Henry Wade

Henry Wade

Henry Wade was born in Rockwell County, Texas, on 11th November, 1914. All eleven children did well at school and six of the eight sons became attorneys. This included Henry Wade who graduated from the University of Texas.

In 1939 Wade became special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigated espionage cases for four years on the East Coast and in South America. He served in the US Navy during the Second World War and took part in the invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa.

Wade joined the Dallas County District Attorney's office in 1947. Four years later he became District Attorney. He held this position at the time of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. Cliff Carter, on behalf of President Lyndon B. Johnson, phoned Wade three times on the night of the assassination. According to Wade, Carter said that "any word of a conspiracy - some plot by foreign nations - to kill President Kennedy would shake our nation to its foundation. President Johnson was worried about some conspiracy on the part of the Russians… it would hurt foreign relations if I alleged a conspiracy - whether I could prove it or not… I was to charge Oswald with plain murder."

Wade was cheated from prosecuting Lee Harvey Oswald after he was murdered by Jack Ruby on 24th November, 1963. However, he was responsible for the prosecution and 1964 conviction of Ruby.

In 1964 Wade produced a screenplay on the assassination entitled Countdown in Dallas. The script suggested that Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby were involved in a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. The film was never made.

In 1970 a pregnant woman challenged the Texas law that prohibited abortion except to save a woman's life. Wade's office defended the state law at trial, where the law was declared unconstitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to abortion.

In 1995, the Henry Wade Juvenile Center in Dallas was named in Wade's honour. In 2000 he was named by the Texas Lawyer as one of 102 most influential attorneys of the 20th century.

Henry Wade died of as a result of complications from Parkinson's disease on 1st March, 2001.

On 18th February, 2008, The Houston Chronicle announced that several items owned by Henry Wade had been found in a locked safe: "The items include a purported transcript between Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and his killer, nightclub owner Jack Ruby; a leather gun holster that held the gun Ruby used to shoot Oswald; brass knuckles found on Ruby when he was arrested; and a movie contract signed by then-Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade."

Primary Sources

(1) Henry Wade, interviewed by J. Lee Rankin and Allen W. Dulles for the Warren Commission (8th June, 1964)

J. Lee Rankin: Did you say anything to Chief Curry about what should be told the press about investigation, how it was progressing or anything of that kind?

Henry Wade: Yes; I think that is the brief conversation, that is the last I talked to Curry that night. I may have talked to - but that is all I recall. I left thereafter, and went on out to dinner.

J. Lee Rankin: About what time did you leave?

Henry Wade: 7, 7:30, something like that. I got home, say, 9:30 or 10, after eating dinner, and I believe I talked to the U.S. attorney or at least I saw it come on the radio that they are going to file on Oswald as part of an international conspiracy in murdering the U.S. President, and I think I talked to Barefoot Sanders. He called me or I called him.

J. Lee Rankin: I wanted to get for the record, Mr. Wade, who would be trying to file like that.

Henry Wade: I don't know. All I know it wasn't me. It was told to me at one time that the justice of the peace said something about it and another one, one of my assistants, Alexander had said something about it and I have talked to both of them since and both of them deny so I don't know who suggested it or anything but it was on the radio and I think on television. I know I heard it and I am not sure where.

J. Lee Rankin: Can you tell us whether it was from your office or from a Federal office that such an idea was developing as far as you know?

Henry Wade: Well, on that score it doesn't make any sense at all to me because there is no such crime in Texas, being part of an international conspiracy, it is just murder with malice in Texas, and if you allege anything else in an indictment you have to prove it and it is all surplusage in an indictment to allege anything, whether a man is a John Bircher or a Communist or anything, if you allege it you have to prove it. So, when I heard it I went down to the police station and took the charge on him, just a case of simple murder.

Allen W. Dulles: Is that of Tippit or of the President?

Henry Wade: No; of the President...

J. Lee Rankin: Did you discuss the evidence that they did have at that time with Captain Fritz?

Henry Wade: Yes, sir.

J. Lee Rankin: Will you tell us what evidence you recall?

Henry Wade: I have made no notes but roughly he gave the story about him bringing the gun to work, saying it was window rods from the neighbor, someone who had brought him to work. He also said there were three employees of the company that left him on the sixth floor. He told about, the part about, the young officer running in there right after the assassination and Oswald leaving after the manager said that he was employed there. Told about his arrest and said that there was a scuffle there, and that he tried to shoot the officer. I don't know - I think I am giving you all this because I think a little of it may vary from the facts but all I know is what Fritz told me. He said the Dallas police had found a palmprint on the underside of the gun of Oswald. At that time, the FBI was standing by to fly the gun to the laboratory here in Washington which incidentally, they didn't find, but I assume the Commission has interviewed Senator - not Senator - Day, the fingerprint man of the Dallas police but I have learned since that he probably can't identify the palmprint under there but at that time they told me they had one on it. They said they had a palmprint on the wrapping paper, and on the box, I believe there by the scene. They did at least put Oswald there at the scene.

J. Lee Rankin: Will you clarify the palmprint that you are referring to on the rifle? Was it on the underside of the rifle, was it between the rifle and the stock or where was it as you recall?

Henry Wade: Specifically, I couldn't say because but he said they had a palm-print or a fingerprint of Oswald on the underside of the rifle and I don't know whether it was on the trigger guard or where it was but I knew that was important, I mean, to put the gun in his possession. I thought we had that all the time when I took the complaint on the thing. Let me see what else they had that night. Well, they had a lot of the things they found in his possession. They had the map, you know, that marked the route of the parade. They had statements from the bus driver and the taxicab driver that hauled him somewhere. I think they varied a little as to where they picked him up but generally they had some type of statement from them. That is generally what they gave me now.

J. Lee Rankin: That is all you recall as of that time?

Henry Wade: Yes, sir.

J. Lee Rankin: Did you give any report to the press then about.

Henry Wade: No; I will tell you what happened then.

J. Lee Rankin: Yes, sir.

Henry Wade: As we walked out of the thing they started yelling, I started home, and they stared yelling they wanted to see Oswald, the press. And Perry said that he had put him in the showup room downstairs. Of course, they were yelling all over the world they wanted a picture of Oswald. And I don't know the mob and everybody ended up in the showup room. It is three floors below there....

J. Lee Rankin: Mr. Wade, will you give us the substance of what Mr. Carr said to you and what you said to him at that time?

Henry Wade: All I remember - I don't actually remember or know what night it was I talked to him but I assume it was that night because he did mention that the rumor was out that we were getting ready to file a charge of Oswald being part of an international conspiracy, and I told him that that was not going to be done.

It was late at night and I believe that is -

Allen W. Dulles: It must have been Saturday night, wasn't it?

Henry Wade: No; that was Friday night.

Allen W. Dulles: Friday night.

Henry Wade: And I told him, and then I got a call, since this happened, I talked to Jim Bowie, my first assistant who had talked to, somebody had called him, my phone had been busy and Barefoot Sanders, I talked to him, and he they all told that they were concerned about their having received calls from Washington and somewhere else, and I told them that there wasn't any such crime in Texas, I didn't know where it came from, and that is what prompted me to go down and take the complaint, otherwise I never would have gone down to the police station.

J. Lee Rankin: Did you say anything about whether you had evidence to support such a complaint of a conspiracy?

Henry Wade: Mr. Rankin, I don't know what evidence we have, we had at that time and actually don't know yet what all the evidence was I never did see, I was told they had a lot of Fair Play for Cuba propaganda or correspondence on Oswald, and letters from the Communist Party, and it was probably exaggerated to me. was told this. I have never seen any of that personally. Never saw any of it that night. But whether he was a Communist or whether he wasn't, had nothing to do with solving the problem at hand, the filing of the charge.

(2) Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins, statement at press conference (18th February, 2008)

Good morning. This is an interesting and historic day for Dallas County. For those of you who have not been following this story, about a year ago we were made aware of a safe on the tenth floor of this building, and in that safe contained information about the Jack Ruby trial and the Oswald assassination. We started looking at this stuff about a year ago and determined after we started looking at it that we had to catalog it, and we have been doing that for just about a year.

Now just a little history on this deal. Every District Attorney to my knowledge has been made aware of the contents of that safe, and every DA up until the new administration, had decided that they wanted to keep it secret, for whatever reason, they kept it secret. We decided this information is too important to keep secret. Our motto has always been that here, under this new administration, everything is open. We don't have anything to hide. So we are making public everything that we have found in that safe.

Now two documents that really stick out in this safe include an alleged conversation between Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald. Now we are going to make those copies available to you. And in fact this is a copy of a transcribed conversation between Mr. Ruby and Oswald at the Carousel Club.

Now we don't know if this is an actual conversation or not. But what we do know is that as a result of this find, it will open up the debate as to whether or not there was a conspiracy to assassinate the President.

Another interesting document that we found in that safe was a contract signed by the (then) current DA Henry Wade for a movie production deal. This contract was signed on April 27, 1967 and it would have made Mr. Wade a rich man. But we don't know why this movie was never produced.

(3) James Orr, The Guardian (18th February, 2008)

A transcript claiming to detail Lee Harvey Oswald's plot to assassinate President John F Kennedy has been discovered in an old courtroom safe.

The record – described as reading like a conspiracy theorist's dream - appears to minute talks between Oswald and Jack Ruby, who killed Oswald after Kennedy's assassination.

Today, the Dallas County district attorney's office said other documents found included letters from former district attorney Henry Wade, the prosecuting lawyer in Ruby's trial.

But the apparent record of the conversation between Oswald and Ruby was probably fake, said the district attorney, Craig Watkins, and was instead likely to be long-forgotten material for a proposed film.

Oswald says in the transcript: "I can still do it, all I need is my rifle and a tall building; but it will take time, maybe six months to find the right place; but I'll have to have some money to live on while I do the planning."

The Dallas Morning News reported the transcript and other material were found in a safe on the 10th floor of the county courthouse.

The memorabilia – the rest of which was believed to be genuine – also included letters from Wade to Ruby, a gun holster and clothing that probably belonged to Ruby and Oswald, Watkins said.

The transcript suggests Ruby and Oswald met at Ruby's nightclub on October 4 1963, less than two months before the assassination on November 22 that year.

In it, they talked of killing the president because the mafia wanted to "get rid" of his brother, the then attorney general, Robert Kennedy.

Today, Gary Mack, the curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, which chronicles Kennedy's life, said he doubted the transcript was genuine.

He added it was well documented Oswald was in Irving, Texas, on the evening of October 4, and therefore could not have been in Ruby's nightclub.

"The fact that it's sitting in Henry Wade's file, and he didn't do anything, indicates he thought it wasn't worth anything," Mack said. "He probably kept it because it was funny. It's hilarious. It's like a bad B movie."

Terri Moore, an assistant to Watkins, today said she believed the transcript was part of a movie Wade was working on with producers.

The former prosecutor had discussed making the film, Countdown in Dallas, in letters found in the safe. "It's not real. Crooks don't talk like that," Moore said.

Watkins said the items were still being processed and would eventually be made available to the public.

(4) Anabelle Garay, Houston Chronicle (18th February, 2008)

Long-hidden items and documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy were revealed for the first time Monday, after spending nearly two decades locked inside a courthouse safe.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins presented the articles at a Presidents Day news conference while standing next to brown and white file boxes stacked in a pyramid.

The items include a purported transcript between Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and his killer, nightclub owner Jack Ruby; a leather gun holster that held the gun Ruby used to shoot Oswald; brass knuckles found on Ruby when he was arrested; and a movie contract signed by then-Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade.

Watkins said investigators told him about the contents of the blue, two-door safe shortly after he took office in 2007.

"And every DA up until the new administration decided that they wanted to keep it secret," he said. "What we decided, that this information was too important to keep secret."

One of the most intriguing items was the typed transcript of an alleged conversation between Oswald and Ruby. The transcript — which hasn't been examined by experts and has already been called farfetched by some — includes talk of killing the president at the behest of the Mafia.

"Now we don't know if this is an actual conversation or not," Watkins said. "But what we do know is that as a result of this find, it will open up the debate as to whether there was a conspiracy to assassinate the president."

Ruby killed Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963, two days after Oswald was arrested in the assassination of President Kennedy. Ruby was convicted and sentenced to death the following year. Ruby won an appeal of his conviction but died of cancer before he was retried.

The two-page transcript resembles one published by the Warren Commission, which investigated Kennedy's assassination and determined Oswald was the lone gunman.

In that report, the FBI concluded that a transcript of an alleged conversation between Oswald and Ruby was fake, and that it had been "re-created" for authorities by a now-deceased Dallas attorney who claimed he recognized Oswald in a newspaper photo as the man he saw talking to Ruby. The reconstruction alleges the men discussed killing the governor, but the two didn't name then-Texas Gov. John Connally.

The transcript Watkins showed Monday is also from Oct. 4, 1963, and allegedly happened at the Carousel Club, a Dallas nightclub. It begins with a discussion of how the "boys in Chicago" want to "get rid of" U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, JFK's brother.

"There is a way to get rid of him without killing him," Oswald says.

"How's that?" Ruby responds.

"I can shoot his brother," Oswald says.

After a discussion of the logistics of shooting the president, Ruby says the money for the operation's coming from the Mafia.

"Are you with the Mafia?" Oswald asked.

"You're asking too many questions," Ruby responds.

Later, Ruby gives a lengthy warning that Oswald must not get caught or say anything, noting that "if you do talk, then the boys will make me follow you, wherever you go, and kill you."

Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum near where the president was shot, thinks the document displayed Monday could be one of many scripts written for films about the assassination.

"My best guess is somebody found that transcript, reworked it for the movies and Henry Wade wound up with a copy," Mack said.

A 1967 movie production deal signed by Wade, who prosecuted Ruby, was in the safe. It's unclear why the film was never produced, Watkins said.

The contents of the safe were likely Wade's personal files on the Kennedy assassination, something researchers have long-known he kept. When he left office in the 1980s, Wade thought the files were taken to his home but they apparently weren't, Mack said.

Staff from the DA's office were nearly finished scanning the scores of typed and handwritten papers and cataloging the items. Recordings and films kept in the safe had not yet been examined. Once the task is completed, Watkins said his office plans to turn over the articles to an organization that will continue making them public.

"We're looking forward to the opportunity to talk with the district attorney ... We would love to have these records," Mack said. "We believe very strongly that these records need to stay here in Dallas."

Neither the Ruby nor Kennedy families had been contacted about the items, Watkins said.

(5) Ed Stoddad, International Herald Tribune (18th February, 2008)

John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy buffs have been handed a Presidents' Day present they are sure to savor.

The Dallas County district attorney said on Monday that he could not categorically dismiss as fake a transcript of an alleged conversation between Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and Oswald's killer Jack Ruby.

The transcript is one of many items related to the Kennedy slaying in November 1963 and Ruby's trial that were found in an old safe in a Dallas courthouse about a year ago and have been painstakingly catalogued.

In the purported conversation nearly two months before the assassination, Oswald and Ruby discuss killing Kennedy to halt the mafia-busting agenda of his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

"We don't know if this is an actual conversation or not," District Attorney Craig Watkins told a news conference. "It will open up the debate as to whether or not there was a conspiracy to assassinate the president."

Yet if it were proven these two key figures in one of the most captivating periods in U.S. history did meet ahead of that day in Dallas, then the Kennedy assassination was almost certainly a conspiracy.

One theory about the transcript holds that it is part of a movie script that Henry Wade, the district attorney who prosecuted Ruby, worked on later with producers for a film that was never made. Among the documents found was a contract signed by Wade for a movie deal.

Adding fuel to the conspiracy fires, Watkins said his predecessors in the DA's office were "aware of the contents of the safe" but had decided to keep them secret "for whatever reason."

He said that may have been related to the "racist tone" of some of the documents that he said painted an unflattering portrait of the criminal justice system at the time. Watkins is the first black district attorney ever of Dallas County.

Watkins did not say why he went public with his find on Presidents' Day, the U.S. holiday that honours its leaders.

Watkins and others in his office came across the items after being told the gun used to kill Oswald was in the courthouse. The gun was not there because it is privately owned.

The purported Lee-Ruby meeting took place at Ruby's Carousel Club on October 4, 1963. The transcript reads like scripted cloak-and-dagger dialogue.

Lee: "There is a way to get rid of him (Attorney General Robert Kennedy) without killing him."

Ruby: "How's that?"

Lee: "I can shoot his brother."

Ruby: "You mean the president?"

Lee: "Yes, the president."

Ruby: "But that wouldn't be patriotic."

At one point, Lee says that to kill Kennedy all he needs "is my rifle and a tall building."

A bit later Ruby tells Oswald: "You're asking too many questions; remember, they know who you are already; but you don't know them. They'll be watching you ..."

Legions of conspiracy theorists have long questioned the conclusion of the Warren Commission that investigated the slaying that Oswald acted alone when he shot Kennedy as his motorcade swept past the Texas School Book Depository.

The commission said that Ruby and Oswald had never met. Ruby shot Oswald dead at point-blank range as police were escorting their prime suspect. Ruby died a few years later from cancer.