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Gene Roberts Interview

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I was doing a clean out today and came across this. Im not sure if I have posted it before or whether or not it is of any value to anybody, however didn't want to throw it out just incase...

This interview was conducted about three years ago:

Mr Roberts, as I imagine you are well aware, a March 2, 1964 article in Newsweek Magazine claimed you had purchased a number of photographs of Oswald on behalf of the Detroit Free Press. As a negative of one of these photographs has never been located or analyzed, I was hoping you would choose to speak out at this late date regarding this incident, so that perhaps this negative denied even by the Warren Commission, can finally be found. There are many historians and researchers who consider the source of these photos and their eventual whereabouts of utmost interest. So I guess what I'm asking is really four simple questions..

1. Who sold you these photographs? If not the name then at least the occupation and the circumstances leading to this person gaining access to them.

2. What photos were included in your purchase?

3. Did the Warren Commission or the House Select Committee on Assassinations ever contact you or try to reacquire these photos?

4. Do you know what became of these photos?

Gene Roberts:

The photographs you asked about came from the files of the district attorneys office in Dallas. The DA got them from the FBI. They were the same photographs that were given to the Warren Commission.

The photographs included the well known photograph of Oswald holding a rifle in one hand and The Worker, the Communist Party newspaper from New York, in the other; photocopies of Oswald's identity cards, some with aliases and others in his own name;and some family photos, as I recall.

I don't remember the exact number, but there were possinly as many as 25 or 30. Almost all of the photographs were later made public, but at the time they were new to the reading public.

No negatives were involved, only copies of photos and documents in the FBI files. The FBI made them available to the Dallas DA to aid in the prosecution of the Jack Ruby case. I correctly guessed this might happen and made every effort to cultivate people in the DA's office in the hope files available to me from 8pm on a Saturday night to 8am on Sunday morning, a 12 hour period when the employee did not think anyone would be in the DA's office. I hired an experienced photolab person to photocopy the file during the 12 hour period. I stayed with him during the entire copying process and he provided me with two copies of every photo and document in the file.

I had planned to route each set of copies on different airlines from Dallas to my newspaper at the time, The Detroit Free Press in Detroit, Michigan but I was so sleep deprived that when I arrived at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport on Sunday at about 9am, I failed to make my instructions clear and both sets of photographs were routed on the same flight to Detroit. Because of weather conditions - or mechanical problems, I cant remember which - the plane was grounded in New Orleans for several hours.

Panic developed at the Free Press, which wanted the photos in time for the first edition of the Monday paper, which had a 6pm deadline on Sunday. We knew that life magazine had access to some of the photos and would start appearing at newsstands about noon on Monday. We wanted to beat them to the punch.

As the deadline approached, editors in Detroit asked me to describe the pictures and estimate the size of each photo that would be on page one. With this information, the paper set the type for the front page and made the page with holes for the pictures.

The plane arrived in Detroit about 30 minutes before deadline on Sunday at the Detroit airport, which was about 30 minutes by car from the Free Press Building. My editor, Derrick Daniels, had motorcycles waiting on the tarmac to speed the photos to the newsroom, where he had photo editors and airbrush artists waiting to expedite the photos into the paper. In 1964, engraving processes were not as sophisticated as they later became and it was commonplace to airbrush photos with white liquid chalk to heighten the definition between dark and gray areas in photographs. In the haste to get the photos in the paper, an airbrusher covered the sniper scope (on the rifle Oswald was holding along with The Worker Paper) with liquid chalk.

Our paper was indeed available several hours ahead of life. But when Life appeared on newsstands, its photo of Oswald with the Worker paper had a sniper scope. The Free Press photo did not. Armchair detectives around the world found this to be highly suspicious.

But the Life and Free Press photos were both copies of the very same photograph. Because airbrushes use liquid chalk that can be scratched away with a fingernail, you could easily determine that the photographs were the same. The apparent discrepancies of the photos have been mentioned several times over the years in books and articles, creating a mystery where none really existed. Had anyone taken the time to visit the morgues (libraries) of the two publications, they could have seen that the photos were the same.


Gene Roberts

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