Dallas Skyline, 1952 | Credit: Dale K. Myers/Tippit Family Collection

BIOGRAPHY: 1952-1963

The Rookie Cop

In June 1952, J.D. Tippit quit the farm and moved his family back to Dallas. A month later, he was hired by the City of Dallas as an apprentice policeman at $250 dollars a month. [1] The farm boy from Red River County had found his calling.

"Officer Tippit came through the police academy right after I did," retired homicide detective Elmer L. Boyd recalled. "I came out of the academy in July of '52 and he was in the next class. I know the rookies worked the Texas State Fair the first year that J.D. was there, before they finished their schooling.

"And after that, he and I worked the same shift in adjacent districts for the next five years. All the families knew each other and we'd take our kids picnicking out at Kiest Park. "The officers at the Oak Cliff substation were a pretty
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D.'s badge
close knit group and so J.D. and I got to know each other real well." [2]

At twenty-eight, J.D. Tippit cut a handsome figure in his police uniform. He was proud to wear the badge, No. 848, and his family and friends were proud of his dedication to duty.

One of J.D.'s first assignments was to work the Texas State Fair, a fact unknown to his younger brother Wayne, who had come to the fair grounds on an outing.

1952 Texas State Fair
"J.D. was working the fair and spotted Wayne just ahead of him," brother-in-law Alvie DeBord recalled with great amusement.

"So, J.D. slipped up behind him, threw him down on the ground, and handcuffed him. J.D said that everybody crowded around watching it all. Then, he got Wayne up on his feet
and led him off like he was a real character. J.D. thought that was pretty funny. We all did. But Wayne got back at him. He always got back at him." [3]

Brother Wayne's favorite story of retribution occurred a few years later in south Dallas.

"I was in the Marine Corps then and was home on leave," Wayne recalled with a chuckle. "I was on Singleton Boulevard and pulled up behind J.D.'s squad car. He was right at the intersection waiting for the red light to change. He didn't even know I was in Dallas. So, I rolled up behind him, touched his bumper, and just pushed the squad car out into the intersection. He came flying out of the car all blustered up and red-faced and ran back and found out it was me. So, I borrowed two dollars from him to get some gas." [4]

While working the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, J.D. made a lasting impression on a young man named Murray Jackson.

"I was in my senior year at Sunset High School," former police dispatcher and friend Murray Jackson remembered, "and I worked on the weekends and after school at the Mobil gas station at Hampton Road and Fort Worth Avenue. And it was right in the middle of four patrol districts. And many, many of the officers would come into the service station. The owner, Parker Smith, had adapted a radio to get police calls so the officers could come in there, drink a Coke, use the rest room, and just take a break without being away from the car radio. And that's
Credit: Murray J. Jackson
Murray J. Jackson, age 18
where I met J.D. and his partner Owen Box." [5]

During that period of time, Murray decided that he wanted to become a policemen - particularly on account of J.D. "Of all the officers that came into the service station, I wanted to be like him," Murray said warmly. [6]

Being a Dallas cop was tough. J.D. met the challenges of his job head on, and twice, in 1956, it nearly cost him his life.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection/DMARC
J.D.'s police identification card and an April 28, 1956 injury report

On the night of April 28, 1956, J.D. and his partner Daniel Smith responded to a call regarding "a demented person." The officers pulled up at the location where they found 25-year-old Vicki Shaver standing in her front yard. She told them that her husband, Robert, had run her out of the house with an ice pick, threatening to kill her and commit suicide. J.D. and his partner approached the man, who was standing inside the screen door brandishing an ice pick and shouting threats at his wife. J.D. asked him to come outside, but he refused, and slammed the door in their faces. The officers crashed through the door and Shaver swung the ice pick striking J.D.'s partner in the shoulder. Before Tippit could respond, Shaver swung the ice pick twice more, striking J.D. in the stomach and right kneecap.

J.D. was treated at Parkland Hospital and released, but four months later his knee began bothering him. X-rays revealed that one-half inch of the tip of the ice pick was embedded in his right kneecap. During surgery, part of the kneecap was replaced with a steel plate leaving J.D. with a slight permanent disability. [7]

Marie loved the therapy that the doctor recommended for J.D. -- dancing. The couple began making regular visits to a Dallas dance club, where they danced in a loving embrace to Faded Love by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. [8]

Credit: Dallas Times Herald
Dallas Times Herald clipping
Four months later, J.D. Tippit faced the barrel of a gun in an incident that closely paralleled the one that would take his life.

It was Sunday, September 2, 1956. Tippit and his partner Dale Hankins had stopped at Club-80 in Dallas on a routine check for drunks. They had already cased the bar and were about to leave when they noticed an intoxicated man acting suspicious in one of the booths.

J.D. thought he looked like the man in a Colorado wanted poster.

They walked back over and asked the man to accompany them outside. The man grumbled and started to slide out of the booth.
As he rose to his feet, he suddenly drew a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol, pointed it at J.D.'s face, and told him to "stick 'em up." Then, he pulled the trigger.

The gun didn't fire. In his stupor the man failed to remove the safety. J.D. and his partner quickly drew their service revolvers and fired seven shots into the gunman as he fell to the barroom floor, dead. [9]

"I remember J.D. talking about it later on," brother-in-law Alvie said. "He told me, 'You know, I could see him squeezing that trigger. The muzzle of that twenty-five caliber looked as big as a stove pipe.' It was pretty scary. I can see J.D. now. He was telling about it and his eyes were getting big and excited and he said, 'I was scared.'" [10]

J.D. received the Meritorious Award for his actions that night at Club 80 and a commendation for his "outstanding judgment and quick thinking." [11] Despite the accolades, he never sought out the spotlight. For J.D., being a cop wasn't about medals and glory.

Credit: Dale K. Myers
On patrol in Oak Cliff
Partners

In 1961, J.D. was partnered with high school protege Murray Jackson who had since joined the ranks of the patrolman covering Oak Cliff. They hit it off right away and became close friends, sharing many memorable moments.

"During one late night shift," Murray recalled, "we stopped in at the Beckley Club up on Jefferson and it was full of shift change people and people getting out of the clubs and stuff. And we were sitting there eating our breakfast and a couple ladies
got up and walked by. And just as one of them got to the table she turned to me and said, 'If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?'

"And I kind of looked at her and said, 'No Mam, I wouldn't.'

"And J.D., he just fell out of his seat. And man, I never heard him laugh that hard. And the ladies went on and paid their bill. And J.D. was still laughing. And we get up and pay our bill, and got in the car, and I'm driving south on
Credit: CBS-TV
Murray Jackson in 1967
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. Tippit in 1961
Zang and he's still laughing. And finally it dawned on me what she meant by that.

"Later, of course, they turned that line into a popular country song. But at that time I was really naive.

"There was another time," Murray continued, "when we were going out - as fate would have it - on Beckley again. And something prompted him to say, 'Shoot low sheriff, I think she's riding a Shetland.'


"Now, it was not like him to say funny things like that. But that one just hit me, and I laughed about as hard as he did in the cafe." [12]

What Murray didn't know at the time was that J.D.'s funny remark was an ad-lib from the introduction to the song, Deep in the Heart of Texas, by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

No doubt, J.D. was thinking about his favorite western swing band.
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Allan, Curtis, Marie, Brenda, and J.D.

Following the birth of a daughter, Brenda Kay and a second son, Curtis Glen, J.D. began to feel the pinch of a modest police salary.

Anxious to improve his family situation, Tippit began to "moonlight," finding odd jobs and occasionally working football games at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday afternoons. [13]

Farm life had prepared J.D. well for his role as family provider. The way he looked at it, working two or three jobs was nothing compared to walking behind a plow all day. The price was a police career destined to remain at the bottom rung of the ladder.

Still, J.D. was content in his work.

"He really didn't have the time to do the extra studying and the other things that it would take to advance his career," Jack Christopher said. "I asked him about it once and he said, 'I don't really have a desire to do that.' He loved his beat and he loved the people that he was in contact with. So, I just came to believe that he was happy with being a patrolman and didn't really want to do anything else." [14]

For J.D., taking care of and spending time with his family was the most important thing in his life. Behind the couple's house was a creek where he and son Allan played for hours, once stretching a cable from one tree to another, allowing them to swing over the water.

"He built a tree house with the kids and played football with them," Marie remembered. "He was so close to those kids, and Brenda became Daddy's little girl." [15]

Credit: Dale K. Myers
Austin's Bar-B-Q at Illinois & Hampton in Oak Cliff, with vintage matchbook (inset)

In early 1961, Tippit learned that fellow officer Carroll Lewis was giving up his part-
time position as a security guard at Austin's Barbecue in Oak Cliff. [16] To say Austin's was popular would be an understatement.

Two of J.D.'s nieces, Linda and Carol Christopher, attended South Oak Cliff High School and remember Austin's Barbecue well. "It was one of the places all the teenagers would go to," Carol remembered. "From there to Sivils, to the Dairy Queen on Hampton, to the Philips Freezette - everybody would make the rounds
and just drive around."
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Sivils of Oak Cliff in 1963
"But Austin's was the place to go after football games on Friday nights," Linda chimed in.

"That's why Uncle was hired at Austin's; to keep everyone in line," Carol recalled. "They didnít want any trouble."

"That's right," Linda said. "A lot of schools converged there. And after football games it could get rough. I mean, kids from Adamson High would be there, South Oak Cliff would be there, and Sunset High too."

"And they would have what we called a 'rumble'," Carol laughed. "Yea, but not with Uncle there,"
Linda added. "I mean it did not happen when he was there. He had his bluff on all of them." [17]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. and Marie in Colorado in July, 1963

Colorado

In the summer of the last year of his life, J.D. and Marie went on vacation to the Colorado Rockies with J.D.'s brothers and sisters and all but one of their spouses.

"I don't know just exactly how we ended up planning that trip to Colorado," J.D.'s brother Wayne remarked. "I can't either," brother Don added. "But that was the first trip we'd ever been on together like that." [18]

"It just turned out to be a blessing that we did it after all those years," J.D.'s sister Chris said, "for us all to be together one last time." [19]

"Oddly, none of us had a vacation like that before in our lives," Joyce remarked. [20]

They all met early one morning at
Don Tippit's home in Lubbock, Texas.
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D., Don, and Wayne packing in Lubbock, Texas
They packed J.D.'s blue '62 Ford station wagon and Wayne's brown Nash and headed up to Colorado for four days of fun over the fourth of July weekend. One of their few stops was Royal Gorge near Canon City, Colorado. The bridge, built in 1929, is the world's highest suspension bridge at a 1,053 feet high, crossing the raging Arkansas River. They rode a cable car to the bottom of the gorge and marveled at how the bridge looked like a ribbon stretched across the canyon. [21]
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
The Tippits at Royal Gorge, Canon City, Colorado in 1963

They're final destination was a cabin in the Colorado Rockies. "It all turned out so good," Joyce recalled. "The cabin had all that room."

"Upstairs was a loft and there were a lot of beds and that's where we stayed," Don recalled. "And Wayne had built a fire in the fireplace." [22]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Jack and J.D.
The Cabin
Jack, Don, and Wayne

The whirlwind return trip took them south around Sante Fe and back to Lubbock, arriving in the early morning hours. Despite being completely exhausted, most of the gang returned to Dallas the next day, Sunday, July 7th, and went to the Six Flags Amusement Park.

"You all had to be out of your minds," Joyce laughed. "We were," Don chuckled. The trip was the last time that Wayne and Don saw their brother alive. [23]

That fall, J.D. had taken on a second part-time job, working security at the Stevens Park Theater in Oak Cliff where a largely Hispanic crowd sometimes caused trouble. [24] Autumn also brought a return to high school football and J.D. never missed a game.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Linda Christopher (inset) and the Golden Debs
"South Oak Cliff High had a precision drill team, that I was a member of, called the Golden Debs," niece Linda Christopher recalled.

"They were renowned for being the best drill team in Dallas and Uncle liked to come out and watch. He was real proud of me.

"And we also had the best football team in Dallas since 1953. We won every game, and I mean won them soundly. We had a quarterback
named Mike Livingston who went on to play quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. So we were pretty good.

"But, Uncle never missed a game. Sometimes he'd have to leave early because he'd have to go to work at Austin's. But he never missed a game. He was always there. "The Debs sold tickets to the games starting Wednesday mornings. And I'd always have a ticket for Uncle. Always. Because I knew he was going to go. In fact, a bunch of 'em would usually go - my Mom and Dad, Uncle J.D., Aunt Joyce and Uncle Alvie. They were all proud of both Carol and me." [25]

On Friday, November 15, 1963, J.D. attended his last football game at South Oak Cliff High. "He came to the game but he had to leave before it was over," his sister Joyce remembered. "He got to stay long enough to watch Linda in the half-time show, but he had to go to his part-time job at Austin's Barbecue.

"I can see him just as clear as day when he was leaving," Joyce continued. "He had on a corduroy sports jacket and dress slacks and was wearing a Stetson hat like Texas
Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. and his Stetson
Governor John Connally wore at the time. And he looked so nice.

"He'd been sitting on the other side of all of us, there was a big group of us, and I was sitting on one end and when he came by me he said, 'I'll see you later.' And that was the last time I saw him. A week later, he was dead." [26]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Linda Christopher (age 3) and J.D. Tippit (age 25) in 1949

Character

In his thirty-nine short years, the young man from Red River County had made an indelible impression on those who knew him well, and loved him.

"He was considerate, always happy and smiling," widow Marie Tippit remembers fondly. "He was always doing something for someone else. His whole family is like that. I just fell madly in love. I have a picture of him laughing, and that's the way I remember him. When he came home, he was always playing with the kids and had everyone laughing." [27]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
Jack and J.D. clowning
"Uncle J.D. loved kids," niece Linda Christopher said. "He was openly affectionate with all of us and we cherished him so much. At family gatherings, there was always a baby in his arms or a couple of kids on his lap." [28]

"Everyone always says that my Uncle was shy and reserved," niece Carol Christopher remarked, "but around the family he wasn't. He was always fun to be around and he and my dad use to crack each
other up. We all just loved him." [29]

"The guidelines he set for living a good life were just average I suppose, but he kept them to the letter," sister Joyce said. "He was an honest person. You could depend on his word and depend on his actions. And I think I know him as well as any sister could ever know a brother." [30]

"J.D. was an honest person alright," brother-in-law Alvie DeBord offered. "One of his fellow officers loaned J.D. $1,500 dollars once on just a handshake. And at the time, that was a whole lot of money. J.D. paid him back just like he said he would. So, to me, he was an honest and upright person. And he was good to his word." [31]

"If there was something to do, J.D. never slacked on doing it," best friend and brother-in-law Jack Christopher observed. "His army and police service record stands as a witness to that." [32]

"I never worked with him after '57," retired homicide detective Elmer Boyd remarked, "but up until that time he was as straight an officer as I ever worked with. And if you got in any problem, you didn't have to worry about him helping you. He wasn't afraid. He'd be there to help you, which I can't say about one or two other officers." [33]

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. at Christmas, 1959
"I always thought he had good 'horse-sense,'" former partner and retired police officer Murray Jackson remembered. "I can think of one particular incident that illustrates what I'm talking about. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon, and J.D. and I were going east on Illinois at Edgefield in Oak Cliff, and J.D. told me to turn the corner and stop. So I did. I didn't know why we were stopping. But he got out of the car and approached this man, who looked to be in his early twenties, standing on the porch of a red brick house.

Credit: Tippit Family Collection
J.D. as we remember him
"I got out with him, not having a clue as to why he was approaching this man. But it ended up that the young man had a gun and we arrested him and put him in jail.

"Now, I didn't even see this guy until we stopped. I would have been going on down Illinois.

"But the man obviously made an overt move that J.D. spotted and caused him to be suspicious.
And that's what I'm saying, he kind of knew people. Could judge people. And that's what I mean by 'horse-sense.'

"J.D. was a good man. He'll be missed." [34]


Next: November 22, 1963


Footnotes

  1. Texas Attorney General's Files on the Kennedy Assassination (TAGF), Vol.12, Internal police memo dated July 28, 1952 [RETURN]
  2. Videotaped interview of Elmer L. Boyd, November 13, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  3. Videotaped interview of Alvie DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  4. Videotaped interview of Wayne Tippit, November 13, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  5. Videotaped interview of Murray J. Jackson, November 15, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  6. Ibid [RETURN]
  7. TAGF, Vol.12, Report from Tippit to C.F. Hanson, April 28, 1956; Report from W.F. Dyson to C.F. Hanson, April 8, 1957; Letter from Harold A. Mattson, M.D., November 7, 1956; Letter from Harold A. Mattson, M.D., December 27, 1956 [RETURN]
  8. Granberry, Michael, "Pain Lingers for Tippit's Widow," Dallas Morning News, November 20, 2003 [RETURN]
  9. TAGF, Vol.12, Report from W.F. Dyson to C.F. Hanson, April 28, 1957 [RETURN]
  10. Videotaped interview of Alvie DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  11. TAGF, Vol.12, Report from W.F. Dyson to C.F. Hanson, April 28, 1957; Departmental Award, Certificate of Merit, Presented May 1, 1957 [RETURN]
  12. Videotaped interview of Murray J. Jackson, November 15, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  13. CE2985, p.9 [RETURN]
  14. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  15. Granberry, Michael, "Pain Lingers for Tippit's Widow," Dallas Morning News, November 20, 2003 [RETURN]
  16. CE2985, p.6,8,10; Putnam Exhibit No.1; Interview of Austin O. Cook, March 28, 1983, p.3, Dale K. Myers Collection; Interview of Austin O. Cook, March 9, 1978, p.1, HSCA RIF 180-10115-10118; Batchelor Exhibit 5002, p.20 [RETURN]
  17. Videotaped interview of Linda and Carol Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  18. Videotaped interview of Wayne and Don Tippit, November 13, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  19. Videotaped interview of Christene Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  20. Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  21. Tippit Family interview, November 13, 1999, Tape 3, Side A, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  22. Ibid [RETURN]
  23. Ibid [RETURN]
  24. CE2985, p.9; Tippit Family interviews, 1998-2004, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  25. Videotaped interview of Linda Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  26. Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  27. Granberry, Michael, "Pain Lingers for Tippit's Widow," Dallas Morning News, November 20, 2003 [RETURN]
  28. Videotaped interview of Linda Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  29. Videotaped interview of Carol Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  30. Videotaped interview of Joyce DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  31. Videotaped interview of Alvie DeBord, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  32. Videotaped interview of Jack Christopher, November 12, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  33. Videotaped interview of Elmer L. Boyd, November 13, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]
  34. Videotaped interview of Murray J. Jackson, November 15, 1999, Dale K. Myers Collection [RETURN]