clear
Wednesday May 25th, 2016 7:32AM

Ex-AP writer recalls serving as Oswald pallbearer

By The Associated Press
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is another in a series of reports marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was on this day in 1963, two days after JFK was killed, that his alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed.

............................................................................................................................................................................


FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- On a gloomy November afternoon, I helped carry the inexpensive wooden casket of Lee Harvey Oswald to a grave on a slight rise dotted with dying grass.

With no mourners around to serve as pallbearers, it was a task that fell to me and a few other reporters covering the funeral of John F. Kennedy's assassin. Fifty years later, I remain a reluctant and minor footnote in American history.

It was a story that began with a tip: Oswald would be buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth, where he had spent part of his childhood, just one day after nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed him during a jail transfer on Nov. 24, 1963, itself just two days after Kennedy's death.

As the Fort Worth correspondent for The Associated Press, I drew the assignment.

I arrived to discover dozens of police and federal agents, writers and photographers, but no mourners waiting to bid Oswald goodbye or good riddance. A police escort delivered Oswald's casket in the early afternoon. Much later, officers arrived with his family: mother Marguerite, brother Robert, widow Marina and her two daughters, June Lee, 2, and infant Rachel.

No one else would follow; even the minister failed to show. Shaking his head ever so slightly, Jerry Flemmons of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram turned to me and said, "Cochran, if we're gonna write a story about the burial of Lee Harvey Oswald, we're gonna have to bury the son of a bitch ourselves."

Sure enough, officials asked the gathered reporters to serve as pallbearers. I was among the first they asked, my reply not just "No!" but "Hell no!" Then Preston McGraw of United Press International stepped forward and volunteered, and with my top competition for scoops accepting the duty, I realized my error and joined McGraw and other reporters.

The ceremony itself was as brief as it was simple. The Rev. Louis Saunders, executive secretary of the Fort Worth Council of Churches, had been drafted to fill in for the missing minister. His words - "we are not here to judge, only to commit for burial Lee Harvey Oswald" - were barely audible, mingled with muffled sobs by Oswald's mother and widow. Her eyes red and swollen, Marina Oswald stepped beside her husband's casket and quietly whispered something.

Not long after the nation's slain president was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with tearful family members and millions of television viewers around the world looking on, Oswald's body was lowered into his grave at 4:28 p.m.

For years, I would continue to report on the assassination, interviewing Oswald's mother, investigating conspiracy theories and writing stories on the anniversary of that dreadful day in Dallas.

For one of the first of those anniversary stories, I wanted to interview Oswald's widow. She had remarried, moved to suburban Dallas and rarely spoke to reporters. Her new husband had reportedly brandished a pistol and chased one writer away.

Early on a cloudy November morning, I staked out their house and trudged up the steps after he left for work. I had not called ahead, but identified myself as an AP reporter when Marina Oswald opened the door.

"I am no longer news," she said, making it clear she did not intend to talk with me.

She was slim and blonde, with arresting eyes of an intense blue-green and a distinctive Russian accent. She was 24 and I must have stared like a smitten dolt.

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

Embarrassed, I babbled something about not having seen her since that day at Rose Hill.

"You were there?" she asked. I told her I was a pallbearer.

Surprised, she said the least she could do was invite me in for coffee. Several hours later, we were still talking and smoking. Denied cigarettes by Oswald during their marriage, she was now a chain smoker.

"Have you ever tried to analyze yourself?" she asked me at one point, then added: "It's very hard to do."

Asked about the Warren Commission's conclusion that her husband was the lone assassin, she said: "I think about it a lot. I try to forget. It is very difficult. It is like a nightmare. ... I have nightmares."

Years later, in 1983, when working on a story about the 20th anniversary, I interviewed Marina Oswald for the second and last time. She was no less candid and still a heavy smoker.

"For a while I thought it would all blow over, just go away," she said. "But now I accept the fact that I must live with this the rest of my life.

"I may still be naive, but I'm not stupid."

---

(Editor's note: A relative of a Gainesville man was among the officers with Oswald at the time he was killed. "When you look at the picture of Oswald being escorted out of the tunnel, there is an officer in a white hat who is handcuffed to Oswald," Phil Loveless said. "The officer in the black hat was L. C. Graves who is the brother of my step-uncle, Jesse Graves. Officer Graves was the one who wrestled the gun out of Ruby's hand after he shot Oswald. There is a copy of his testimony to the Warren commission at http://jfkassassination.net/russ/testimony/graves2.htm. He never spoke much of it that I heard about or that I can talk about much. He passed away in 1975."

(Editor's Note: Mike Cochran was AP's Fort Worth correspondent in 1963 and retired from the company in 1999.)

(AccessNorthGa.com's Ken Stanford contributed to this story.)
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 2 years ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 2 years ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end
In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty - once again - for millions of individuals and businesses.
2:21PM ( 2 years ago )
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 2 years ago )
Politics
Amid shouts of 'shame,' House GOP defeats gay rights measure
Democrats shouted "shame," but House Republicans switched their votes and defeated a measure to protect gay rights
8:03PM ( 5 days ago )
CDC director Freiden warns GOP Zika bill is inadequate
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that a House GOP measure to combat the Zika virus is inadequate to deal with the swelling threat to public health
7:36PM ( 6 days ago )
Trump unveils list of his top picks for Supreme Court
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.
3:31PM ( 6 days ago )
1st US penis transplant could bring hope to maimed soldiers
A 64-year-old cancer patient has received the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that may also help U.S. veterans maimed by roadside bombs
8:04PM ( 1 week ago )
States dig in against directive on transgender bathroom use
Politicians in Texas, Arkansas and elsewhere are vowing defiance over the Obama administration's new directive on transgender bathroom use
9:19PM ( 1 week ago )