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The Long, Strange Journey Of Lee Harvey Oswald’s Gravestone Back To Texas

The presumed killer of John F. Kennedy died in Texas, but his gravestone didn’t rest in peace.

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(AP Photo/Rockford Register Star, Max Gersh)

On the four-year mark of John F. Kennedy’s death, the gravestone of his presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was stolen from the Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth. Oswald, of course, had been killed two days after the president, and he was buried beneath an ornate marker that read “Lee Harvey Oswald, Oct. 18, 1939 – Nov. 24, 1963” along with a cross and a floral border. After the stone was recovered, Oswald’s mother replaced it with a simple marker that read, simply, “Oswald.”

This week the stone returned to Texas, but it took a legal battle to get it here.

Lee Harvey Oswald's tombstone

After it was recovered by police, Oswald’s mother kept the original stone in her house for safekeeping. When the home was sold to the Card family in the 1980s, the Oswalds made no attempt to claim it. As The New York Times wrote in 2012:

The Card family first stumbled upon the gravestone some 30 years ago when an electrician found it in the crawl space under the house of Mr. Oswald’s mother, Marguerite Oswald, which the family bought after she died. Ms. Oswald is said to have hidden it there after teenagers took the tombstone from her son’s grave site on the fourth anniversary of Kennedy’s death.[…]

The family asked Mr. Card’s step-aunt, who lived nearby, to take the original headstone for safekeeping sometime in the mid-1980s. Over the years, it drifted to Mr. Card’s step-cousin, Johnny Ragan, who kept it until he died in 2008.

That is when Mr. Card and his siblings said they started asking for the stone back, calling Mr. Ragan’s wife, Holly, at least three times to make arrangements to pick it up. “We knew it was there, and we talked about it being there,” Mr. Card said, insisting that Johnny was only safeguarding it temporarily.

Ragan’s family reportedly sold the stone to a roadside museum in Illinois for the bargain price of less than $10,000, where it lived alongside mannequins depicting President Kennedy and the First Lady, the seal from the birthday cake presented to Kennedy the year he was serenaded by Marilyn Monroe, and a small collection of Batmobiles.

The Cards spent the next several years in a legal battle to reclaim the marker. And, as of this week, they finally succeeded. As the Dallas Morning News reports:

The confidential legal agreement with Historic Auto Attractions owner Wayne Lensing prevents Card from disclosing any details or disparaging anyone. And my phone call to Lensing’s lawyer was not returned.

But the 75-year-old Card can sure talk about his excitement at having the gravestone back.

“It’s got a wow factor to it,” he said. “Think about it. It’s the original tombstone of the most famous assassin in the history of civilization, except perhaps for Cain, who killed Abel.”

Card said he has hoped all along that The Sixth Floor Museum will want to acquire and display the tombstone. But its clouded legal status has prevented any serious discussion till now.

 

We’ll see what happens with the gravestone now. Presumably, if the Cards decide to sell it to the Sixth Floor Museum or elsewhere, they’ll be hoping to recoup the fees they spent in reacquiring the stone from Lensing. In any case, it’s some sort of closure for a macabre story.

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  • Mike

    So, the Card family stumbled onto the stone that had been hidden and turned it over to a step-aunt who later turned it over to a step-cousin who later died. Then they became interested… Other than trying to make a little money by selling the stone, why would they be interested now? It’s not now nor ever has been any part of their family heritage. I don’t see any reason for them to be involved with the stone which was never theirs to begin with. It rightfully should have gone to the Oswald’s family when it was found.

  • Cato Meador

    It should be returned to Rose Hill Cemetery. And if the Sixth Floor Museum gets it…that’s where it should go. Now, I am assuming, Mike, that since all that is left of the Oswald family, his daughters, and his brothers family, they probably wouldn’t want it. But it does deserve to go back to the cemetery. Oswald never had his day in court, and he was never anything but the assumed gunman, (with very very weak evidence). Since that day, I never believed that Lee did anything alone. And as I have gotten older, I no longer believe he ever pulled a trigger, or was directly involved in the incident on that day.

    • John P. Sullivan

      “with very weak evidence”. There are at least 53 separate pieces of evidence, when viewed in their entirety, convict Oswald not beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond all doubt.

      • Cato Meador

        It’s sad that you feel that way. And unbelievable that you would believe that the final headshot came from the back. I have since I was a kid, looked at this logically. I don’t believe every crazy ‘conspiracy’ theory. I have read so many of the books, and only started even more because the ridiculousness that it turned into. There are only 3 or 4 books, in over 50 years, that I consider, personally, credible. And I have never believed in coincidence when it comes to major events, because they all happen for a reason. And most of the proof of guilt, is about as credible as the proof of innocence. Every debate has to have people on both sides. My first question that ever came to my mind was Sunday night, November 24, 1963. After the events of the day, this 8 year old boy questioned his Dad about the fact that Jack Ruby would just happen to assassinate the assassin the same weekend. And the lack of logic grew from there, and there is logical reasoning that works in my mind. But on the subject of this stone? It belongs on the grave of the man that never was allowed his day in court…..or even a lawyer.

        • Kozmo

          “I’m just a patsy.” True words.

  • Phred22

    Now visitors to Rose Hill Cemetery may wonder if one of Disney’s early cartoon characters, Oswald the Rabbit, is buried there.

  • Albert Griggs

    Kennedy was killed (1) He was going to pull the troops from Viet Nam and the WAR PROFITEERS would have lost money (2) He issued $4billion in US Notes and was going to rein in the Federal Reserve(a PRIVATE corporation) (3) He DEMANDED Israel sign the NPT and open their nuclear facilities to inspection (4) He was in Johnson’s “POWER BASE” and Johnson wanted to be President.

  • Alan

    This stone belongs with Oswald’s family. How disgraceful. Marina and his daughters should be gifted the stolen stone back.