J. D. Tippit (some sources claim he was christened Jefferson Davis) was born in Clarksville, Red River County, Texas, on September 18, 1924. During the Second World War Tippit served in the Seventeenth Airborne Division of the United States Army (July, 1944, to June, 1946).
Soon after leaving the army Tippit married Marie Frances Gasaway. The couple had three children. Over the next few years Tippit worked for Sears, Roebuck and Company (1948-1949) and as a farmer (1949-1950). The family eventually moved to Dallas and joined the Police Department in July, 1952. He was a successful officer and in 1956 he was cited for bravery for his role in disarming a criminal.
On 22nd November, 1963, President John F. Kennedy arrived in Dallas. It was decided that Kennedy and his party, including his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Governor John Connally and Senator Ralph Yarborough, would travel in a procession of cars through the business district of Dallas. A pilot car and several motorcycles rode ahead of the presidential limousine. As well as Kennedy the limousine included his wife, John Connally, his wife Nellie, Roy Kellerman, head of the Secret Service at the White House and the driver, William Greer. The next car carried eight Secret Service Agents. This was followed by a car containing Lyndon Johnson and Ralph Yarborough.
At about 12.30 p.m. the presidential limousine entered Elm Street. Soon afterwards shots rang out. John Kennedy was hit by bullets that hit him in the head and the left shoulder. Another bullet hit John Connally in the back. Ten seconds after the first shots had been fired the president's car accelerated off at high speed towards Parkland Memorial Hospital. Both men were carried into separate emergency rooms. Connally had wounds to his back, chest, wrist and thigh. Kennedy's injuries were far more serious. He had a massive wound to the head and at 1 p.m. he was declared dead.
Witnesses at the scene of the assassination claimed they had seen shots being fired from behind a wooden fence on the Grassy Knoll and from the Texas School Book Depository. The police investigated these claims and during a search of the Texas School Book Depository they discovered on the floor by one of the sixth floor windows, three empty cartridge cases. They also found a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle hidden beneath some boxes.
Oswald was seen in the Texas School Book Depository before (11.55 a.m.) and just after (12.31 p.m.) the shooting of John F. Kennedy. At 12.33 Oswald was seen leaving the building and by 1.00 p.m arrived at his lodgings. His landlady, Earlene Roberts, later reported that soon afterwards a police car drew up outside the house and sounded the horn twice and moved on. Roberts claimed that Oswald now left the building.
Tippit was one of the few officers in the Dallas Police Force not to be called to Dealey Plaza to help investigate the assassination. Instead, at 12.45 p.m. he was sent to the Oak Cliff section of Dallas.
At 1.16 p.m. Tippit approached a man, later identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, walking along East 10th Street. Domingo Benavides, later testified that after a short conversation, Oswald pulled out a hand gun and fired four shots at Tippit. However, Acquilla Clemons, who was sitting on a porch of a house close by, claimed that there were two men involved in the attack on Tippit. Another witness, Frank Wright, also claimed that Tippit was shot by two men.
Another witness, Helen Markham, also saw the killing. However, she described the killer as being short and somewhat on the heavy side, with slightly bushy hair." Later, Markham identified Oswald in a police lineup, but this was after she had seen his photograph on television.
Warren Reynolds did not see the shooting but saw the gunman running from the scene of the crime. He claimed that the man was not Oswald. After he survived an attempt to kill him, he changed his mind and identified Oswald as the man he had seen.
J. D. Tippit was buried in the memorial plot at Laurel Land Memorial Park, Dallas.