in the early 1960’s because the President himself often gave it out in the Oval Office to his visitors,” Smith said. “Mine goes back to the campaign and I have no idea how my father acquired it but he was the Staff Director of what was then called the Senate Space Committee whose first chairman was Lyndon Johnson and this probably came through Senator Johnson himself or a member of his personal staff.”

Smith says Ruby lived in Wilmington less than 10 years before Kennedy’s assassination.

“In World War II, Jacob Rubenstein, as he was then known, was a Private First Class in the Air Force and trained as an aircraft mechanic and served at a variety of military bases around the United States,” Smith said.

One of those bases was in Wilmington where Rubenstein served in 1944.

“He was at the airport which at that time was known as the Wilmington Army Air Base and he was a member of the unit D-2 Static Crew Section which probably was involved in the repair and maintenance of P-47 fighter planes because that’s what the air base was used for during the war,” Smith said.

But Rubenstein’s residency in Wilmington was brief.

“After the war was over, he and his brothers changed their names legally to Ruby and he was known as Jack Ruby at the time of the assassination,” Smith said.

Although Kennedy’s life was cut short, the ideals he represented remain forever etched in the memories of many.

“I think the optimism, the ‘can-do’ attitude, the sense that if Americans put their shoulders to the wheel together, they can accomplish great things — that was the message that he gave us and remains today,” Smith said.


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