Thayer Waldo

Thayer Waldo married the artist, Grace Clements, a student of Boardman Robinson, in 1938. The following year Waldo became a journalist. For the next twenty years he worked as a foreign correspondent in Mexico and Cuba. He left Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power and moved to the Dominican Republic. In 1962 he joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Waldo was the first journalist to arrive at Dallas Police Station after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was there when they brought in the rifle found in Texas School Book Depository. Later he watched them bring in Lee Harvey Oswald.

Waldo told the Warren Commission that he had an important informant in the Dallas Police. His name was Lieutenant George Butler. According to Michael Benson, Butler was an associate of Haroldson L. Hunt. Butler was also the man in charge of Oswald's transfer when he was killed by Jack Ruby.

Waldo told Mark Lane that he had discovered that Jack Ruby, J. D. Tippet and Bernard Weismann had a meeting at the Carousel Club eight days before the assassination. Waldo added that he was too scared to publish the story and other information that he had about the assassination. Lane introduced Waldo to Dorothy Kilgallen. Her article on the Tippit, Ruby and Weissman meeting appeared on the front page of the Journal American.

Waldo is the author of The Lunatick (1974) and A Stillness at Sordera (1976).

Thayer Waldo died on 1st January 1989.

Primary Sources

(1) Thayer Waldo interviewed by Leon D. Hubert, Jr., on behalf of the Warren Commission (27th June, 1964)

Thayer Waldo: In the jail - no, I went directly, as is stated in this transcript, the report, I went directly from the Trade Mart to Dallas Police Headquarters an the afternoon of November 22 within a matter of 30 minutes after we had learned that the President was shot. In fact, I was on the Stemmons Freeway passing the resort motel called "La Cabaria" at the moment that the car radio reported the President is dead.

When I arrived at Dallas Police Headquarters, I was the first reporter of any medium, so far as I know, certainly there was no other in evidence to reach the third floor. No one attempted to stop me or ask for any identification at that time.

Leon D. Hubert: Did you have any identification on your person?

Thayer Waldo: Yes, sir; I had a badge I have it with me in this book, if it's of any interest to see it, merely identifying "Dallas, November 22, President Kennedy's Visit," which I was wearing on my lapel.

Leon D. Hubert: It was a press identification card in connection with the visit?

Thayer Waldo: That's right, and the offices of the hierarchy of the Dallas Police Department are located on the third floor, were almost deserted, since Chief Curry, Deputy Chief Stevenson and others of the staff had either been assigned to the Presidential motorcade or to the Trade Mart, or in the case of Chief Curry, were invited guests or to have been invited guests at that luncheon. The man who was in the building in the offices, the highest ranking officer to whom I was directed by one of the secretaries, was Capt. Glenn King, who has subsequently been identified to me as in charge of public relations of the Dallas Police Department. I walked into Captain King's office is this of interest?

Leon D. Hubert: Yes.

Thayer Waldo: I walked into Captain King's office and identified myself by name and newspaper and immediately noticed a fleeting expression on his face, which sometimes we who work in Fort Worth and have dealings with Dallas officials, have come to recognize, most particularly when something has taken place in Dallas which may give unfavorable publicity to that city, and before I could finish my question, Captain King interrupted and very courteously said, "Mr. Waldo, we know absolutely nothing here. We have heard rumors that there were some shots. We do not know where the shots came from or who they were aimed at, if anybody, or if anybody was hit. We don't know anything."

I could not help but assume that this was what in the vernacular might be called a brushoff, since in several open unoccupied offices and within hearing distance as I was speaking to him, there were police radio receivers turned on. Therefore, I had to assume that he sitting there must have been informed of the events...

I don't believe anything of significance happened between that and the time that I noticed a little flurry of activity. I should say, incidentally, that in the interim, which would be approximately 35 to 40 minutes during which time I was talking to my desk, I might add that the girls in the office were extremely cooperative. One of the girls even said, "Well, you'll want to be in here," the pressroom being at the far end of the third floor corridor from there, "Just use my desk. I'll move away. Use my telephone."

I had talked to my desk at the Star-Telegram, and then I noticed a little flurry of activity, and as I say, during this time several of the high ranking officers, none of whom I knew by name at that time, had come in, and I asked a girl who had been standing with them in Captain King's office, as I recall, just a few minutes, and then came out, "What's going on?" and her answer was, "They found a rifle." I asked, "Where?" and she said, "On the roof of the School Book Depository Building." Of course, I stress this is secondhand information. She is giving it from what she heard from a high ranking official who undoubtedly was told by somebody else. In any case, that information was telephoned to my newspaper and I believe was used in at least one edition. Later it was officially stated, of course, that the rifle had been found on the sixth floor.

I think it is probably worth mentioning that I was present at the time that Officer McDonald and the other detectives brought the man who was subsequently identified to me as Lee Harvey Oswald in. In fact, by then there were two Dallas radio reporters and I cannot tell you who they were or what they represented. We were moving too fast at that time. Those were the only others. The three of us interviewed Officer McDonald in the hall immediately after he had delivered Oswald into the hands of the people in homicide. In fact, blood was still trickling down McDonald's chin from the cut lip where he said he had been struck by Oswald, and at that time he gave us a version of the capture of Oswald, which was substantially in all details but one as it has subsequently been repeated on numerous occasions, including the sworn testimony at Jack Ruby's murder trial.

The one difference was that at the trial and in other accounts that I have heard, it has been stated that when the house lights in the Texas Theatre were turned up and the officers approached Oswald, that he jumped to his feet, crying, "This is it!" and reached for the gun in his belt. Officer McDonald, at the time of that interview in the hall, moments after he had delivered Oswald into custody, was that what Oswald said when he jumped up was, "It's all over!" That's the only difference.

(2) John S. Craig, The Guns of Dealey Plaza (1979)

Oswald's 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano was not the only weapon seen in Dealey Plaza that day. At1 p.m. Dallas police officers were filmed by Ernest Charles Mentesana removing a rifle from the roof of the Depository. Unlike the Oswald rifle, the rifle Mentesana filmed had no sling, no scope, and protruded at least 7-8 inches past the stock, where Oswald's extended only 4-5 inches. [17] In the film two police officers are standing on a fire escape at the seventh floor of the Depository gesturing to the roof. In the next sequence the rifle is being examined.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Thayer Waldo watched a group of high-ranking Dallas police officers huddle together for a conference just a few minutes after 1 p.m. on the day of the shooting. When he spoke to a secretary who was privy to the officers' conversations, she told Waldo that police officers had found a rifle on the "roof of the School Book Depository."

W. Anthony Marsh believes the rifle shown in the film is very likely a Dallas Police Department Remington 870 shotgun. Marsh notes that the Dallas Police Department used Remington 870 shotguns. One of the officers escorting three men in the railyards after the shooting was carrying a Remington 870 shotgun.

(3) Lee Israel, Kilgallen (1979)

Of the handful of reporters who had the commitment, the clout, the predisposition, and the intrepidity to go after what the government wanted withheld, some were frightened. Thayer Waldo of the Fort Worth Sun-Telegram originally furnished to Mark Lane information that Officer Tippit, Jack Ruby, and Bernard Weissman had met in Ruby's Carousel Club eight days before the assassination. Waldo would not use the story himself. Waldo also discovered that the Dallas chief of police had been surprised by the course finally chosen for the President's motorcade and was unable to fathom why the procession was instructed to take this more vulnerable route. Nor did he use this story, though once again he made the information available to Mark Lane. Thayer Waldo was not minimizing the significance of his information. On the contrary, he told Lane that if he published what he knew, "there would be real danger to him."