TESTIMONY OF GEORGE R. PHENIX beginning at 13H123...

The testimony of George R. Phenix was taken at 3:40 p.m., on April 16, 1964, in the office of the U.S. attorney, 301 Post Office Building, Bryan and Ervay Streets Dallas, Tex., by Mr. Leon D. Hubert, Jr., assistant counsel of the President's Commission.

Mr. HUBERT. Mr. Phenix, my name is Leon Hubert. I am a member of the advisory staff of the General Counsel of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. Under the provisions of Executive Order 11130, dated November 29, 1963, and the Joint Resolution of the Congress, No. 137, and the rules of procedure adopted by the Commission in conformance with the Executive order and the joint resolution, I have been authorized to take a sworn deposition from you.
I state to you now that the general nature of the Commission's inquiry is to ascertain, evaluate, and report upon the facts relating to the assassination of President Kennedy and the subsequent violent death of Lee Harvey Oswald. In particular as to you, Mr. Phenix, the nature of the inquiry today is to determine all the facts you know about the death of Oswald and any other pertinent facts you may know about the general inquiry and the activities of Jack Ruby.
Mr. Phenix, I think you appeared here as a result of a written request addressed to you by Mr. J. Lee Rankin, who is the General Counsel of the President's Commission.
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. And I ask you now, you received that written request more than 3 days ago?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Will you rise and be sworn? Do you solemnly swear the testimony


you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. PHENIX. I do.
Mr. HUBERT. Will you please state your name?
Mr. PHENIX. George R. Phenix.
Mr. HUBERT. And your age?
Mr. PHENIX. Twenty-five.
Mr. HUBERT. Where do you live?
Mr. PHENIX. 2550 Klondike.
Mr. HUBERT. What is your occupation?
Mr. PHENIX. I am a reporter--cameraman.
Mr. HUBERT. What station?
Mr. HUBERT. That's a Dallas station?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. How long have you been so employed?
Mr. PHENIX. Since the middle of October.
Mr. HUBERT. What was your occupation prior to that time?
Mr. PHENIX. Reporter for the magazine Texas Municipal League, an organization of Texas towns and city of the magazine--Austin.
Mr. HUBERT. Are you a college graduate?
Mr. PHENIX. No; doggone it--no. I lack three courses. I have been in college for a long time.
Mr. HUBERT. Where did you study?
Mr. PHENIX. Texas Tech and Texas University--journalism and advertising.
Mr. HUBERT. Were you on duty with KRLD on November 24, 1963?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. What function were you performing on that day with reference to your occupation?
Mr. PHENIX. My assignment was to cover Oswald as they brought him out from the police department, cover him, and just to get film on it.
Mr. HUBERT. In other words, you were to operate a film camera and you had nothing to do with the television part of it at all?
Mr. PHENIX. None at all.
Mr. HUBERT. Did KRLD have television machines down there?
Mr. PHENIX. Right--we had a live camera set up there.
Mr. HUBERT. But your operation was not in connection with that?
Mr. PHENIX. No--there are really two distinct operations--they are a production crew, the same crew that handles a TV show in the studio, and I don't even know how to operate their cameras.
Mr. HUBERT. What you were operating was a hand camera, is that correct?
Mr. PHENIX. Well, it's a little larger than a hand camera but generally it is operated on a battery pack.
Mr. HUBERT. Perhaps for the record you might, if you can, give the technical description of the camera you were using that day.
Mr. PHENIX. Well, it's an Auricon, 16 mm. sound camera and it is equipped with a 400-foot magazine, operated--a hand camera is normally hand wound-this is power driven by a battery, and it had a microphone and it was braced on a unipod, a single pole.
Mr. HUBERT. It is held by the hand and balanced that way?
Mr. PHENIX. By the hand when it is on a unipod. Normally it is usually either on a tripod or a shoulder harness and it weighs about 40 pounds I imagine.
Mr. HUBERT. Well, on the 24th of November how were you operating it--on a tripod?
Mr. PHENIX. On a unipod--on a unipod.
Mr. HUBERT. By that, I take it it is a single stick, is it not?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. It is adjustable for distance from the ground?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes, sir--I believe there are three adjustments you can make.
Mr. HUBERT. It serves to steady the camera?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.


Mr. HUBERT. Now, Mr. Phenix, I have shown you two documents which I am now going to mark for identification as follows, to wit: The first one I am marking, "Dallas, Tex., April 16, 1964, as number 5328, Deposition of George R. Phenix," and I am signing my name below that. That contains one page. It purports to be an interview of you on November 24, 1963, by FBI Agents Lee and Barrett [spelling] B-a-r-r-e-t-t.
I am marking the second document as follows:
"Dallas, Tex., April 16, 1964, as Exhibit 5329, Deposition of George R. Phenix," and I am signing my name below that. That document also contains only one page and purports to be a report of an interview with FBI Agents Harding and Rawlings. Have you had an opportunity to read the exhibits, which have been identified as Exhibits 5328 and 5329?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you consider that those exhibits represent a true and fair report of the interviews which they purport to cover?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes, sir. Now, the second one updates the first one. The second one is more correct.
Mr. HUBERT. That is to say, the one dated November 28, 1963, identified as Exhibit No. 5329, goes into more detail than the one dated November 24, which has been identified as Exhibit 5328?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you perceive any conflicts between them?
Mr. PHENIX. No--mainly--I don't know if you need this for your record or not. Mainly, there is just a correction in an impression I had. I was located around by the crew and in that first interview, I thought I would have been hit by Ruby since he was in front of me, as he stepped out of the crowd, but then we know--one says we know it wasn't Ruby--that's about it.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, could you more graphically show your position--I have asked you previously to study this FBI mockup of the jail office, showing also the Commerce and Main Street ramps, the ramp from the parking area into the street ramps, and I am going to ask you if you would show as, now, where you were when you first came into the area that this mockup shows, and I will explain the system that I will use.
If you will point to the place on the mockup, we will then agree as to what that point is on the chart and mark it so, and then if you change positions from one to another, we will so indicate, so that any person who reads your testimony with this chart before them can follow it intelligently.
Mr. PHENIX. All right.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, in order that the chart may be properly identified, I am marking it as follows: "Dallas, Tex., April 16, 1964, Exhibit No. 5330, Deposition of George R. Phenix." I will sign my name below that. Now, Mr. Phenix, at what time did you first come down into the basement and into this area?
Mr. PHENIX. It was a little after 9 o'clock, according to that statement, it said 9:10--it was closer to 9 o'clock.
Mr. HUBERT. You remained in the basement area the entire time until the actual shooting?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. I guess it is correct to state you didn't stay in one particular spot all that time?
Mr. PHENIX. Oh, I unloaded the gear from the car in the area between the two stop signs at the level portion there where cars normally stop.
Mr. HUBERT. Will you point to that on here?
Mr. PHENIX. Right here [indicating].
Mr. HUBERT. I am marking on Exhibit 5330 the spot where Mr. Phenix has stated that he unloaded the gear with a number one in a circle there and drawing a line from that, and I am writing "Spot where Phenix first unloaded gear at about 9:10 a.m." What was that gear?
Mr. PHENIX. The camera, the unipod, a microphone, and battery pack.
Mr. HUBERT. You unloaded it from a truck?
Mr. PHENIX. The Mobile News Unit--it is a station wagon we normally drive.
Mr. HUBERT. Have I marked the spot correctly?


Mr. PHENIX. Right, and then from there I think I milled around a little bit and said, "Hello," to the newmen I recognized from the day before on the third floor and all the available spots were taken over here at this corner which were really the best spots.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, when you say "over here at this corner," I am going to put the number 2 with a circle under it and draw a line out and indicate that you have stated that the place that I marked number 2 was the best spot, but already taken.
Mr. PHENIX. By most of the photographers there.
Mr. HUBERT. I am writing in the words "Phenix says this number 2 spot was already taken by other news media"----
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. "When he arrived." Is that a correct statement?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. All right, now you can go on?
Mr. PHENIX. Then, I picked a spot just inside this rail--I was standing on the curb--I was to the right of our live camera that was set up there.
Mr. HUBERT. Was that on the parking area side of the rail or the ramp side of the rail?
Mr. PHENIX. The ramp side I was standing on the curb there, leaning against the rail, and the camera, part of the camera sticking out over the rail.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, this chart does not show the rail itself except by a marked line, but it does show two posts and I ask you if it isn't fair to state that what you are talking about is this position that I have here?
Mr. PHENIX Yes, that's right, because I had a clear view down to the swinging doom.
Mr. HUBERT. Let's put it this way: I'm going to mark a line from two points, one point being number three and the other point number four--that line being the space between the two main posts.
Mr. PHENIX. Okay.
Mr. HUBERT. Looking at the mockup, there is a rail between those two main posts, and that rail is equally divided into three parts, by two vertical posters, is that correct?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. If we call one of the vertical posters point number five and the other one point number six, then as I understand your testimony you were on the ramp side rather than the parking area side of the rail?
Mr. PHENIX. Correct.
Mr. HUBERT. And you were approximately at the point by the post marked on this chart as point number six?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. I am marking point number six as "position of Phenix at the time of shooting."
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. I think you have testified that immediately to your left there was a TV camera belonging to the same station as your own?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. I'm going to mark without any attempt to do it in scale by a square which I am marking "Square A" and drawing a line out to indicate position of KRLD TV camera.
Mr. PHENIX. You might say live camera.
Mr. HUBERT. Live camera--and that camera was just to your left and a bit back of you, because it was on the other side of the rail, right?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes; the camera itself was behind me, the lens stuck out.
Mr. HUBERT. Over the rail?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. PHENIX. Right--it was to the left of ours.
Mr. HUBERT. There was another live camera in that area too, wasn't there?
Mr. PHENIX. Right--it was to the left of ours.
Mr. HUBERT. So, again without attempting to draw this to scale, I will draw a rectangular figure, marking it "B" and state that that was the position of the other TV camera.


Mr. PHENIX. I am not sure whose that was.
Mr. HUBERT. It was another live camera, but not a KRLD?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. In other words, your testimony is that as to the live camera which we have marked by rectangle with a "B" in the middle of that rectangle, you know it was a live camera and it was not a KRLD camera, but you don't know whose camera it was?
Mr. PHENIX. Right--this might be incidental--I either laid the camera down or had one of our production crew that was with the live camera hold it and I swung my mike over the overhead pipes in this area--it's really not important, but that's part of the milling around I was doing.
Mr. HUBERT. I gather what you wanted to do was to get your mike in a position to catch sound if it was possible to do so?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes; right.
Mr. HUBERT. So, from your position six on this Exhibit 5330, you slung, shall we say, or hung----
Mr. PHENIX. Hung.
Mr. HUBERT. Your wires with the live mike, the end of it, so that it would hang down, I suppose, just as you indicated--just roughly at the position we originally marked number 1?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. Which is where you physically were?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. So that now position No. 1 has two meanings--it is the position you first came to and the position where your mike was hanging.
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. Can you tell us something of the number of people to your right and in the ramp going towards Main Street?
Mr. PHENIX. It's a little hard to say--that camera that I was using was such that the eyepiece is on the left and I normally keep it in a ready position on my shoulder so it blocks my vision to the right, but there were maybe 10 or 15 people milling around there some were news commentators and some were radio men with tape recorders----
Mr. HUBERT. Some policemen?
Mr. PHENIX. Some policemen.
Mr. HUBERT. Would you judge there were 18 to 20 people along in there?
Mr. PHENIX. It could be.
Mr. HUBERT. By the way, how long were you in that position No. 6 prior to the time of the shooting?
Mr. PHENIX. Probably at least an hour--I just didn't want to leave it, and we didn't know at what exact time he was coming down.
Mr. HUBERT. What about the condition of the people and the numbers thereof to your left from position No. 6?
Mr. PHENIX. Well, there were many more--as we got ready to bring Oswald out, policemen lined this wall here and formed a line coming out of the swinging doors, and then the newsmen were back at position two mainly.
Mr. HUBERT. Suppose we mark a line and we will call that line--let's say starting at No. 7 in a circle, and moving and turning towards Commerce Street to point 8, roughly.
Mr. PHENIX. Okay.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, that curving line, which is line 7 to 8 is where police were lined, is that correct?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Were there police lined elsewhere?
Mr. PHENIX. I believe part of this line coming down the other side were policemen.
Mr. HUBERT. In other words, if we mark a line now, calling it one point of the line nine, and the other one----
Mr. PHENIX. It went straight down this way [indicating].
Mr. HUBERT. Straight into you?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Which side of you?


Mr. PHENIX. To my right--a little bit.
Mr. HUBERT. Then, we mark a line from 9 to 10, with point 10 being immediately to the right of point 6 where you were standing?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Then, you say there were policemen along in that line too?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes; police and press.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, take it from there.
Mr. PHENIX. Well, from there I waited until--I believe it was a United Press International movie photographer, Isidore, or something, everybody called him Izzie--I don't know his last name, came running down from the swinging doors, I think he was the one, and said, "He's coming," meaning Oswald, so we all got ready, and the camera has an eyepiece----
Mr. HUBERT. Your camera?
Mr. PHENIX. Right; that operates through a prism that looks directly through the lens, so I had to have my eyes stuck against the eyepiece in order to see through it. So, from then on, all I saw was Oswald coming down the hallway there, and I didn't actually--I wasn't aware of seeing Ruby step out of the crowd--I knew something had happened and the shot--at the shot somebody came roaring in from my left and almost knocked me down. The unipod was braced on the curb and it slipped down to the main level of the ramp and almost fell, and looking through the eyepiece and over the eyepiece, too, just shooting out of habit really, the camera was running all the time--I followed the action of the policeman wrestling with Ruby--it just happened that they moved to my right.
Mr. HUBERT. Your film, as a matter of fact, is that famous film that catches Ruby moving forward and the wrestling?
Mr. PHENIX. Right; I just saw it once and we were so busy, but I think it was the one where Ruby's hat was in the corner of the opening frame and he steps out.
Mr. HUBERT. You have seen it since, haven't you?
Mr. PHENIX. Oh, yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you know Ruby?
Mr. HUBERT. Had you observed him in the crowd prior to these events?
Mr. PHENIX. I can't remember it. I heard someone say in the crowd after they took Ruby and after Oswald left in the ambulance that it was Jack Ruby, and the name didn't mean a thing to me.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you hear anybody running down the ramp just before the shooting, running down or possibly walking down?
Mr. PHENIX. No, I think if he had been running I would have heard him because the sound just echoes in that basement.
I saw some film, and I'm sure you've seen it too, some of the film that showed Ruby positioned down there, and he looks back where you catch almost a full shot of his face before Oswald comes down, and that anyway--it just looks like he was there for a while.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you hear Ruby say anything?
Mr. PHENIX. No; maybe in the excitement I heard him, but I don't remember hearing this famous quotation about "Jack, you S. O. B."
Mr. HUBERT. You didn't hear anybody; hear anything, including Ruby--anything distinguishable that you now remember?
Mr. PHENIX. The only one I can remember is Bob Huffaker, who is the mike man for our live camera, saying over and over that "He's been shot," and he was calling him "Lee Harold Oswald." I don't know why--and then just in general--a few words.
Mr. HUBERT. You heard him saying, "He's been shot, he's been shot, he's been shot," a number of times?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes, and the policemen telling everybody to stand back.
Mr. HUBERT. What about the security precautions that were in existence, and would you comment about those as far as you observed them?
Mr. PHENIX. Well, as we drove in there were several officers down there, but nobody made any effort, you know, to talk to us as we drove in--we were in


the car that had big KRLD letters on it and Wes Wise was known to some of them, but I wasn't; Wes was driving the car.
Mr. HUBERT. There was a guard there that seemed to look you over?
Mr. PHENIX. Now, I don't remember a guard on the Main Street side as we drove in.
Mr. HUBERT. Of course, that was at 9 o'clock?
Mr. PHENIX. Right, and later, I think there was a lieutenant from the Dallas Police Force just walking through the crowds, and I could tell he was looking me over, and stood there about 3 or 4 feet from me a little bit and never said anything.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you know any of the people from WBAP-TV in Fort Worth?
Mr. PHENIX. I know some of their camera men--the reporter-camera men--is that Channel 5?
Mr. HUBERT. I don't know. Do you know Tankersley, a Mr. Tankersley?
Mr. PHENIX. I think I know who he is.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you know Mr. Timmons?
Mr. HUBERT. Do you know Jim Turner?
Mr. HUBERT. Did you observe during the time you were standing at your position No. 6, a camera being loaded through the double doors or swinging doors at the jail corridor?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes; there was a live camera also--I don't know whose that was and I don't even know where the camera wound up--the final position.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you observe how many people were pushing it along?
Mr. PHENIX. I didn't really pay any attention to it.
Mr. HUBERT. You don't know even now whose camera it was?
Mr. PHENIX. It was either NBC or ABC--it was a local camera man but they were shooting for one of those two networks.
Mr. HUBERT. How long before the shooting was it that you saw this camera being rolled out from the jail corridor?
Mr. PHENIX. Not--it wasn't too long before the shooting--maybe 20 minutes. We were getting a little edgy from sitting there so long, so it's hard to estimate time, or, I was getting edgy.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you notice a police car come from the parking area up the ramp that goes from the parking area to the level of the basement area and turn right, pass you, and go on up the Main Street ramp?
Mr. PHENIX. You mean come out from here and go out this way? [Indicating on markup.]
Mr. HUBERT. Yes; that's right.
Mr. PHENIX. I can't remember, really. I may have and I may not--I just really can't remember. I know there was--I believe there was a paddy wagon that came through earlier. It seems like I remember a car, though, driving out.
Mr. HUBERT. Mr. Phenix, have you ever been interviewed before by any member of the Commission's Staff?
Mr. HUBERT. And actually, you were not interviewed by me before this deposition began?
Mr. HUBERT. Is it fair to state that anyone reading the two reports or statements that you have given, identified as Exhibits 5328 and 5329, and following your deposition today, with the chart that has been identified as Exhibit 5330, would have the whole story, as far as you know anything about it?
Mr. PHENIX. Yes; but I would like to say that I believe it is in Exhibit 5329 that I said that no other newsmen were asked for their identification.
Mr. HUBERT. All right.
Mr. PHENIX. Now, that's just as far as I know--I didn't actually see--I couldn't say that absolutely no one was asked.
Mr. HUBERT. All right--that's all right--you are telling me that is a possibility?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. All you can say is what you observed?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.


Mr. HUBERT. And from your observation, you didn't see anybody else being asked?
Mr. PHENIX. Right.
Mr. HUBERT. Is there anything else you would like to say about this?
Mr. PHENIX. No; that's all.
Mr. HUBERT. Thank you very much. We appreciate your coming up here.
Mr. PHENIX. All right.