Conflicting birth dates for Ruby, ranging March to June 1911, were given by Ruby at various times; March 25, 1911 is the date he most commonly gave for his own birth date. (Births in Chicago in 1911 were not mandatorily recorded, so there is no official record to consult.) The fifth of his parents' eight living children, growing up in the Maxwell Street area of Chicago, Ruby had a troubled childhood and adolescence, marked by juvenile delinquency and time spent in foster homes. On June 6, 1922, when Ruby was only eleven years old, he was arrested for truancy. Ruby eventually skipped school enough times that he spent time in a youth detention center. Young Ruby sold horse-racing tip sheets and various other novelties, then acted as business agent for a local refuse collectors union that later became part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Ruby briefly came to public attention in December 1939 when he was implicated in the fatal shooting of the union's president, attorney Leon Cooke, but was cleared of any wrongdoing. In memory of Cooke, Ruby later adopted "Leon" as his middle name.
In the 1940s, Ruby frequented race tracks in Illinois and California. He was drafted in 1943 and served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, working as an aircraft mechanic at bases in the US until 1946. He had an honorable record and was promoted to Private First Class. Upon discharge, Ruby returned to Chicago.
In 1947, Ruby moved to Dallas, where he and his brothers soon afterward shortened their surnames from Rubenstein to Ruby. The stated reason for changing the family name had been that Jack and his brothers had opened up a mail order business and feared that some customers would refuse to do business with Jews. Jack later went on to manage various nightclubs, strip clubs, and dance halls. Among the strippers Ruby befriended was Candy Barr.
He developed close ties to many Dallas police officers, who frequented his nightclubs where Ruby showered them with large quantities of liquor and other favors. Ruby went to Cuba in 1959, ostensibly to visit a friend, influential Dallas gambler Lewis McWillie, an associate of Mafia boss Santo Trafficante. (Trafficante operated major casinos in Cuba and was briefly imprisoned after Fidel Castro came to power.) The House Select Committee on Assassinations inferred from Ruby's trip to Cuba, and his subsequent trips, "...that Ruby was at least serving as a kind of courier on behalf of gambling interests in Cuba.
While Campisi's technical characterization in Federal law enforcement records as an organized crime member has ranged from definite to suspected to negative, it is clear that he was an associate or friend of many Dallas-based organized crime members, particularly Joseph Civello during the time he was the head of the Dallas organization. There was no indication that Campisi had engaged in any specific organized crime-related activities.
In 1963, Sam and Joe Campisi were leading figures in the Dallas underworld. Jack knew the Campisis and had been seen with them on many occasions. The Campisis were lieutenants of Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss who had reportedly talked of killing the President.
A day before Kennedy was murdered, Ruby went to Joe Campisi's restaurant. At the time of the Kennedy assassination, Ruby was close enough to the Campisis to ask them to come see him after he was arrested for shooting Lee Oswald.
Some writers, including former Los Angeles District Attorney Vincent Buglosi, dismiss Ruby's connections to organized crime as hearsay:
Ruby (also known as "Sparky," reportedly because of his short temper) frequently carried a handgun, and witnesses saw him with a handgun in the halls of the Dallas police headquarters on several occasions after President Kennedy's assassination and arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963. In addition, WFAA-TV (Dallas) and NBC newsreel footage show Ruby impersonating a newspaper reporter during a press conference, at Dallas Police Headquarters, on the night of the assassination. At the press conference, District Attorney Henry Wade said that Lee Oswald was a member of the anti-Castro Free Cuba Committee. Ruby corrected Wade by stating that it was the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
Ruby received international attention two days later. After driving into town and sending a money order to one of his employees, he walked the short distance to the nearby police headquarters. There is some evidence it was on a whim, for he left his favorite dog, Sheba, in the car, when he shot and fatally wounded the 24-year-old Oswald on Sunday, November 24, 1963, at 11:21 am CST, while authorities were preparing to transfer Oswald by car from police headquarters to the nearby county jail. Stepping out from a crowd of reporters and photographers, Ruby fired a snub-nosed Colt Cobra .38 into Oswald's abdomen.
When Ruby was arrested immediately after the shooting, he told several witnesses that his killing of Oswald would show the world that "Jews have guts," that he helped the city of Dallas "redeem" itself in the eyes of the public, and that Oswald's death would spare Jacqueline Kennedy the ordeal of appearing at Oswald's trial. Ruby stated that he shot Oswald to avenge Kennedy. Later, however, he claimed he shot Oswald on the spur of the moment when the opportunity presented itself, without considering any reason for doing so. At the time of the shooting Jack Ruby was taking Preludin, a slimming tablet which, while removing appetite, also roused the metabolism to hyperactivity.
During the six months following the Kennedy assassination, Ruby repeatedly asked, orally and in writing, to speak to the members of the Warren Commission. Only after Ruby's sister Eileen wrote letters to the Warren Commission (and after her writing letters to the commission became publicly reported) did the commission agree to talk to Ruby. In June 1964, Chief Justice Earl Warren, then-Representative Gerald R. Ford of Michigan and other commission members went to Dallas and met with Ruby. Ruby asked Warren several times to take him to Washington D.C., because he feared for his life and wanted an opportunity to make additional statements. Warren was unable to comply due to the fact that many legal barriers would need to be broken and public interest in the situation would be too heavy . According to a record of Ruby's testimony, Warren declared that the Commission would have no way of providing protection to him, since it had no police powers. Ruby said he wanted to convince President Johnson that he was not part of any conspiracy to kill JFK.
Following Ruby's March 1964 conviction for murder with malice, Ruby's lawyers, led by Sam Houston Clinton, appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas. Ruby's lawyers argued that he could not have received a fair trial in the city of Dallas because of the excessive publicity surrounding the case. A year after his conviction, in March 1965, Ruby conducted a brief televised news conference in which he stated: "Everything pertaining to what's happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts of what occurred, my motives. The people who had so much to gain, and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I'm in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world." When asked by a reporter: "Are these people in very high positions Jack?" he responded "Yes."
Dallas Deputy Sheriff Al Maddox claimed: "Ruby told me, he said, 'Well, they injected me for a cold.' He said it was cancer cells. That's what he told me, Ruby did. I said you don't believe that ____. He said, 'I damn sure do!' [Then] one day when I started to leave, Ruby shook hands with me and I could feel a piece of paper in his palm.... [In this note] he said it was a conspiracy and he said ... if you will keep your eyes open and your mouth shut, you're gonna learn a lot. And that was the last letter I ever got from him.
Not long before Ruby died, according to an article in the London Sunday Times, he told psychiatrist Werner Teuter, that the assassination was "an act of overthrowing the government" and that he knew "who had President Kennedy killed." He added: "I am doomed. I do not want to die. But I am not insane. I was framed to kill Oswald." This was in addition to his claims that Jews were being systematically exterminated (presumably in America), and that he was to be a victim too due to his own heritage .
Eventually, the appellate court agreed with Ruby's lawyers for a new trial, and on October 5, 1966, ruled that his motion for a change of venue before the original trial court should have been granted. Ruby's conviction and death sentence were overturned. Arrangements were underway for a new trial to be held in February 1967, in Wichita Falls, Texas, when, on December 9, 1966, Ruby was admitted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, suffering from pneumonia. A day later, doctors realized he had cancer in his liver, lungs, and brain.
Ruby made a final statement from his hospital bed on December 19 that he and he alone had been responsible for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. "There is nothing to hide," Ruby said. "There was no one else. He died of a pulmonary embolism, secondary to bronchiolar lung cancer, on January 3, 1967 at Parkland Hospital, where Lee Harvey Oswald had died and President Kennedy had been pronounced dead after his assassination.
At least three scenes further detailing Ruby were removed from the film and only available on DVD.
One scene expanded the Oswald shooting by showing corrupt police letting Ruby enter through a restricted entrance.
A lunch meeting between Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) and Dean Andrews (John Candy) is expanded to include the comment by Andrews, “Jack Ruby gets a new trial and dies of cancer a few days later. That’s some kind of cancer. I’d say that’s a going out of business kind of cancer.” When this conversation took place Ruby would still have been alive.
"We didn't know where we were going, we didn't know what it was. But, for some reason, it seemed like a good idea. We got to this place, a joint, in Fort Worth, Texas. It was burned out, bombed out. The roof wasn't even on the place any more. And that's when they decided to call it the Skyline Lounge. And we got there and set up and... A big place. Huge. Bar, way at the back and a big dance floor.
- Real old. - So we set up the first night.
We go down to the place to play.
We go in and, in this huge place, there's
about three people in the audience.
A one-armed go-go dancer
and a couple of drunk waiters.
- A couple here, a couple there. - Somebody fires a tear gas...
And a fight starts. There isn't enough people in the place to get angry. And we found out a few years later that it was Jack Ruby's club."
24. Seinfeld Episdoe: George says "I won't interfere," and then Jerry replies, "Isn't that what Jack Ruby said?"
Bridget Jones's Diary: Oh God. the Whole of Sunday Stretching Ahead. Am Doomed to Be a Love Pariah. Oooh, Telephone
Apr 16, 1997; Saturday 12 April 9st; cigarettes 12(vg); alcohol units 6 (Saturday); no correct lottery numbers 2 (vg) 8am The phone just rang....
`I Have Lived My Life on the Edge and I Would like to Live a Normal Life, in What's Left of It. but I Am Doomed, as Long as I Am Spared, to Be a Political Animal'
Feb 21, 1995; The local Sinn Fein headquarters in Andersontown Road, West Belfast, is in a converted suburban house. Must have been quite nice,...