A Dark Day: Area residents share special ties to Kennedy assassination
November 22nd, 2013 by Jim Williamson in Texarkana News
When Connie Trammell Penny walked from the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas and entered Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club in October 1962, her destiny became intriguing.
By walking into the Carousel Club, Connie, who was a native of Ashdown, Ark., was destined 13 months later to become a footnote in history and included in the Warren Commission Report exhibit No. 2291
regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
FBI investigators discovered she was acquainted with Ruby and was noted in his “little black (address) book.”
Connie still shivers watching reruns of television news on what happened 50 years ago on Nov. 22,1963, when Kennedy was killed and Nov. 24, 1963, when Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald on national TV.
Connie realizes 50 years ago she was “a naive or stupid little girl” from Ashdown.
The destiny trip started in October, 1962, when she entered the Carousel Club and became acquainted with Ruby.
Then, her destiny continued evolving Nov. 22, 1963, when she was interviewed by Lamar Hunt for a job.
During the same time she had the interview with Hunt, the President was assassinated.
On Nov. 24, 1963, Ruby fatally shot Oswald in the Dallas Police station. The footnotes to history for Connie formally ended with her testimony before the Warren Commission on July 9, 1964.
Fate or the destiny trip also includes:
• The friendship with Jack Ruby who asked her to become a stripper in October 1962.
• The same night Ruby asked if Connie wanted to be a stripper, he also asked if she wanted to see his Dachshunds. The Dachshund dog Ruby called his wife, Sheba, was found in Ruby’s car parked near the Dallas Police Department after he shot Lee Harvey Oswald Nov. 24, 1963.
• Ruby gave Connie a ride to H.L. Hunt’s office in downtown Dallas at Mercantile National Bank earlier in the day Nov. 22, 1963, for the interview. Hunt, a millionaire oil tycoon and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs football team, paid for a full-page ad published in the Dallas newspapers Nov. 22, 1963, attacking Kennedy. It was during the job interview Kennedy was assassinated.
• The interview with Hunt drew the interest of the FBI and the Warren Commission because a theory developed about Connie getting money from Hunt to give to Ruby to kill Oswald. The rumor was false and the Warren Commission was satisfied Connie was not involved.
Connie was a student at the University of Texas in Austin in 1962 and attending a junket with the “High Noon” advertising club from the university. The “High Noon” students were writing news articles to get publicity for the boat show in October 1962.
“We had friends who met us in Dallas, including Marty Coulter Brunson from Ashdown and we all said, ‘Let’s go across the street to the Carousel Club,’” Connie said
The Carousel Club was a night club featuring strippers, including the infamous Candy Barr, who had also befriended Ruby.
“I don’t know if it was amateur night. We were all sitting around a big table and we all had dates. My date was an engineer who built all the bridges around Dallas on all the roadways. I was not impressed. But now that I think about it, I should have,” Connie said.
She got up from the table and was walking toward a restroom and a man started following her.
“My mother always said if someone starts following you, run. My mother was scared of everything,” Connie said.
The man was Jack Ruby.
While walking to the restroom, Ruby continued to pursue Connie asking her “‘Would you like to work for me as a stripper. I own this club.’”
Connie declined the offer.
“I came back out of the rest room and he was still there,” Connie said.
Then Ruby asked if she wanted to see his Dachshund dogs.
“He asked me if I liked little Dachshunds. I said, ‘I love little Dachshunds.’ I thought how strange. The people at the table started laughing. It was the craziest thing,” Connie said.
Ruby had his Dachshunds in the club’s kitchen.
“I followed him to the kitchen and he had about four or five Dachshunds. I thought he couldn’t be all bad,” she said.
Publications confirmed Ruby loved his dogs and the favorite was “Sheba,” according to the “Education Forum” blog, “The Dachshunds News,” the book “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” written by Vincent Bugliosi, and an article in the Chicago Tribune.
Ruby carried Sheba with him in his vehicles.
The Dallas Police allegedly found Sheba in Ruby’s car after he fatally shot Oswald. The dog was returned to Ruby’s roommate, George Senator.
“He did dorky little things and I found him so harmless. My mother was horrified. He was probably a lot safer than a lot of the guys who went to the University of Texas,” Connie said.
“People were attracted to me because of my figure. I was well-endowed. God gave me big boobs before you could buy them,” she said.
Ruby also suggested Connie work as a stripper in Las Vegas.
She declined all offers.
“Everyone who knew me, knew I was a prude. My morals would never let me become a stripper. When I say that I was a prude—I mean that I did not drink alcoholic beverages and did not believe in premarital sex,” Connie said.
“I would absolutely never want to disappoint Isaac or Oletta Trammell (her parents),” she said.
“I played Maggie in Tennessee Williams’ ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof,’ at Texarkana College and my Baptist parents did not come see me because I appeared on stage in a slip,” Connie said.
“He (Ruby) was always a gentleman. He treated me like I was delicate and a first-class person. I never heard him say anything off-color or use profanity. He treated me like I was very, very special,” said Connie.
“He thought I was classy for going to the University of Texas,” she said.
Ruby got Connie’s telephone number at the dorm in Austin and called her weekly.'
He called so much the other dorm residents nicknamed her after Dallas stripper Candy Barr.
Connie graduated from UT-Austin and moved to Dallas before Nov. 22, 1963.
Then on Nov. 22, 1963, Ruby took Connie to the bank building for a job interview with Lamar Hunt.
The interviews with the FBI and the Warren Commission contained a mistake on the date Ruby took Connie to an appointment with Lamar Hunt. The date in the report was Nov. 21,1963, but was incorrect, said Connie.
The date was Nov. 22, 1963—the same day Kennedy was killed.
The morning of Nov. 22, Ruby called asking if she had decided to go to work as a stripper. She said no.
Connie had scheduled a job interview with Lamar Hunt.
Connie didn’t have an automobile and Ruby agreed to meet her at her apartment and drive her to the Mercantile National Bank.
Ruby said he had business at the bank and it would be no trouble for him to pick her up at her apartment.
Ruby asked how she got an appointment with Hunt.
She had called his house and talked to a maid who gave her a “straight line” to Hunt’s office.
The appointment was at 11 a.m. Nov. 22, 1963. The interview ended about 1 p.m.
She read in the Dallas newspapers about Hunt owning a bowling alley and he was converting the bowling alley into a teenageers club. She thought she could gain employment at the club in public relations since she had obtained a degree from the University of Texas in public relations, according to the Warren Commission report.
Ruby parked his car in a parking lot near the Mercantile Bank and accompanied Connie to the elevator in the bank, but did not accompany her upstairs.
“This is the last time that Mrs. Penny has seen Ruby,” states the commission report.
“Ruby did not express any views about the political views of Lamar Hunt or his father, H.L. Hunt, during the trip from Mrs. Penny’s apartment to the bank,” said the report
Connie was not hired and Hunt said he had no plans for any person to work for him in the public relations department for the club.
When the FBI and Warren Commission investigators called her apartment, she was “scared to death and they could tell it,” she said.
The FBI discovered her name in Ruby’s black book.
Her name and phone number were listed in his black address book and had notations about her being classy and well-endowed, according to the FBI agent.
“I’ve never seen the black book. I would like to see it some day and what he wrote about me,” said Connie.
After the interview, Connie had a date with C.T. Pettigrew at Majestic Steak House in Dallas. Pettigrew was a friend from Little River County, Ark.
While at the steak house, she learned about Kennedy being shot.
“I walked in and everyone was crying. We ordered, but I don’t know if we ate. We sat there and listened to all the news. I guess before I left, Kennedy had died,” Connie said.
“I told C.T. I would ride the bus back to my apartment. Everybody on the bus was crying. Everyone on the street was crazy. It was a black day,” Connie said.
Then on Nov. 24, 1963, Connie and her roommate Virginia Wilburn from Texarkana, Texas, witnessed on television Ruby shoot Oswald.
In the reruns of the shooting, Connie gasped watching Ruby shoot Oswald. When she sees the shooting today on television, the shock starts all over.
“I probably said, ‘Oh, my God. Can you believe this? It gave me chills. That was the man I thought was so safe. That’s the man who didn’t scare me. How could he kill somebody like that,” Connie said.
The Warren Commission interview was conducted July 9, 1964 and it ended her Dallas destiny trip.
“The Warren Commission came up with the idea I was getting money to give to Ruby for shooting Oswald,” she said.
“I can see how they would get that idea. I knew Jack Ruby. Then the day the President was shot, I was interviewing at the same time with Lamar Hunt at the bank. Ruby gives me a ride to the bank and two days later, Ruby kills Oswald,” Connie said.
Before the final interviews with the Warren Commission, she had married Phillip Penny. The couple returned to Ashdown and continue to live in the Southwest Arkansas town.
Penny has taught in the Texarkana, Texas, Independent School District; Texarkana, Ark. School District; Ashdown School District; and Redwater Independent School District.
The Texarkana Gazette published the Warren report when the information was released.
“My name was in the Gazette, and my mother thought I would never get a job,” she said.
Connie has one regret about the chain of events.
“I regret I did not go to that jail cell and interview him and write my book. He would have told me anything I wanted to know. I was so afraid of anybody knowing I knew Jack Ruby. My mother said ‘You’ll never be able to get a job. Nobody will understand because you are always getting yourself into messes,’” Connie said.
[NOTE: The Warren Report says Ruby took Connie Trammell to Hunt's office for a job interview on Thursday, the day before the assassination, not the morning of the assassination as she states in this article. The job interview she filled out at Hunt's office is dated November 21, not 22. So she is off by one day.]