As the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy approaches this week we take a look back one of our archive stories, highlighting a Preston Hollow resident with some interesting ties to that part of Dallas history.

We profiled Preston Hollow resident Ruth Altshuler in August 2010, as part of our “I Witnessed History” cover story. She held a key role in the fall of 1963 as the first woman on the Dallas County Grand Jury — the one that indicted Jack Ruby after he killed Lee Harvey Oswald in the days following the assassination.

But before that, on Nov. 22, she was a guest the Trade Mart luncheon where President Kennedy would have gone later that afternoon.

Altshuler is the chair of the President John F. Kennedy Commemorative Foundation, which is organizing Friday’s ceremony at Dealey Plaza.

Here’s an excerpt from our story:

“It was a crisp, lovely November day,” Altshuler recalled. “There was a big crowd. There was a lot of excitement in the air. There were yellow roses and cocktails. They had the presidential seal in place. We waited, and we waited. People were buzzing.”

Finally, host Erik Jonsson, then president of the Dallas Citizens Council and soon-to-become mayor, addressed the crowd.

“He said, ‘We understand there’s been a shooting.’ Nobody was saying the word ‘killed.’ Nobody knew what was happening. There’s a lot of difference between being shot and being dead.”

Luther Holcomb, Dallas Council of Churches director, said a prayer, and guests began to leave.

“By the time we got to our cars, he had been pronounced dead.”

Flash forward to March when Altshuler was invited to attend Jack Ruby’s trial as a spectator. The courtroom was full of reporters. She watched the drama unfold between the two lawyers: prosecutor Henry Wade, the down-home, country boy, versus Melvin Belli, the slick San Francisco attorney in the Chesterfield coat with the velvet collar.

“It was very interesting, just to see that cast of characters,” Altshuler says. “Ruby comes out with at least four security guards around him.”

Altshuler says that ever since Oswald’s murder, the police have been very careful transferring prisoners. Despite all the different stories swirling around Kennedy’s assassination, she says she doesn’t believe in any conspiracy theories.

“The Warren Commission appeared immediately. They were so intelligent and thorough. It was all fresh. Why did this little guy do this? We may never know.”

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