Bill Decker

Bill Decker

Bill Decker, the son of James and Cecille Decker, was born in Dallas on 31st August, 1898. After leaving school he became a elevator operator in the Dallas courthouse. Later he was promoted to court clerk and in 1924 he became a deputy constable.

In 1935 Decker was appointed chief deputy sheriff for Dallas County. According to his biographer: "Decker became somewhat of a legend as a Texas lawman. His relentless pursuit of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker and his capture of hardened criminal Raymond Hamilton focused national attention on him in the 1930s." In January, 1949, Decker was elected sheriff. Throughout his twenty-two years as sheriff he never faced another opponent in an election.

On 22nd November, 1963, Decker rode in the backseat of the motorcade's lead car. With him in the car was Jesse Curry and Winston G. Lawson. After hearing the firing at President John F. Kennedy Decker gave the order: "Move all available men out of my office into the railroad yard... and hold everything secure until Homicide and other investigators should get there."

After Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested he was interrogated by Will Fritz. During this interview Decker phoned Fritz and ordered him to his office to receive an important message. After leaving Oswald and walking to the City Hall, Fritz had a long meeting with Decker.

In his book, The Mafia Killed President Kennedy (1988) David E. Scheim claimed that "Decker was well-connected in the underworld... Decker maintained friendships with two notorious local hoodlums and served as a character reference for Joseph Civello when the Dallas Mafia boss applied for parole on a narcotics conviction."

Bill Decker died on 29th August, 1970.

Primary Sources

(1) Roger Craig, When They Kill A President (1971)

The Dallas County Court House at 505 Main Street was indeed a unique place to come to hear what was WRONG with John F. Kennedy and his policies as President of these United States.

This building housed the elite troops of the Dallas County Sheriff's Department (of which I was one), who, with blind obedience, followed the orders of their Great White Father: Bill Decker, Sheriff of Dallas County.

From these elite troops came the most bitter verbal attacks on President Kennedy. They spoke very strongly against his policies concerning the Bay of Pigs incident and the Cuban Missile crisis. They seemed to resent very much the fact that President Kennedy was a Catholic. I do not know why this was such a critical issue with many of the deputies but they did seem to hold this against President Kennedy.

The concession stand in the lobby of the court house was the best place to get into a discussion concerning the President. The old man who ran the stand evidenced a particular hatred for President Kennedy. He seemed to go out of his way to drag anyone who came by his stand into a discussion about the President. His name is J. C. Kiser.

He was a little man with a short mustache and glasses that he wore right on the end of his nose. He was a particularly good friend of Sheriff Decker, and he held the concession in the lobby for many years. Like Decker, he was unopposed when his lease came up for renewal. It was common knowledge that Bill Decker made it possible for him to remain there as long as he wished. This sick little man not only had a deep hatred for John F. Kennedy, he also hated the black people, even those who spent their money at his stand. He would often curse them as they walked away after making a purchase from him. He flatly refused to make telephone change for them even though he would be simultaneously making change for a white person.

Thus... we have the atmosphere that was to greet the President of the United States upon his arrival in Dallas. However, things were to get even worse before he arrived.

The battle ground had been picked and the unwelcome mat was out for President Kennedy. Unknown to most of us, the rest of the plan was being completed. The patsy had been chosen and placed in the building across from the court house - where he could not deny his presence after it was all over. This was done with the apparent approval and certainly with the knowledge of our co-workers, the F.B.I., since they later admitted that they knew Lee Harvey Oswald was employed at the School Book Depository Building located on the corner of Elm Street and Houston Street across from the Sheriff's Office.

The security had been arranged by the Secret Service and the Dallas Police - our boys in blue. The final touch was put on by Sheriff James Eric (Bill) Decker. On the morning of November 22, 1963 the patrolmen in the districts which make up the Dallas County Sheriff's Patrol Division were left in the field, ignorant of what was going on in the downtown area, which was just as well. Decker was not going to let them do anything anyway.

On July 17, 1970, I reported for work to find another man doing my job. I was told by this "replacement" that Jim wanted to see me. As I sat in Jim's office I knew what was coming. Jim said, "Roger, you've done a good job but it is time for a change." I asked him for an explanation but all he would say was that it was time for a change and he was sorry!

Bill Decker died in August. The County Commissioners appointed his executive assistant, Clarence Jones, to fill the job until November, when he had to run for election (with the backing of the Democratic Party). For the first time since Decker's reign, the Republicans nominated someone to oppose a Democrat for the office. The man was Jack Revel, former Chief of the Dallas Police Intelligence Division. This meant that the voters had the choice between two evils. Well, Clarence Jones was elected - his campaign signs and posters read, "Elect Clarence Jones - In the Tradition of Bill Decker"! It would be nice if Jack Revel would be upset enough over his loss of the election to make public some information--but this is very wishful thinking indeed.

Meanwhile, I am still out of a job (but still looking). I would like to think that the people of Dallas will change and rise up against the dishonest and irresponsible tyrants who govern in their name--but I do not see it happening in the near future. Dallas is my home but I will always feel like an outsider because I simply will not adjust to the idea that for Dallas, for Texas, for America this must serve as democracy.

(2) Bill Decker, Interviewed by Leon D. Hubert on 16th April, 1964.

Leon D. Hubert: Now, when did you make any efforts to take custody of Oswald?

Bill Decker: I can't tell you that as to when - the homicide occurred and the boy was taken in custody in the afternoon and that was on a Friday - I'm not going to tell you for certain because there was so much and on Friday afternoon we were taking statements in my office you know - this thing happened, occurred just across the street from my office and we moved all the witnesses when we were on the ground there at the scene, all the witnesses we could locate I was working there and I had Inspector Sawyer, who is there with me, and also Heitman of the FBI and my assistant chief deputy, and every witness, just as we picked up a witness that had any information at all, we sent him directly across the street to my office and reduced his statement to writing. Then, I talked to Fritz after he arrived. We had by then located the gun and the ammunition, my officers had located it in the building, and was awaiting the arrival of the scene searchers and also the arrival of my scene searchers and Fritz arrived and then I talked to Fritz and then we went across the street and he phoned and that's when I learned Oswald had been formerly employed there at that building. And, Fritz went to the city - now, here's something I'm uncertain about - whether I talked to him that afternoon or the next day about this removal, I cannot tell you because there was so much happening and so much press in our hair, I couldn't say, but I did discuss with him and advise with that I wished to be notified when he started to move this boy, so that I would have my security in shape to receive him when he arrived there.

Leon D. Hubert: You think that was no later than Saturday, the 23d?

Bill Decker: Oh, no; it wasn't. I don't think it was any later than that - no.

Leon D. Hubert: In other words, as I understood you, you couldn't tell whether it was on Friday or Saturday, but it could not have been Sunday?

Bill Decker: No; it wasn't Sunday. I remember there were different conversations on Sunday, different conversations on Saturday and different conversations on Saturday night.

Leon D. Hubert: Well, now, perhaps if you can, you can tell us about these various conversations, if you remember them - who they were with and about what time?

Bill Decker: Well, on Saturday, the homicide, I believe, if I'm correct - now, the date of the homicide of Oswald was what?

Leon D. Hubert: It was Sunday the 24th.

Bill Decker: The 24th - Sunday. Friday, after we had completed our investigation and gotten our files together to some extent, we then closed shop, shall we say, and went back into our routine work, and on Saturday arrival at our office we then again, I'm reasonably sure that was the day, we talked about moving Oswald but I just don't remember. That's one of those- 'things you just don't remember the date.

Leon D. Hubert: But you talked to Fritz?

Bill Decker: That's when I talked to Fritz.

Leon D. Hubert: What did Fritz tell you, do you know?

Bill Decker: He said he would notify me when he was ready to move.

Leon D. Hubert: He wasn't ready at that time?

Bill Decker: He wasn't ready at that time, witnesses were being brought in, he was still interviewing witnesses. Now, then, later that afternoon the rumor was out that they were going to bring him down - of course, we had rumors, rumors, rumors all the day, because we had worldwide press and they were in the city hall, you couldn't get in the city hall for them and they were running back and forth down to our pressroom, and this word was here that they were coming, so late that afternoon, on Saturday, Jim Kerr was the first man that brought me the date of the 10 o'clock transfer Sunday morning. Jim Kerr is associated with channel 5, and there were several of the pressmen in my office and members of my staff and we were discussing it and later in the evening, later about 9 o'clock it was getting on to be, and he notified us they were going to move in and I think I then confirmed that with someone in the city and they said yes - the next morning at 10 o'clock and then I went to my home...

Leon D. Hubert: Have you been given any warning by the FBI that they had received a message, or had the message been received, I think, by your office, that some attempt would be made by a group to injure Oswald?

Bill Decker: That's along 12:30 or 1 o'clock in the morning - that's when that occurred. That's when I got on the telephone, you see, sir--I'm sure that you don't understand this, but, you know, but no man - it makes no difference how long he is an officer, ever imagined that he could work on an investigation the size of this one and therefore, of course, you realize that my officers and I'm sure some of the city officers, myself included, were working under just a little bit of pressure. Anyway, this thing you are talking about came to me from my office man, Sergeant McCoy, and he had received a call from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Milt Newsom, who stated to him that this boy was going to be killed and that he had good information. He relayed that message to me at my home, and I asked him had the city been notified and he said, "Yes."

(3) Roger Craig, When They Kill A President (1971)

As I finished talking with the Agent I was confronted by the High Priest of Dallas County Politics, Field Marshal Bill Decker... He called me aside and informed me that the suspect had already left the scene. (How did you know? You had just arrived.) Decker then told me to help them (the police) search the Book Depository Building. Decker turned toward his office across the street, then suddenly stopped, looked at me and said "Somebody better take charge of this investigation." Then he continued walking slowly toward his office, indicating that it was not going to be him.

When I entered the Book Depository Building I was joined by Deputy Sheriffs Eugene Boone and Luke Mooney. We went up the stairs directly to the sixth floor. The room was very dark and a thick layer of dust seemed to cover everything. We went to the south side of the building, since this was the street side and seemed the most logical place to start.

Luke Mooney and I reached the southeast corner at the same time. We immediately found three rifle cartridges laying in such a way that they looked as though they had been carefully and deliberately placed there - in plain sight on the floor to the right of the southeast corner window. Mooney and I examined the cartridges very carefully and remarked how close together they were. The three of them were no more than one inch apart and all were facing in the same direction, a feat very difficult to achieve with a bolt action rifle - or any rifle for that matter. One cartridge drew our particular attention. It was crimped on the end which would have held the slug. It had not been stepped on but merely crimped over on one small portion of the rim. The rest of that end was perfectly round.

Laying on the floor to the left of the same window was a small brown paper lunch bag containing some well cleaned chicken bones. I called across the room and summoned the Dallas Police I.D. man, Lt. Day. When he arrived with his camera Mooney and I left the window and started our search of the rest of the sixth floor.

We were told by Dallas Police to look for a rifle - something I had already concluded might be there since the cartridges found were, apparently, from a rifle. I was nearing the northwest corner of the sixth floor when Deputy Eugene Boone called out, "here it is." I was about eight feet from Boone, who was standing next to a stack of cardboard boxes. The boxes were stacked so that there was no opening between them except at the top. Looking over the top and down the opening I saw a rifle with a telescopic sight laying on the floor with the bolt facing upward. At this time Boone and I were joined by Lt. Day of the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Homicide Captain, Will Fritz. The rifle was retrieved by Lt. Day, who activated the bolt, ejecting one live round of ammunition which fell to the floor.

Lt. Day inspected the rifle briefly, then handed it to Capt. Fritz who had a puzzled look on his face. Seymour Weitzman, a deputy constable, was standing beside me at the time. Weitzman was an expert on weapons. He had been in the sporting goods business for many years and was familiar with all domestic and foreign weapons. Capt. Fritz asked if anyone knew what kind of rifle it was. Weitzman asked to see it. After a close examination (much longer than Fritz or Day's examination) Weitzman declared that it was a 7.65 German Mauser. Fritz agreed with him. Apparently, someone at the Dallas Police Department also loses things but, at least, they are more conscientious. They did replace it - even if the replacement was made in a different country.

At that exact moment an unknown Dallas police officer came running up the stairs and advised Capt. Fritz that a Dallas policeman had been shot in the Oak Cliff area. I instinctively looked at my watch. The time was 1:06 p.m. A token force of uniformed officers was left to keep the sixth floor secure and Fritz, Day, Boone, Mooney, Weitzman and I left the building.

On my way back to the Sheriff's Office I was nearly run down several times by Dallas Police cars racing to the scene of the shooting of a fellow officer. There were more police units at the J. D. Tippit shooting than there were at President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Tippit had been instructed to patrol the Oak Cliff area along with Dallas Police Unit 87 at 12:45 p.m. by the dispatcher. Unit 87 immediately left Oak Cliff and went to the triple underpass, leaving Tippit alone. Why? At 12:54 p.m., J. D. Tippit, Dallas Police Unit 78, gave his location as Lancaster Blvd., and Eighth St., some ten blocks from the place where he was to be killed. The Dallas dispatcher called Tippit at 1:04 p.m. and received no answer. He continued to call three times and there was still no reply. Comparing this time with the time I received news of the shooting of the police officer at 1:06 p.m., it is fair to assume Tippit was dead or being killed between 1:04 and 1:06 p.m. This is also corroborated by the eye witnesses at the Tippit killing, who said he was shot between 1:05 and 1:08 p.m.

According to Officer Baker, Dallas Police, he talked to Oswald at 12:35 p.m. in the lunch room of the Texas School Book Depository. This would give Oswald 30 minutes or less to finish his coke, leave the building, walk four blocks east on Elm Street, catch a bus and ride it back west in heavy traffic for two blocks, get off the bus and walk two more blocks west and turn south on Lamar Street, walk four blocks and have a conversation with a cab driver and a woman over the use of Whaley's (the cab driver) cab, get into the cab and ride to 500 North Beckley Street, get out and walk to 1026 North Beckley where his (Oswald's) room was located, pick up something (?); and if that is not enough, Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper where Oswald lived, testified that at 1:05 p.m. Oswald was waiting for a bus in front of his rooming house and finally, to make him the fastest man on Earth, he walked to East Tenth Street and Patton Street, several blocks away and killed J. D. Tippit between 1:05 and 1:08 p.m. If he had not been arrested when he was, it is my belief that Earl Warren and his Commission would have had Lee Harvey Oswald eating dinner in Havana!

I was convinced on November 22, 1963, and I am still sure, that the man entering the Rambler station wagon was Lee Harvey Oswald. After entering the Rambler, Oswald and his companion would only have had to drive six blocks west on Elm Street and they would have been on Beckley Avenue and a straight shot to Oswald's rooming house. The Warren Commission could not accept this even though it might have given Oswald time to kill Tippit for having two men involved would have made it a conspiracy!

As to Lee Harvey Oswald shooting J. D. Tippit, let us examine the evidence: Dallas Police Unit 221 (Summers-refer-police radio log) stated on the police radio that he had an "eye ball" witness to the shooting. The suspect was a white male about twenty-seven, five feet, eleven inches, black wavy hair, fair complexioned, (not Oswald) wearing an Eisenhower-type jacket of light color, dark trousers, and a white shirt, apparently armed with a .32 caliber, dark-finish automatic pistol which he had in his right hand. (The jacket strongly resembles that worn by the driver of the station wagon).

Dallas Police Unit 550 Car 2 was driven to the scene of the Tippit murder by Sgt. Gerald Hill. He was accompanied by Bud Owens, Dallas Police Department, and William F. Alexander, Assistant D.A. for Dallas. Unit 550 Car 2 reported over the police radio that the shells at the scene indicated that the suspect was armed with a .38 caliber automatic. 38 automatic shells and 38 revolver shells are distinctly different. (Oswald allegedly had a 38 revolver in his possession when arrested?)

After much confusion in the Oak Cliff area the Dallas Police were finally directed to the Texas Theater where the suspect was reported to be. Several squads arrived at the theater and quickly surrounded it. At the back door was none other than William F. Alexander, Assistant DA, and several Dallas Police officers with guns drawn. While Dallas Police Officer McDonald and others entered the theater and turned on the lights and the suspect was pointed out to them, they started searching people several rows in front of Oswald, giving him a chance to run if he wanted to - right into the blazing guns of waiting officers!

This man had to be stopped. He was the most dangerous criminal in the history of the world. Here was a man who was able to go from one location to another with the swiftness of Superman, to change his physical characteristics at will and who pumped four automatic slugs into a police officer with a revolver - indeed a master criminal.