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Hallettsville doctor recalls Jack Ruby's final days (w/video)

By Sonny Long
Nov. 21, 2013 at 5:21 a.m.
Updated Nov. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.

Dr. Carleton Thompson was a medical student at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas when Jack Ruby, the man that shot Lee Harvey Oswald, was admitted with a terminal illness. Thompson helped treat the man until his death in January 1967. Now a doctor at Lavaca Medical Center in Hallettsville, Thompson says that every November he drifts back to memories of the John F. Kennedy assassination and caring for Jack Ruby.

DR. CARLETON THOMPSON

Thompson was born at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio in 1942. He went to high school and Trinity University in San Antonio.

His wife, Judith, lived for some time as a youngster in Victoria, where her father, Charles Hill, was an Episcopal priest.

Thompson practiced for 24 years in Victoria and has been a contractor at the Lavaca Medical Center in Hallettsville since 2004 after returning to the area from Oregon, where the couple had semi-retired.

Judith Thompson is a retired registered nurse, and their daughter, the only girl among four children, is a nurse who helps victims of sexual assault.

HALLETTSVILLE - Three years after killing Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby went to Parkland Hospital to die, too.

Hallettsville Dr. Carleton Thompson, a junior medical student in Dallas in December 1966, was assigned to Ruby at the hospital where President John F. Kennedy and Oswald had both been taken after being shot two days apart in November 1963.

During a couple of weeks of taking Ruby's blood and drawing IVs, Thompson got to know the 55-year-old Ruby.

"He was a very pleasant person to deal with. Very polite. Very grateful of everything we did," said Thompson, now a gastroenterologist who works at the Lavaca Medical Center.

"He came across as a little paranoid, a little guarded," he said.

Thompson was a student at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, working at Parkland when Ruby was admitted.

"I couldn't find my intern and figured he was in the emergency room admitting another patient," Thompson recalled.

"When I found him, he said, 'I want you to meet Jack Ruby.'"

Thompson said the night club owner looked "chronically ill."

"His chest X-ray looked like a snowstorm," Thompson said.

"When they admitted him, they thought he might have tuberculosis, so they put him in the infectious disease ward," said Thompson. "That's where he stayed, even after they found out he had cancer.

"There were three different guards, three levels of security, to get to his room," said the doctor.

One thing Thompson said he would always remember about Ruby is that when introduced to a stranger, a new doctor, nurse or student, Ruby would say the person's name out loud seven times.

"The next time that person came into the room, even if it was a week later, he'd called them by name," said Thompson.

Thompson, 24 at the time, said Ruby, born Jacob Leon Rubenstein in Chicago, never talked specifically about President Kennedy or Oswald but sometimes would refer to "that terrible weekend" or "that horrendous weekend."

Thompson also remembers Nov. 22, 1963, well. He was having lunch at the Trinity University cafeteria in San Antonio.

"It was homecoming weekend. Everything was canceled. People walked around like zombies, sleepwalking."

Thompson said the next night, he and a lot of other people found an escape mechanism.

"After being depressed for 24 hours, all the theaters were full," he said. "I can't remember what I saw, but we went to the movies."

The 10-year Army veteran said this time of year brings out a lot of those same feelings from 50 years ago.

"It's kind of an oppressive feeling. It feels like the air pressure increases. Things slow down."

Three years after President Kennedy was assassinated, Thompson would be caring for the man who killed the man who killed the president.

Thompson said Ruby has another tie to the Crossroads with his friendship to stripper Candy Barr, whose real name was Juanita Dale Phillips, of Edna, who worked for Ruby at one point.

Ruby would later give Barr a pair of dachshunds to help her dog breeding business.

Barr died in 2005 at 70 at a Victoria hospital of complications from pneumonia.

On Jan. 3, 1967, less than a month after being admitted to Parkland, Ruby died on the day Thompson returned to work from Christmas vacation.

Thompson said that despite numerous conspiracy theories, he thinks Ruby acted alone in killing Oswald.

"He is probably the last guy who would enter a conspiracy unless you could convince him it was his idea," said Thompson.

"I believe that just from observing his demeanor. Although he had a volatile history, he was very pleasant."

Thomson said he has read of Ruby's reputation as someone who was not afraid of confrontation.

"In retrospect, I wonder if he was bipolar. That wasn't a diagnosis at the time."

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