Photo Of The Day

Photo: Jim MacCammon, courtesy Howard Upchurch. Lee Harvey Oswald is dragged from the Texas Theatre by Patrolman C.T. Walker and, still chewing his cigar, Detective Paul Bentley, on Nov. 22, 1963. On the right is Sgt. Gerald Hill.

Photo: Jim MacCammon, courtesy Howard Upchurch.
Lee Harvey Oswald is dragged from the Texas Theatre by Patrolman C.T. Walker and, still chewing his cigar, Detective Paul Bentley, on Nov. 22, 1963. On the right is Sgt. Gerald Hill.

Lee Harvey Oswald’s Arrest

Certain images and scenes from the Kennedy assassination — the gruesome Abraham Zapruder film; Bob Jackson’s shocking photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald; Stan Stearns’ heart-wrenching view of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket outside the Cathedral of St. Matthew — remain as powerful and disturbing today as they were 50 years ago.

But there’s another photograph that remains relevant and gripping five decades later, in a different way, and relatively few have seen it.  The picture was taken by Dallas freelance photographer James “Jim” MacCammon barely 80 minutes after gunshots reverberated through Dealey Plaza. MacCammon photographed 24-year-old Oswald as he emerged from the Texas Theatre into the bright midday sun, sandwiched between Patrolman C.T. Walker and, still chewing his cigar, Detective Paul Bentley.

Although MacCammon contacted news agencies, including LIFE, his remarkable photo went unpublished until TIME ran it three months later in February 1964. Internal records show that Time Inc. shared that picture and others MacCammon made with the FBI.  Eventually, in late 1964, three MacCammon photographs appeared in volume 20 of the Warren Commission’s documentation.

“It was always like a lecture,” remembers Mary MacCammon, the photographer’s daughter, who was in the 4th grade at the time. “He always wanted us to know the story of what happened when Oswald was arrested.”

The MacCammon photo of Kennedy’s assassin essentially disappeared for more than 40 years, until the New York Times included it in Detective Bentley’s obituary on July 27, 2008. The photo credit line read, Jim MacCammon, courtesy of Howard Upchurch.

But this time, unlike when TIME ran the photo in 1964, the picture appeared in color. Howard Upchurch, a Dallas-area Kennedy assassination researcher, had befriended a man who in 1963 worked at MacCammon’s favorite Dallas photo lab and kept a color print of the MacCammon picture. Years later he gave it to Upchurch, who showed it to me in the 1980s and later loaned it to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

MacCammon, who died in 2005, captured a moment that says so much about the soon-to-be-accused assassin and why so many still do not believe Oswald was the sole killer of President Kennedy and the killer of Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippit.

As reported at the time, when police led him out of the theater, Oswald shouted: I protest this police brutality and I am not resisting arrest!

Oh? Moments earlier, as cops approached him; Oswald suddenly punched Officer Nick McDonald in the face, drew a revolver from his waistband and tried to shoot him. McDonald jammed his hand on the gun and prevented it from firing as other officers pummeled Oswald to the floor, sat him in a seat and cuffed him. (MacCammon took a picture of that moment, too, but the image is too dark to reveal much.)

Do innocent people take guns to the movies, assault a police officer and try to shoot him?  Does an innocent person start a fight with an armed policeman, and then act surprised and angry when the policeman and others defend one of their own?

Such is the enigma of Lee Harvey Oswald, who spent the last 48 hours of his life denying he had shot anyone rather than taking credit for removing a president and a cop — two fathers cut down in their prime. Did he or didn’t he change history that day in Dallas, and doesn’t that one photograph graphically illustrate why so many remain unsure about the events that unfolded that day?

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  • kiwibattler

    Probably the most wrongly accused man in history – the fact that in the timeframe he could not have killed police officer Tippet (the reason he was arrested in the theatre) and actually been at the theatre in the first place makes a mockery of the Warren Commission and those who say he was guilty. Similarly during the assassination of Kennedy he could not have been shooting from the 6th floor window and then positively identified as being in the 2nd floor lunchroom within less than a minute after the shooting and also positively identified by three people before the killing on the ground floor at between 12.20 & 12.25 when the Kennedy motorcade was supposed to be driving past (unknowingly to anybody it was actually running 5 minutes late passing by the book depository at 12.30 when Kennedy was killed).

  • Bayman

    Another one of things we will just never know. Personally I don’t believe he did it. Not with the type of weapon supposedly used, nor with the amount of shots fired and the accuracy.

    Along with Munroe’s death it will always remain a mystery.

  • Timboh

    MacCammon’ photo shows American justice at the time.The guy is still chewing his cigar? OK President dead, cop shot general panic. OK then how did he know to go there? OK then Oswald is stupid.. This photo shows the arrest but so much more.