Reflections on Oswald, wife
A lost soul
"He told Frazier, 'I'm going home to get some curtain rods.' It occurred to him, 'what if she doesn't come back?' He hated, I guess, society as a whole. He went to the Soviet Union. He hated them. He never could adjust to any environment he was in.
Why Oswald shot JFK
"So I think he had it in his mind that if this is the only person that had ever identified with him, married him, lived with him, then he had no other person on this planet that he could turn to. That night she rejected him, he put his wedding ring and money on the table, got his rifle and came back, and I think he was thinking, 'I'm gonna shoot somebody with authority.'
"It was like he was pounding his chest, saying, 'By god, everybody knows who Lee Oswald is now.' I'm thinking that was his payback to everybody that had ever mistreated him including Marina. I think it was just that simple. I'm basing that on all the facts that I had before me at the time and since," said Carter.
Among those facts were the testimonies of Howard Brennan, who across the street from the building watched Oswald fire the shot from the sixth floor, and of three young men on the fifth floor who heard the cartridges hit the floor. There were also the retrieved bullets, which ballistics tests matched to Oswald's rifle, as well as the bullet fired seven months earlier at General Edwin Walker that also matched the rifle.
"There was no evidence that Oswald ever thought about shooting Kennedy. There was no planning, but I think had Marina said, 'Yeah, Lee, you got your license. Go ahead and get a car. I'll give it a try one more time,' that Kennedy would have lived.
"He never succeeded in anything, nothing, and then came that final rejection. He had to lash out."
As for the interviews conducted with Oswald before he was killed, Carter says that he remained defiant, never admitting his guilt.
"I base my opinion on the facts I saw with my own eyes, and people I talked to there, the witnesses. All the evidence points to Lee Oswald," said Carter, who dismisses the various conspiracy theories.
"I'm in peace with my mind if I look at all the facts as I saw them there. I never had anyone suggest to me there was anything other than Lee Harvey Oswald."
Premonitions of death
"When he was leaving Fort Worth, it was raining in Dallas and when they got on the plane they got word that it was clearing in Dallas. Had there just been a drizzle, they would have had to keep the bubble on top. It wasn't bulletproof but it was an inch and a half of Plexiglas. It would have deflected a bullet enough," recalled Carter.
"The second thing, if you want to be a politician there are certain risks that go with that. I think Kennedy believed that it was part of his responsibility to be accessible to the crowd and he loved that. . . . Had the bubbletop stayed on, he would have lived.
"He wouldn't let the two agents ride on the running board, which was our standard procedure, but you don't want to argue with the president. Had those agents been on those running boards, Oswald would have had to shoot that right agent off that running board and by that time the other agent would have been on top of him. Kennedy ordered the bubbletop off. He ordered the agents off the car.
The man who killed Oswald
The interview was conducted in Ruby's jail cell, which had no air conditioning.
"He was a little overweight and was wearing his underwear and undershirt. We had suits on and even with our coats off were perspiring heavily," recalled Carter.
"He starts rambling, going on and on about his love for Kennedy. He was Jewish in Dallas, Texas, and there were a lot of Jewish people there, and there was prejudice that existed in 1963.
"He talked about being a minority and how Kennedy was a champion of the minority, and he got extremely emotional about him and he would work himself up. It was like wow, I loved him too, but you know I had a funny feeling about his emotions for Kennedy.
"He admitted killing him [Oswald]. He just said, 'That S.O.B. killed my president.'
"There have been all these Jack Ruby conspiracies, the Mafia. Jack wasn't a Mafioso. I've met a few Mafioso's in my days, and they're very good. They're kind of like assassins. You don't get a kook; you don't get a Lee Harvey Oswald and hire him for an assassin. You get a smart disciplined guy to do it. The same way with Ruby. I saw him as a cheap burlesque operator on his own. He didn't have any influence with anybody."
Ruby shared the routines he went through the hours before he shot Oswald with Carter. Among them, he went to Western Union to wire some money to an employee, and he had his pet dog in his car.
It was only by happenstance that he noticed all the vehicles and lawmen outside police headquarters. The facts led Carter to deduct that Ruby acted upon irresistible impulse.
"I think Jack Ruby went in the basement that day and when he saw Oswald come down that corridor, he whipped out his gun and shot him. I don't think he thought about it. It was an impulse, 'Here's the guy that shot my president. I'll take that S.O.B. out.'
"Ruby was known by every policeman. They hung out at his burlesque places. He was in good graces with the police, and they knew he carried a gun. I didn't see anything unusual about it. We never could find any connection between Jack and the Mafia."
The assassination's biggest impact
But a major facet of his professional legacy will surround those days 50 years ago when a nation lost and mourned a charismatic president, whose time in office was christened Camelot.