Authors note: Jerry Coley is probably the most important witness to come forth in the last 53 years to share what he witnessed on November 22, 1963. We find Coley to be highly articulate, intelligent, and honest, with a remarkable ability to recall details of what was probably the most important and traumatic event of his life. His story opens up a Pandora’s box of what really happened that day.
Jerry Coley Interview
Transcribed by Larry Rivera 1/13/17
I’ll recount it as best I can – that was what like – I was in the advertising department. I usually got there about 8:00 O’clock, and we had a little cafeteria and on Friday I would go down and my cohort who handles food and drug advertising with me, Don Campbell, he and I usually would meet for coffee and on Fridays, usually Jack Ruby would come in to place his weekend advertising, and he would join us for coffee, and that Friday morning he did, on November the 22nd about 8:00 O’clock or so, when I got there he was in the cafeteria with Don Campbell, they were having coffee, I sat down with them, and Jack was his usual self, he liked to talk about his strippers and how tough he was, and he flashed his brass knuckles that he had in his suit coat, and bragged about toughness and he usually came in and placed his weekend advertising on Friday with our department, for his strip joint there along with another night club he owned, and he always paid in cash – and he kept the money rolled up in his pocket, and uh, he always bragged about the money he had and about the gun he carried under the front seat of his car, but, that was a normal morning, and then I left the coffee shop, I guess, and came on in to my office, left my office about 9 O’clock to go out and make my advertising calls. I came back into the office, probably sometime after 11 O’clock, and Jack Ruby was still sitting at John Newnam’s desk, who sat directly behind me. John handled the downtown advertising where his club was.
About 11:30 or so, I got Charlie Mulkey up, one of my advertising friends, and we went down to our personnel office to re-draw some parking spaces they were doing that day and then walked 3 1/2 blocks over to try to get a good spot on the corner of Main and Houston to watch the parade as it come by and turned there. We couldn’t get that spot on the corner of Main and Houston, it was already too crowded, so we moved down about halfway down Houston Street from the corner of Main, between Main and Elm,
in front of the County Jail there, and they were just unloading a no parking sign, set on a big concrete bowl there, so I got onto that concrete so that I could see over the crowd, and had a good view – and just about a few minutes, about 12:15, 12:20, by then, across the street on Houston, on the sidewalk, in front of this reflecting pool that’s there, a man had an epileptic fit – and I remember him writhing around on the ground, and just almost out of nowhere here come this ambulance, turned the corner, loaded the man on there and took off down Houston Street, over the Houston Street viaduct, towards Methodist Hospital, we supposed, and the thing I remember so much about it now, then, was that of all the documentaries that we’ve seen on JFK that I have, and the shows, there’s only been one that depicted that thing that happened – and I was really impressed by that particular show.
But any case, right after that happened, within just it seems like a minute, 2 or 3 minutes, the parade came, passed by in front, and I remember Jackie waving, and seeing the President, and as they turned the corner on Elm Street, in front of us which was half a block down and started down that Elm St., in front of the Book Depository, we heard all of these noises and I couldn’t tell you to this day, I couldn’t then, whether it was one shot, or 10 or 5 or whatever, it was just an echoing noise, to me it was no definite gunshots and I did not recall any 3 shots, it was echoing, so – in any case, I crossed Houston Street between some parade cars, over to that reflecting pool, and I could see people running down towards the grassy knoll and the railroad tracks. So I started down the esplanade, which part of it runs parallel to the Book Depository down towards that fence, and down when I got nearly to the fence, a policeman in brown – we called them county “mounties” in Dallas, at that time, stopped me, and he had a shotgun, and Charlie was behind me, and he said: “Where do you guys think you’re going? We said, “we are going back here where all these people are running which was back towards the fence and this parking lot in that area on the top of the grassy knoll. He told us to get the hell out of there. So Charlie, I guess left me at that point, I don’t know where he went, but I went ahead and started down that esplanade, made a left, started down towards, besides the picket fence corner there, and at the top of those steps that go down the grassy knoll. And it was there that I saw people laying all over in the median grass between there, a couple of motorcycles up on – laying on the side of the hill, people and police running up towards the picket fence
towards the picket fence to the right of me. I looked down at the top of those steps before you take the top step was a huge puddle that I thought was blood. So I walked on down, around it, down the steps and saw people in the median between Main and Elm, laying on the grass, people crying, I looked back and I could still see people headed all around the grassy knoll in that area. And no one was going towards that Book Depository at that time. There was no one headed in that direction.
So I rushed on back to the News, to see if I could find out something, and as I come in the door, by then it must have been quarter to one, maybe a little bit later than that, Jack Ruby was still at Newnam’s desk, and I said to someone that Connally might have been shot and maybe even the President. I remember Jack Ruby jumped up then and ran back to our corner office, Dick Jeffries at that time was our promotion director, he ran into his secretary’s desk, he could look out the window, directly down at that assassination site, and I remember him on the phone crying, and talking. Well about that time, I saw Jim Hood, who was our ad department photographer, and I went up to him and I said “Jim, I think I seen some blood or something down there where all this stuff took place. And he said: “Well let me get my camera and we’ll go back down there”, so he got his camera and we went – rushed back down there, it was probably one or a little after by then. And everyone was gathered up around the Book Depository then.
We came up to this, blood area, which now was crinkly like it had coagulated a little, and he put his little pinky on his right hand, into that, and he stuck his tongue to it and said “well that’s blood.” He made a photo with his Reflex camera, and we came on back to the News. And of course we heard then that the President had been shot and all this. It was Sunday I guess when I was home then, watching television as they were getting ready to transfer Oswald from the City Jail to the County Jail, and when Jack Ruby stepped forward with that hat and that dark suit, I recognized him instantly as he shot him.
Well I come into the office Monday morning, and Hugh Aynesworth, who was a News reporter, was there talking to Don, and Don turned around and said “Coley there was at breakfast with me, and uh, me and Jack, and we all sat there and talked that morning”. And I said: “Let’s go back over Jim this morning and look at that blood. We went back over and there was no stain to be found anywhere, it was like someone had cleaned it off very thoroughly, and then I got busy in all my day work that I had, and nothing else happened ’til Tuesday A.M., the next morning when I came in and someone told me that Hugh Aynesworth in our bulldog edition which is printed back then about 9 o’clock they were printed for news stands sales in downtown honor box sales.
There was a story written by Hugh that said “Coley at the News” and had visited with Jack Ruby that morning. Someone then showed me that edition and I looked at it and uh, I said, Wow. It wasn’t 30 minutes later while I was preparing to go out, my wife called – and she was hysterical on the phone – and she said: “I just received two threatening phone calls” They both have said, “If you don’t shut your mouth, they’re going to kill me and our two kids”, a boy and a girl we had at that time. And I said “what are you talking about shut…? “That’s what they said!” I said, some quack who doesn’t know anything, I haven’t said anything!
So I made my morning run, and I got back, probably about 10:30 that morning, at that time as I sat down to begin working on my ads, two men came up in dark suits, they kind of flashed a green ID card and said we’re the FBI, are you “Coley at the News”? that was printed in a story this morning? Well I’m Jerry Coley. He said: Did you have coffee with Jack Ruby Friday morning? I said: Yes sir. We want to talk to you in private. So I said, “wait just a minute” so I went to the back of the room to our vice-president’s office and I said: “Cy, I’m scared, would you verify who these people are? So, Cy Wagoner came up, he said, “you sit down in my office and I’ll go up and talk to them.” He went up and talked with these two men and came back, oh in a few minutes, and said “Jerry they’re OK, go ahead and talk to them” So they said “where can we meet in private”?, and I said, well we got a conference room, just up here in the front of the room – so they said “let’s go in there an talk”. So I went in and one of them, the taller guy was doing all the questions, the other guy was making what looked like shorthand noted, I couldn’t tell what he was doing, and he asked me to talk about that morning and Jack Ruby. And I did, and about when I was down in the parade area, and I want to ask you a question – and the guy taking notes said: “Wait a minute, we are not here to answer questions, we’re here to ask them – in a rough kind of way – and I said: “Well it’s about some blood I saw there.” Right away the man interviewing said: “Tell me about this blood.” So I told him what I had seen, and that one of my advertising photographers had made a picture of it. He said: “Is he here now? and I said, “yes, he sits just outside the door here”. He said “go get him, get his camera, his negative and any positives that he’s got, and you come back in here”. So I went up to Jim’s desk and I said “Jim, can you please come in here with me and bring your camera and your negative – did you print that piece out? He said “I just printed out that photo this morning”, he said “you know I don’t have right way in that photographic lab, the news room has first priority with all that’s been going on, I hadn’t been able to print that picture.” he said “but I just did this morning”, and I said, “well get it and come in here”, so he brought the camera, the negative – the positive was in a brown envelope. The FBI man, we went in and introduced himself, and had us sit down – the FBI who was doing the questioning then took the negative and then he took the envelope and opened it up and looked at the print, and that was the first time I had seen the print, it was just print of the blood stain there, or the blood there on top of the steps, and he wanted to know if there were any more prints made, and Jim said, “No, I’ve just been able to make that one this morning.” So then they turned and had some sort of muffled conversation between themselves, and seemed like after an eternity as they stood there, probably 2 or 3 minutes, but, the big guy stood up and the other one did too, and he put everything in the bag, put ’em under his arm and he said: “Boys, this conversation never took place, if you know what we mean.” And they walked out the door, and left. Jim and I sat in that conference room and he said: “What the hell is going on here?” “What have you got me in to?”, and I said, “Jim, I don’t know what’s going on, I just know that my wife’s been threatened – and he said “What?!” I said, “Yeah, and he said, well what are you saying, I said, well I’m not talking to anybody, Jim! He said: “You shut your mouth, and I’m gonna shut mine, and let’s not talk about this blood mess anymore, and I said: “I won’t.” Well, we didn’t. It wasn’t long after that we, two days after that, I received a subpoena to Jack Ruby’s trial, and on the subpoena, which I still have, it’s addressed to “Coley at the News”, which I guess was taken from that news story that ran in the two story edition only.
Some, I don’t know when it was, in the 70’s some time after that, Unsolved Mysteries, an NBC production, called and said, we would like to meet with you, after work, and listen to your story about Jack Ruby that morning and your association with him, and I said “Fine”, so they came that afternoon, about 6. About 9 O’clock they took a short break, and I called my wife to tell her what was still going on, and I said: “You know what, everybody that can corroborate my story about the blood now is dead: Jim Hood, Cy Wagoner, Don Campbell. I said, “you know we never talked about it, I just got to tell somebody, and get it off – let it be open. She panicked. She said: “Don’t do that” And I said: ”Well you know if I talk about this they’ll think well at the worse, I’m some kind of nut – nobody’s gonna believe me, so, but at least I told it. Well I did, and they nearly flipped out, they, they said, we wanna come back the next morning and wanna go over to where this happened. We wanna – and they did, I met them and we went over there. This thing went on all morning long. And they said through it’s rep. We’ll call you when we get to California, and give you the run show date, for we going to run this. Well they call us like two or three days later, and says: “We can’t use that blood story, we couldn’t substantiate it.” And I said: “I told you that when I told you that story, when I told it to you. So they said: “well we can only use that other part, about Jack Ruby.”
Then after that, I’ve been interviewed by the Japanese, from Tokyo Japan, they came over, and talked, and of course they had all kind of wild theories.
I don’t advance a theory in what I seen other than I know that I saw, it scared me to death, I know my wife was threatened three times on the phone, for me to shut up which I haven’t said anything, other than that story that Hugh had written about me talking with Jack Ruby that morning, and I know that when this happened, I was there, I saw the people run towards that picket fence – no one ran towards the Book Depository – and that’s all I know first hand, sir.
On the steps there is an esplanade looking thing that comes down the hill to Elm Street, and there’s steps – it’s almost – it starts almost close to that corner of the picket fence there, just to the right of it. These steps come down to the sidewalk. Well, you know, my personal theory is it had to have something to do, someone was hit there, it’s up that grassy knoll that leads down to Elm St., kind of, Elm St makes a kind of semi S coming down around that curve.
Yes sir, Jim and I still remembered, “my God, if we can’t be truthful to the FBI, what’s going on? How big is this? What’s happening? And he said: “I don’t know about you, but I’m shutting my mouth and I think you better too, since you’re the one getting all the threatening calls. And we both said we’re not going to talk about it, and we didn’t, for about 13 years, before I talked about it. It was after Don, and as I said the three people involved that could corroborate my story died – I said, I’m going to talk about it. (19:20) Someone told me that Hugh Aynesworth, speaking somewhere was asked, or maybe he’d written it, I don’t know: “Oh yeah, I saw that up there, it was a soda pop” – and I thought – WOW – we, I had a man, a photographer who tasted that – it was blood Anyway, he could say what he wants, it doesn’t matter. He wrote a story about me talking to Ruby that I guess got me into all of this trouble
Jim Hood, who made my picture of the blood, left the News not too long after that, went back to Oklahoma, and ah, I usually saw him once a year, he would call me and say – he was a big Oklahoma fan, and ah, “I’d like tickets if you can find them for the Texas-Oklahoma game, and I said “sure” and I’d usually get him two tickets every year. Well after a couple or three years, he didn’t call – and uh, we began to wonder about him and so finally we tracked down his wife, and found that uh, he had died strangely in a plane crash – he was a pilot, in a little small plane, had died strangely one day – the plane crashed without any kind of provocation, no bad weather, they just didn’t understand – but it crashed.
Hearing all those things made us live in fear for about 10 years. We uh, that’s, we were, we were really terrified and scared, my wife and two children, we just kind of shut up and didn’t talk out of fear to anybody – didn’t know what was taking place.