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After 48 Years, DPD Honors Clerk Who Alerted Them to Lee Harvey Oswald's Whereabouts

Johnny Calvin Brewer, left, led officers to Lee Harvey Oswald after Kennedy's assassination. Pictured with historian Farris Rookstool III, center, and former DPD officer Ray Hawkins, who cuffed Oswald at the Texas Theatre.
Johnny Calvin Brewer, left, led officers to Lee Harvey Oswald after Kennedy's assassination. Pictured with historian Farris Rookstool III, center, and former DPD officer Ray Hawkins, who cuffed Oswald at the Texas Theatre.
Photo by Leslie Minora

After John Kennedy was shot in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963, Johnny Calvin Brewer was listening to the radio while working behind the cash register at Hardy's Shoe Store on West Jefferson Avenue in Oak Cliff. At around 1:15 p.m., the radio broadcaster announced that another gunshot had been fired, this time at Officer J.D.Tippit, who had stopped a man who fit the assassin's description on West 10th Street, not far from Hardy's.

Minutes later, as cops swarmed the area, a casual shopper entered the shoe store. Brewer observed as Lee Harvey Oswald nervously browsed the selection, seemingly trying to avoid the cops and fade into the background despite the commotion of police cars screaming and people milling around outside.

If it weren't for Brewer, then a 22-year-old store clerk, the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination could have played out much differently. Which is why this afternoon, exactly 48 years later, Dallas Police Chief David Brown honored Brewer at the Texas Theatre, where he presented him with the Citizen's Certificate of Merit. "The selfless acts of Mr. Brewer have not been forgotten," Brown said, presenting him with the award.

After all, the afternoon of November 22, 1963 was not a time for shoe shopping. The president had just been shot; everyone knew. Brewer realized the man perusing the selection could very well be the man talked about on the radio. Oswald left the shoe store and entered Texas Theatre.

Brewer followed. "I was blank," he says now when asked what he was thinking then. He acted instinctively. He told the person working the ticket booth to call the police; he waited in the back of the theater to direct police once they arrived. It was the "longest couple minutes" he'd experienced.

He pointed four officers to Oswald, who was sitting in the crowd.

Only a few feet away from where Brewer stood, officer Nick McDonald told Oswald to stand up. The accused assassin chose instead to fight. He grabbed a pistol and tried to pull the trigger. Oswald nearly murdered another man that day.

While McDonald struggled to hold down Oswald, officer Ray Hawkins cuffed him. This afternoon, Hawkins sat quietly in the back of the very theater where the scene took place. "It was a wild day," Hawkins said, recounting the story. "I just feel lucky now that no one else was shot."

Today was the first time he had seen Brewer in 48 years. "He really did a great thing," Hawkins said.


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