Young Manhood (1933-43)

San Francisco (1933-37)

Jack Ruby reported that in about 1933, he and several Chicago friends went to Los Angeles and, shortly thereafter, to San Francisco. Although there is evidence that he stayed there until 1938, 1939, or 1940, Ruby stated that he returned to Chicago in about 1937, and this appears to have been the case. Eva Grant testified that Ruby went to the west coast because he believed employment would be available there.

Eva, who married Hyman Magid in Chicago in 1930, was divorced in early 1934, and in about June of that year joined her brother Jack in San Francisco. She and her son, Ronald, shared an apartment with him. In 1936, Eva married Frank Granovsky, also known as Frank Grant, in San Francisco, and Ruby shared a four-room apartment with them and Ronald for a short while.

Occupations and Activities

Ruby stated that when he and his friends arrived in Los Angeles, they sold a handicapper's tip sheet for horse races at Santa Anita racetrack which had just opened. Eva Grant testified that Ruby also worked as a singing waiter in Los Angeles, but made very little money.

When the group moved to San Francisco, Ruby continued to sell "tip" sheets at Bay Meadows racetrack. Subsequently, he became a door-to-door salesman of subscriptions to San Francisco newspapers. Although there is some evidence that he ultimately became chief of his crew and had several people working under him, other reports indicate that this is unlikely. Eva Grant testified that she also sold newspaper subscriptions but was less proficient than her brother and relied upon him for advice and support.

Although virtually all his San Francisco acquaintances knew Jack Ruby as "Sparky," there is no evidence that, he engaged in violent activities in San Francisco or was reputed to possess a vicious temper. One friend, who stated that he resided with Ruby and Eva for about a year, described him as a "well-mannered, likable individual who was soft spoken and meticulous in his dress and appearance." Another friend described him as a "clean-cut, honest kid," and the manager of a crew with which Ruby worked stated that he had a good reputation and appeared to be an "honest, forthright person." The crew manager reported that Ruby associated with a sports crowd, some of whose members were involved with professional boxing, but not with criminals. He added that Ruby had a personal liking for law enforcement and would have wanted to become a police officer had he been larger physically.

One friend reported that although Ruby always associated with Jewish people, he never exhibited great interest in religion. Ruby met Virginia Belasco, granddaughter of the prominent playwright and actor, David Belasco, in about 1936 at a dance at the Jewish community center in San Francisco. Miss Belasco stated that while a teenager she saw Ruby socially on several occasions between 1936 and 1941. The only other evidence concerning Ruby's social activities while in San Francisco is his statement to his long-time girl friend, Alice Nichols of Dallas, that while in San Francisco he met the only other woman, Virginia Fitzgerald or Fitzsimmons, that he ever considered marrying.

Chicago (1937-43)

Jack Ruby stated that following his return to Chicago, he was unemployed for a considerable period. However, when his mother was admitted to Elgin State Hospital in 1937, she reported that he was employed as a "traveling salesman" apparently living away from home. Although there is conflicting evidence about his ability to earn a comfortable living, he apparently was able to maintain a normal existence and required no financial assistance from his family or friends. He continued to be a so-called "hustler," scalping tickets and buying watches and other small items for resale at discount prices. One of his closest Chicago friends stated that Ruby's sales and promotions were "shady" but "legitimate."

Labor union activities. Ruby reported that in "about 1937" he became active in Local 20467 of the Scrap Iron and Junk Handlers Union. At this time, his friend, attorney Leon Cooke, was the local's financial secretary. Records provided by the Social Security Administration indicate that Ruby was employed by the union from late 1937 until early 1940; he worked as a union organizer and negotiated with employers on its behalf.

On December 8, 1939, the union's president, John Martin, shot Cooke, who died of gunshot wounds on January 5, 1940; Martin was subsequently acquitted on the ground of self-defense. Although a Jack Rubenstein is mentioned in the minutes of a union meeting on February 2, 1940, and Ruby is reported to have said after Cooke's death that he wanted to "take over" the union, the evidence indicates that Ruby was so upset by Cooke's death that he was unable to devote himself further to union activities and left its employ. Ruby reported that after Cooke's death he adopted the middle name "Leon," which he used only infrequently, in memory of his friend.

Since Ruby was the ultimate source of all but one of these accounts, other descriptions of Ruby's separation from the union cannot with certainty be deemed inaccurate. These reports indicated that Ruby might have been forced out of the union by a criminal group, or might have left because he lacked the emotional stability necessary for successful labor negotiations or because he felt he was not earning enough money with the union.

Although the AFL-CIO investigated the ethical practices of local 20467 in 1956, placed the local in trusteeship, and suspended Paul Dorfman, who succeeded Martin and Cooke, there is no evidence that Ruby's union activities were connected with Chicago's criminal element. Several longtime members of the union reported that it had a good reputation when Ruby was affiliated with it and employers who negotiated with it have given no indication that it had criminal connections.

Subsequent employment. In 1941, Ruby and Harry Epstein organized the Spartan Novelty Co., a small firm that sold in various northeastern States small cedar chests containing candy and gambling devices known as punchboards. Earl Ruby and two of Jack Ruby's friends, Martin Gimpel and Martin Shargol, were also associated in this venture. The group had no fixed addresses, living in hotels. Late in 1941, Jack Ruby returned to Chicago, where he continued his punch board business through the mails. Following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, he and several friends decided to design and sell plaques commemorating the Day of Infamy. However, the venture was impeded by Ruby's perfectionist approach to details of design which resulted in numerous production delays. By the time Ruby's copyrighted plaque was finally ready for sale, the market was flooded with similar items. At about this time, Ruby also sold busts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In late 1942 and 1943, Ruby was employed by the Globe Auto Glass Co. and Universal Sales Co.

Although one of Ruby's acquaintances at this time described him as a cuckoo nut on the subject of patriotism, the evidence does not indicate that Ruby's promotion of "Remember Pearl Harbor" plaques and Roosevelt busts was motivated by patriotic or political considerations. Rather, the sale of these items was, to Ruby, just another commercial venture, but he might also have considered these sales "a good thing." Numerous friends reported that, Ruby had no interest in political affairs during this period, although he greatly admired President Roosevelt.

Other activities. The evidence indicates that Ruby led a normal social life during these years. Virginia Belasco stated that while Ruby was selling punch boards in New York during November 1941, he entertained her each weekend. Other reports indicate that Ruby fancied himself a "ladies' man," enjoyed dancing, almost always had female accompaniment and was "very gentlemanly" with women. Ruby, with several friends, frequently attempted to disrupt rallies of the German-American Bund. One acquaintance reported that Ruby was responsible for "cracking a few heads" of Bund members. Apparently he joined in this activity for ethnic rather than political reasons. The young men in the group were not organized adherents of any particular political creed, but were pool hall and tavern companions from Ruby's Jewish neighborhood who gathered on the spur of the moment to present opposition when they learned that the pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic Bund movement was planning a meeting. Hyman Rubenstein testified that Ruby would fight with any person making derogatory comments about, his ethnic origins, and others have stated that Ruby would fight with anyone he suspected of pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic tendencies.

During this period Ruby, though temperamental, apparently engaged in no unusual acts of violence. However, he did interfere on several occasions when he thought someone was treated unfairly. A friend who described Ruby as "somewhat overbearing regarding the rights and feelings of others," reported that Ruby fought two college students who insulted a Negro piano player. Another friend reported that Ruby had a "bitter" fight with a man who was abusing an older woman.

Maintaining his friendship with Barney Ross, and still an ardent sports fan, Ruby associated with various figures in the boxing world and regularly attended the fights at Marigold Gardens. He frequented the Lawndale Poolroom and Restaurant, a rallying point for the anti-Bundists and chief "hangout" of many of Ruby's friends. In addition, Ruby, described as a "health nut" who earnestly contended that he could hit harder than Joe Louis, exercised at several athletic clubs.

Despite Ruby's participation in "shady" financial enterprises, his association with a labor union subsequently disciplined by the AFL-CIO his participation in violent anti-Bund activities, and his connection with a poolroom, the evidence falls short of demonstrating that Ruby was significantly affiliated with organized crime in Chicago. Virtually all of Ruby's Chicago friends stated he had no close connection with organized crime. In addition, unreliable as their reports may be, several known Chicago criminals have denied any such liaison. The Commission finds it difficult to attach credence to a newspaper reporter's contrary statement that his undisclosed "syndicate sources" revealed Ruby was connected with organized crime and confidence games. Ruby was unquestionably familiar, if not friendly, with some Chicago criminals, but there is no evidence that he ever participated in organized criminal activity.

Military Activities (1943-46)

In September 1941, Jack Ruby was apparently classified 1-A and declared eligible for the draft. Subsequently he appeared before a local board and was reclassified 1-H or 3-A. Between August 31, 1941, and November 19, 1942, when it was abolished, the 1-H classification applied to registrants who had reached their 28th birthday and were, therefore, no longer liable for service. The 3-A deferment applies to persons whose entry into military service presents financial hardship to dependents. Because of the length of time involved and the destruction of local draft board records, Ruby's precise status or the reason for his deferment could not be ascertained. According to one somewhat unreliable report, Ruby, immediately prior to his physical examination, feigned a hearing disability and occasionally wore a hearing aid. Hyman Rubenstein, who testified that Jack was deferred because of economic hardship since he "the only one home," specifically denied the truthfulness of this allegation. Early in 1943, Ruby was again classified l-A, and, following an unsuccessful appearance before his appeal board, he was inducted into the US. Army Air Forces on May 21, 1943. Jack was the last of the Rubenstein brothers to enter the service. Previously, Earl had enlisted in the Navy, Sam was in Army Air Force Intelligence and Hyman was in the field artillery.

Except for 5 weeks in Farmingdale, N.Y., Ruby spent his military days at various airbases in the South. He received the basic training given all recruits and advanced training as an aircraft mechanic. On August 2, 1943, he passed marksmanship tests with the .30 caliber carbine and the .45 caliber submachine gun, but failed with the .30 caliber rifle. On February 10, 1944, he earned a sharpshooter's rating for his firing of an M1 .30 caliber carbine. His character and efficiency ratings, when determined, were excellent. After attaining the rank of private first class and receiving the good conduct medal, Ruby was honorably discharged on February 21, 1946.

Two persons who recalled Ruby while he was in the Army Air Forces asserted that he was extremely sensitive to insulting remarks about Jews. When, during an argument, a sergeant called Ruby a "Jew bastard," Ruby reportedly attacked him and beat him with his fists.

There is conflicting evidence about the zeal with which Ruby performed his military duties. One associate indicated that Ruby, who at 34 was the oldest in his group, always worked harder than the others to prove that he could keep up with them. Another recalled by contrast, that Ruby had "no liking for work" and carefully avoided situations requiring him to dirty his hands. However, there is no basis in the record for the inference that Ruby was in any way anti-American.

Ruby frequently expressed to some fellow soldiers his high regard for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Two independent sources reported that he cried openly when informed of Roosevelt's death in April 1945. This did not indicate any sudden political interest, however, since none of his known military associates reported such an interest, and Ruby's admiration for President Roosevelt interceded his military days. While in service, Ruby is reported to have continued his promotional ventures. One person recalled that in 1944, Jack received punch boards and chocolates from someone in Chicago and peddled these items through the base to make extra money. This person also indicated that Ruby enjoyed card and dice games in or near the barracks.

Postwar Chicago (1946-47)

Following his discharge from the Army Air Forces in February 1946, Jack Ruby returned to Chicago. He joined his three brothers, who had previously been discharged from the service, in the Earl Products Co. Earl Ruby testified that he was the sole investor in the enterprise, but each brother received an equal ownership interest on his return from the service. The company manufactured and sold small cedar chests and distributed punch boards. In addition, it made aluminum salt and pepper shakers, key chains, bottle openers, screwdrivers, and small hammers. Sam supervised the manufacturing end of the business, while Earl managed the office and advertising. Jack was in charge of sales, but the company was small and he had no subordinates.

Because insufficient profits led to frequent arguments, Hyman soon left Earl Products. Jack, who stayed with the company through most of 1947, had many disputes with his brothers because he insisted on selling the products of other companies, such as costume jewelry, and he did not like traveling outside the Chicago area. Earl and Sam finally purchased Jack's interest, paying him more than $14, 000 in cash.

Although there is some evidence to the contrary, it is unlikely that Ruby was in the nightclub business in Chicago during the postwar period. Many who have reported this may have mistaken him for Harry Rubenstein, who was convicted of manslaughter and operated several such establishments. None of Jack Ruby's close friends or relatives indicated that he was in the nightclub business.

Following his return from the Army, Ruby was described as ready to fight with any person who insulted Jews or the military. Earl Ruby testified that on one occasion in 1946, Jack returned from downtown Chicago with his suit covered with blood. He explained at that time that he had fought with a person who had called him a "dirty Jew or something like that."

Other evidence indicates that Ruby's personality was not substantially changed by his military experience. One person who met him in 1947, reported that Ruby was a "fashionable" dresser. He continued to be described as soft spoken, although he was also known as hot-tempered. Ruby worked out regularly at an athletic club, and one friend regarded him as a "Romeo," who was quite successful in attracting young women.

Source: Warren Commission Report