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Jim Leavelle, Dallas Detective Cuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald, Dies at 99

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Retired Dallas Police homicide Detective James R. “Jim” Leavelle died on August 29, 2019. His death followed a fall while visiting his daughter in Denver, just a few days after they celebrated his 99th birthday. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, startling images of Detective Leavelle, handcuffed to accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald at the precise moment Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby, were seen by television audiences the world over. Live TV coverage and those photos made the tall, distinguished-looking detective with his Stetson hat an instant celebrity.

The Dallas Police Department issued this statement Thursday. “Though the photo may be the most iconic moment in his career, and keep him in the history books for future generations, the Dallas Police Department and the officers who served with him know that he is worthy of a legacy for being one of the smartest, accomplished and dedicated detectives in the history of the DPD.”

Leavelle Remained Humble Despite Fame

Jim Leavelle, Dallas Detective Cuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald, Dies at 99

Photo: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Although Leavelle became such an important historic figure following the Kennedy Assassination, he remained humble and self-effacing. Hugh Aynesworth, a journalist and author who’s written several best-selling books about the Kennedy Assassination, said, “I remember meeting with Jim when he had just come back from a trip to D.C. He had met President Gerald Ford on the trip to Washington. He said, ‘The President shook my hand and asked for my autograph, can you believe that? I couldn’t believe he wanted my autograph!’”

Aynesworth also recounted a little-known story about the now-famous suit Detective Leavelle was wearing in the iconic photo. “Jim had on a light grey or tan suit, it was from Neiman Marcus. That was the first time he ever wore it. One of his buddies on the force bought it but then couldn’t get into it, so he gave it to Jim,” Aynesworth said.

Sixth Floor Museum Displays Leavelle Suit & Stetson

Jim Leavelle, Dallas Detective Cuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald, Dies at 99
Photo: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

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