Buell Frazier (left), who gave Lee Harvey Oswald a lift to work on the day of the Kennedy assassination, and Hugh Aynesworth, a veteran reporter at the time, answered questions last week at the Irving Central Library
By SCOTT K. PARKS
Dallas News Staff Writer
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Lord knows what jagged thoughts raced through Lee Harvey Oswald’s mind as he rode to work at the Texas School Book Depository for the last time on
Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.
Buell Wesley Frazier, who was 19, sat behind the wheel of his black 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air. Oswald occupied the passenger seat. A package wrapped in brown paper rested on the back seat.
They listened to music and news on the radio and watched tiny drops of mist cascading onto the windshield from an overcast sky. The trip from their Irving neighborhood to the now-infamous book depository, where they both worked filling textbook orders for school districts and colleges, lasted a mere 20 minutes.
At the time, Frazier had no way of knowing how important those moments would be throughout his adult life.
“Lee was just his typical old self,” he recalled. “He didn’t talk much.”
Frazier, now 68, and Hugh Aynesworth, a veteran reporter who covered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, held about 75 people in rapt attention for two hours last week at the Irving Central Library as they recounted their memories of the day JFK was shot as his motorcade rolled past the school book depository.
“My life has been in the toilet,” Frazier said after his talk. “It’s been hard to hold a job. You would not believe how many people will think I had something to do with the assassination.”
Oswald had every reason to be stressed on the morning of
Nov. 22, 1963. His wife, Marina, and
their two daughters were living in
with Ruth Payne, a friend who had taken Irving
in after her marriage to Lee had crumbled. Marina
Oswald, living in a rooming house in Oak Cliff, was desperate to put his family back together. He had spent Thursday night at the Payne house. The next morning, he walked a short distance to the home of Linnie Mae Randle to hitch a ride to work with Frazier.
Randle was Frazier’s sister. He was living with her and her husband.
Frazier was eating breakfast about when Oswald showed up. Frazier finished breakfast, brushed his teeth and grabbed the sack lunch his sister had made for him.
“Lee had already been out to the car and put a package on the back seat,” Frazier recalled.
They climbed into the car. Frazier asked Oswald what was in the package.
“Curtain rods,” Oswald responded. He said he planned to hang curtains in his room in Oak Cliff.
Frazier doesn’t recall what they talked about on the way to work. It was nothing important. They might have made small talk about the weather or Oswald’s children.
“If I wanted to get him talking, I would ask about his girls,” Frazier said. “He would chuckle and tell a story. He was the type of man who would play with kids in the neighborhood.”
Oswald, 24, was an ex-Marine. Like Frazier, he earned $1.25 an hour at the school book depository. If he was focused on shooting the president that day, he showed no signs of it, Frazier recalled.
When they arrived at work, Oswald got out of the car, put the package under his arm and walked toward the depository. Frazier said he remained behind to gun the engine on his old Chevy for a while, because he was afraid the battery might go dead.
He didn’t see Oswald again.
After the president was shot, around , police instructed managers at the school book depository to gather the employees for a roll call. Oswald was the only one missing.
The Warren Commission later determined that Oswald made his way from the depository, picked up a pistol at his rooming house, and began walking through Oak Cliff. He shot and killed J.D. Tippit, a
police officer, near the corner of Dallas 10th Street
and Patton, then tried to hide in the Texas Theatre on Jefferson
Police captured Oswald at the theater and took him to jail, where he proclaimed himself “a patsy” wrongly accused of killing the president.
Frazier and the rest of the employees at the school book depository were sent home early from work. Frazier went to
to visit his stepfather, who was in the hospital. Irving
police detectives had figured out that Frazier had driven Oswald to work that
morning. They tracked him down at the hospital and arrested him. Dallas
After hours of interrogation, Frazier said, an angry police captain came into the room, demanding that he sign a confession.
“He wanted me to confess to being part of the JFK killing,” Frazier said. “I told him, ‘I’m not gonna sign this. It’s ridiculous.’”
Police gave him a lie-detector test. He said he passed with flying colors and was released early Saturday morning.
To this day, Frazier insists that the package Oswald took to work wasn’t long enough or big enough around to hold a rifle — even if its stock had been disassembled from the barrel.
The Warren Commission concluded that Frazier’s memory was faulty — that Oswald was carrying the rifle used to shoot JFK. Wrapping paper smeared with gun oil was found near the sniper’s sixth-floor perch, as was the weapon.
Still, Frazier stands by his story.
“I don’t know how the rifle got in the building,” he said last week, adding: “They kept trying to get me to change my testimony.”
Today, Frazier lives in the
area with his wife. He is mostly retired but works part time to supplement his
monthly Social Security checks. Dallas
“Medicare pays less and less by the year,” he said.
Frazier still believes he’ll make a lot of money one day — somehow. He says he’s been writing a book about the JFK assassination and his relationship with Oswald.
After his speech at the
library, he walked into the warm spring night, still waiting for his ship to
come in. Irving