Oswald in lens, Ruby at his shoulder as Texas cameraman filmed history

Fri Nov 15, 2013 10:31pm EST
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By Karen Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - As George Phenix shouldered his news camera in the throng of 50 reporters crowded noisily into the basement of the Dallas Police Department headquarters, he did not notice the man in a hat standing beside him.

Phenix, a cub reporter for local CBS TV affiliate KRLD, was focused on Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy in Dallas just two days before.

Oswald appeared in the basement in what was supposed to be a jail transfer. The crowd surged forward and the man in the hat, Jack Ruby, sprang into motion, stepping in front of Phenix's lens and firing a fatal handgun shot into Oswald.

Hours later, the 24-year-old Phenix, who had been working nonstop since the assassination, finally saw his film that showed he had captured a moment in history.

"I remember a gasp, and then it seemed like everybody exhaled at once," Phenix, now 74 and retired in North Carolina, told Reuters in an interview as he recalled seeing the film back at the TV station after it was developed.

"It was just a sense of relief, so much, that I did have it."

Phenix's footage of the Oswald shooting is one of the enduring images returning to the airwaves for the 50th anniversary of the November 22, 1963, assassination of Kennedy as he rode through Dallas in a motorcade. The shooting of Oswald, broadcast live on NBC, occurred on November 24.

In 1964, a member of the Warren Commission, set up by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the assassination of his predecessor, called Phenix's footage "that famous film that catches Ruby moving forward and the wrestling."   Continued...

Visitors tour the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum in Hyannis, Massachusetts November 14, 2013. November 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination in 1963. REUTERS/Brian Snyder