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A slight Duncan angle exists relative to the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
James Smith, who served as senior pastor of the First Christian Church here for 20 years, was senior pastor at Urbandale Christian Church in Dallas from 1961 to 1971 before moving to Duncan in 1972. He was also a chaplain at the Dallas Police Department.
It was in his chaplain’s role, the connection was made.
Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald as his motorcade passed the Texas Book Depository near Dealey Plaza en route to a speaking engagement at the Dallas Trade Mart.
Oswald, as he was being transferred on a Sunday morning to the Dallas County Jail two days after the assassination, was shot in the stomach by Jack Ruby, who emerged from a crowd of reporters and law enforcement officials as the transfer was taking place. It was an act seen live on national television and captured by newspaper photographers and remains one of the most iconic photos of the entire episode.
Smith spent time visiting and counseling with Ruby, whose full name was Jacob Leon Rubenstein. He talked openly about the visits with friends and while nothing of significance occurred during their time together, it was obviously a memorable part of his ministry.
Ruby, a nightclub operator, was tried for Oswald’s murder and sentenced to death. Upon appeal, he was granted a new trial, but it never happened. Ruby became ill and died of pulmonary problems related to lung cancer.
Smith, who was a pharmacist for five years before entering the ministry, was awarded the 1980 Liberty Bell Award in Duncan and served as president of Rotary in 1988-89. He died in March 2005. His wife, Virginia, now lives in Oklahoma City.