TESTIMONY OF BILLY A. REA beginning at 15H571...

The testimony of Billy A. Rea was taken at 12:20 p.m., on June 26, 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. This is the deposition of Billy A. Rea.
Mr. Rea, my name is Leon Hubert. I am a member of the advisory staff of the general counsel on 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 Congress No. 137, and the rules of procedure adopted by the President's Commission in conformance with that Executive order and that joint resolution, I have been authorized to take a sworn deposition from you. I state to you that the general nature of the Commission's inquiry is to ascertain, evaluate, and report upon the facts relative to the assassination of President Kennedy and the subsequent violent death of Lee Harvey Oswald. In particular, as to you, Mr. Rea, the nature of the inquiry today is to determine what facts you know about the death of Oswald and any other pertinent facts you may know about the general inquiry and about Jack Ruby and his operations and associates, and his movements and whereabouts on November 22, particularly.
Mr. REA. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. You have appeared here today, Mr. Rea, by virtue of a letter written to you by Mr. J. Lee Rankin, general counsel of the staff of the Presi-
dent's Commission, asking you to be present, is that correct?
Mr. REA. That's right, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. What is the date of that letter, sir, do you have it?
Mr. REA. I believe it was Monday, June 22.
Mr. HUBERT. When did you receive it?
Mr. REA. I received it yesterday. That came to my house Wednesday, however, no one was home.
Mr. HUBERT. Let me say this to you--under the rules adopted by the Commission, all witnesses are entitled to a 3-day written notice prior to the taking of their deposition, but the rules also provide that a witness may waive that notice if he sees fit to do so, and I ask you if you are willing to testify now and waive the notice?
Mr. REA. Yes, I am.
Mr. HUBERT. Then, will you rise and let me administer the oath, please.
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give in this matter will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so, help you God?
Mr. REA. I do.
Mr. HUBERT. Will you state your full name, please, sir?
Mr. REA. Billy A. Rea--Billy Andrew Rea.
Mr. HUBERT. Where do you live, sir?
Mr. REA. In Lancaster, Tex., 157 Arbor Lane.
Mr. HUBERT. How far is that from Dallas?
Mr. REA. Well, the city limits are adjacent--I live about 14 miles from downtown Dallas.
Mr. HUBERT. What is your occupation?
Mr. REA. I work for the Dallas Morning News on the retail advertising staff.
Mr. HUBERT. How old are you, sir?
Mr. REA. Forty.
Mr. HUBERT. Are you married?
Mr. REA. Yes
Mr. HUBERT. Children?
Mr. REA. Three.
Mr. HUBERT. How long have you been employed by the Dallas Morning News?
Mr. REA. Nine years.
Mr. HUBERT. What was your occupation prior to that time?
Mr. REA. I edited and published a suburban paper in Wynnewood.
Mr. HUBERT. You've been in the newspaper business, I take it, all of your life?
Mr. REA. Yes; practically since I got out of college in 1949.
Mr. HUBERT. Where did you go to college?
Mr. REA At Texas Christian University.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you graduate?
Mr. REA. Yes sir.
Mr. HUBERT. What degree do you have?
Mr. REA. Bachelor of arts in Journalism.
Mr. HUBERT. And that was in 1949?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you serve in the war?


Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Honorably discharged?
Mr. REA. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. Mr. Rea, I have previously handed you a document consisting of one page which I have marked for identification on the right-hand margin as follows: Dallas, Tex., June 26, 1964, Exhibit No. 1, Deposition of Billy Rea," and have signed my name, Leon D. Hubert, Jr., and this document purports to be the report of an interview of you by FBI Agents Peden and Garris on December 4, 1963. As I say, I have previously handed it to you so that you could read it and now I ask you if this half-page report is a correct report on the interview had of you by those FBI agents. Is there anything wrong or incorrect?
Mr. REA. Well, other than the fact that they misspelled my name, like I told you a minute ago.
Mr. HUBERT. Your name in that report is spelled "Ray," whereas, in fact your name is spelled "Rea."
Mr. REA. That's correct.
Mr. HUBERT. And your first name, instead of ending in "ie," ends in "y" [spelling] B-i-l-l-y?
Mr. REA. That is correct.
Mr. HUBERT. Other than that, is Exhibit No. 1 correct?
Mr. REA. Not exactly. It says here that I recall seeing Jack Ruby sitting in Don Campbell's chair "which chair is directly in front of the desk of Miss Georgia Mayor." That is not correct. He was sitting in Don Campbell's chair all right, but that chair is directly in front of the desk occupied by John Newnam. I don't know how this got in here. I don't recall anything other than that, except that it's just a technicality, I presume--that is.
Now, also, he was there and I do recall him sitting in the seat directly in front of Georgia Mayor, however, that seat is occupied and assigned to Dick Saunders, who was here previously. He sits right directly in front of Georgia.
Mr. HUBERT. What time did you first see Jack Ruby on that day?
Mr. REA. Well you see, I had attended a funeral of a very close friend of mine that day and had gotten into the office late. I had a lot of things to do that I had postponed and I was in quite a bit of a hurry, and consequently that kept me from going to or attending the parade. I had planned to and wanted to I got into the office just before noon, so I had to go eat to get with my business--I was running far behind, so we went to eat--I went to eat with a friend of mine and we got back into the office about between 12:30 and 12:40, I would say.
I don't recall seeing Jack Ruby at that time. He could have been there but I don't remember seeing him, whether he was in the office at that time or not. About that time we hadn't been in the office over a couple of minutes until these boys, the men I work with, some of them were actually at the scene of the assassination--they ran up there and told us that President Kennedy had been shot.
Mr. HUBERT. Who in particular do you remember telling you that?
Mr. REA. Jim Willmon told me---he's the one that told me.
Mr. HUBERT. Had he been to the parade?
Mr. REA Yes; he saw it or heard the shots.
Mr. HUBERT. Was that the first news you got about the President?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you remember what time that was?
Mr. REA. Well, I would say it was a quarter of one, I guess. Then, we went up--then, goodness--first of all--I thought--he's the type boy that will kid a little bit, you know, he's sort of an outspoken type individual, you know, and I thought--well, he was kidding, and I guess everybody else did too with the original idea or feeling or reaction to it, but then when I realized that he was serious, then we went upstairs up to the editorial room, thinking that perhaps we could get later information as it comes in, and so we went up there and stayed about 15 minutes or so.
Mr. HUBERT. Had you seen Jack Ruby then?


Mr. REA. I don't recall seeing him all that time. I don't know whether he was there or not.
Mr. HUBERT. What time do you think you got back from the room?
Mr. REA. It must have been around 1 o'clock or shortly after 1 o'clock.
Mr. HUBERT. Had you then heard anything about the shooting of Officer Tippit or of an officer?
Mr. REA. Oh, no, no.
Mr. HUBERT. When you came down----
Mr. REA. Well, I say--no--the original report was that three FBI men or a couple of Secret Service men had been shot also.
Mr. HUBERT. You figure that when you came down from the pressroom it was about 1 o'clock?
Mr. REA. Yes, within 5 or 10 minutes either way.
Mr. HUBERT. Then, you came down to the second floor?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Is that the first time you saw Ruby?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Where was he then?
Mr. REA. He was at Don Campbell's desk--that's where he was. He was sitting there in Don Campbell's chair which was directly in front of John Newnam's desk, not Georgia Mayor's.
Mr. HUBERT. What was he doing?
Mr. REA. Sitting there---just sitting there.
Mr. HUBERT. Did he speak to you?
Mr. REA. No.
Mr. HUBERT. Or you to him?
Mr. REA. No.
Mr. HUBERT. You had known the man, hadn't you?
Mr. REA. Oh, yes, I knew him--not personally.
Mr. HUBERT. Was Newnam there with him?
Mr. REA. No.
Mr. HUBERT. He was alone?
Mr. REA. He was alone.
Mr. HUBERT. Was Saunders there?
Mr. REA. I don't recall whether Saunders was there or not. I don't remember. He could have been--I don't remember. I can't specifically identify him as being there. He could have been, but you know, confusion reigned, but I do definitely remember him sitting in that chair.
Mr. HUBERT. I'm going to show you a chart which has been marked as Exhibit No. 4 of the deposition of John Newnam. It is a chart drawn by Mr. Newnam and I ask you to see if you can recognize it. Here is Young Street and here is Houston Street, and it purports to be the second floor?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. This is the promotion department over on the right-hand side?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Over in this corner is Mr. Jeffery's office?
Mr. REA. Correct.
Mr. HUBERT. This desk No. 1 is his desk and this little dot with a circle is a
TV set in his office?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, you will notice that the retail advertising department is about the middle of the page and that each desk is numbered?
Mr. REA. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. Can you tell us where you first saw Ruby--at what desk?
Mr. REA. Right here (indicating on Exhibit No. 4).
Mr. HUBERT. You are making a little "X" mark there between desks 23 and 23, right?
Mr. REA. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. I'm going to mark it "Position of Ruby When First Seen By Rea," is that right?
Mr. REA. That's correct.
Mr. HUBERT. And he was sitting or standing?


Mr. REA. He was sitting.
Mr. HUBERT. Which is Mr. Newnam's desk?
Mr. REA. No. 23.
Mr. HUBERT. When you saw him Mr. Newnam was not there?
Mr. REA. That's right. There was no one around the desk.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you see him ever between desks 5 and 3?
Mr. REA. Yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Whose desk is that?
Mr. REA. Let me see This is the desks for the secretaries and 3 is Georgia Mayor's and 5 is Dick Saunders--yes--that would be correct.
Mr. HUBERT. You saw him there?
Mr. REA. Yes; later on in the afternoon.
Mr. HUBERT. Who was he talking to or was he alone?
Mr. REA. Yes; he was talking to---well, from time to time I saw him talking to various people. I do recall him talking to Georgia Mayor, our secretary.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you recall him talking to Saunders?
Mr. REA I think--well, it seems like that later on--I know Dick was in there yes.
Mr. HUBERT. It would have been after 1 o'clock?
Mr. REA. Yes; oh, yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you see him around the TV set?
Mr. REA. Yes; I observed him in here [indicating].
Mr. HUBERT. What seemed to be his reaction at that time?
Mr. REA. Oh, he definitely had a look of despair. I don't know what you'd say--it was---he was emotionally "shookup" so to speak. There was no question about that. Of course, like I've told these other men that I've talked to, so was everybody else.
Mr. HUBERT. That's the point I wanted to get at. Do you think that he was more "shookup" than the other people around there ?
Mr. REA. I'll say--I'd say that he had a little bit different look--yes--a different type of an expression; yes.
Mr. HUBERT. Is that a recollection that you formed at that time or since?
Mr. REA. No, sir--yes---well--when I heard of the well; yes, the picture of him just sort of stood out. It really impressed me.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, mind you, this was before he had had anything to do with this?
Mr. REA. Yes; that's right.
Mr. HUBERT. You now recall that he had a look that was different from other people's?
Mr. REA Well, yes; and I realized it at that time. Of course, now, you'd look around and people were crying, some of them were crying. He didn't shed a tear, that I saw. Other people were staring at the floor, but this guy had an ashen, pale look that, you know, like he was in a state of shock.
Mr. HUBERT. And you noticed it then?
Mr. REA. Yes; I did.
Mr. HUBERT. Well, of course afterwards, I suppose, when he became more closely connected with the matter, your recollection went back to that mental image?
Mr. REA. That's right. I was just getting out of church when this happened. I didn't watch it on television, so when we came out we tuned in the radio or right away turned it on and all this big bedlam was going on, that Oswald had been shot, and so within 5 minutes I was home, and within another 5 minutes this Georgia Mayor who also lives in Lancaster called, called over, and we discussed it at that time.
Mr. HUBERT. You mean you discussed your former recollection that he seemed to be more shocked than anyone else?
Mr. REA. Oh, yes; or the sort of strange look that he had, and like I said--- also--whether that's the normal thing for him under similar circumstances, I don't know.
Mr. HUBERT. Did he talk to you about closing the club at any time on that day?
Mr. REA. I never one time talked to him. I had no conversation with him.


Mr. HUBERT. Did he make any comment about the shooting of the officer?
Mr. REA. Pardon?
Mr. HUBERT. Did he make any comment to you about the shooting of the officer?
Mr. REA. No; I did not hear him make any comment of any kind to anybody.
Mr. HUBERT. You are not aware whether he even knew that the officer had been shot?
Mr. REA. No.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you hear him make any comment about the Weissman ad?
Mr. REA. NO, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. Are you familiar with what the Weissman ad is?
Mr. REA. Yes, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. He never commented to you about it?
Mr. REA. Not to me; no, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you have anything to do with the taking of the Weissman ad or placing it?
Mr. REA. No, sir; not a thing.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you know who did?
Mr. REA. I believe well, Cy Wagner approved it. He's the director of advertising, and a boy by the name of Dick Houston, I believe, actually took the money and ordered the ad.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you know what time Ruby left the second floor of the Dallas Morning News Building?
Mr. REA. No, sir; I couldn't tell you that. I just don't know. I left about personally--oh, I'd say about 3 o'clock myself.
Mr. HUBERT. Was he there then?
Mr. REA. Well, he was there then. I believe he was--I don't even remember--I can't remember that--I don't know. It's a mere guess, but I'm almost positive he was still there. Now, I don't know--he could have gone and come back--I don't know.
Mr. HUBERT. What makes you think that he might have been there as late as 3 o'clock?
Mr. REA. Well, it just seemed like---it seemed to me like he was there all afternoon. Now, he may not have been.
Mr. HUBERT. Are you sure about your leaving at 3 o'clock?
Mr. REA. I'm not positive about it--no--I do know I went downtown.
Mr. HUBERT. When did you first hear of the President's death?
Mr. REA. Oh, well, when they announced it--whenever it was.
Mr. HUBERT. You heard, the announcement?
Mr. REA. Yes; I heard the announcement.
Mr. HUBERT. Was Ruby there then?
Mr. REA. Well, I believe that when I actually heard that he was dead, that when they made the official announcement, that I was watching it on television in Dick Jeffery's office and there were, I guess, 50 people around at the time milling around I don't know whether he was there or not.
Mr. HUBERT. You didn't see him?
Mr. REA. It was likely that he was--I could not swear to it.
Mr. HUBERT. Do you remember any particular reaction that he had to the
President's death as opposed to the shooting of the President?
Mr. REA. No; I don't recall.
Mr. HUBERT. You didn't see him leave, physically?
Mr. REA. No, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. I think that's about all. Have you any other comment to make?
Mr. REA. No, sir.
Mr. HUBERT. Did you see Ruby thereafter?
Mr. REA. No, sir; well, I was subpenaed, well, not subpenaed either--they just called me.
Mr. HUBERT. No; I mean before the 24th?
Mr. REA. Oh, no-no.
Mr. HUBERT. Now, I don't think there has been any conversation between us that has been off the record, is that right?


Mr. REA. No.
Mr. HUBERT. Everything that has occurred between us has been on the record?
Mr. REA. Oh, yes; as far as I'm concerned.
Mr. HUBERT. Thank you, sir.
REA. Yes, sir.