Bud Kennedy

Reporters carried Oswald’s coffin, but some never told the story

Seven journalists stepped in to carry Lee Harvey Oswald to his grave.

But even after more than 50 years of retellings, we still don’t know all seven names.

It’s one of the tiny mysteries remaining from President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the burial of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in Fort Worth.

With no mourners on hand but Oswald’s family at what is now Shannon Rose Hill Memorial Park, funeral director Paul Groody drafted seven reporters to help carry the coffin.

It’s a great story.

But only a few of the reporters ever retold it.

Two remain unidentified.

From CBS to the Star-Telegram last week, former local Associated Press reporter Mike Cochran eloquently retold the tale.

Oswald’s popularity that day was “at an all-time low,” Cochran has joked. When Groody asked him to help, he first said, “Not only no, but hell no.”

But when a reporter from archcompetitor United Press International volunteered, Cochran jumped in too.

That produced 50 years of headlines like in the New York Daily News last week: “I Was a Pallbearer For Lee Harvey Oswald.”

Cochran’s UPI competitor, Preston McGraw, has also retold the story. Three other pallbearers were now-retired Star-Telegram columnist Jon McConal; our late travel editor, Jerry Flemmons; and reporter Ed Horn.

That leaves two.

A search of assassination forums and digitized newspaper archives produces several hearsay reports but no other first-person accounts.

If the other two reporters ever told anyone, it’s a well-kept secret.

McConal, now retired in Granbury, said he knew Groody from covering other news involving Miller Funeral Home.

“Groody was there and didn’t have any help,” McConal said.

“He asked, ‘Jon, will you help carry this casket?’ I thought, sure — it’s just a casket.”

The Dallas Morning News’ reporter that day, Eddie Hughes, started to help but decided that the News’ conservative editors “wouldn’t like me carrying a communist,” he said from his retirement home in Albuquerque.

KFJZ-AM reporter Jerome “Richard” Davis, now living in Colleyville, also covered the funeral along with deejay Mark Stevens. Davis said he was around the group but was “more of a tag-along.”

The late WRR/101.1 FM host Dan Bates was a Star-Telegram reporter that day and vaguely looks like one of those unidentified, but both Cochran and McConal said he was not a pallbearer.

A 1976 San Antonio Light column about Hughes also named former WBAP/820 AM reporter Bob Dickson and KTVT/Channel 11 anchor Jim Thomas as pallbearers, but no other account has included them.

Even when reporters gathered for a 1993 Kennedy forum at Southern Methodist University, the stories varied.

The late KDFW/Channel 4 and KRLD/1080 AM anchor Eddie Barker threw up his hands when attendees couldn’t agree whether there were seven, eight or nine pallbearers.

“We have a dispute here that may never be settled,” Barker said.

It hasn’t yet.

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Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 16 Texas Legislature sessions. First on the scene of a 1988 DFW Airport crash, he interviewed passengers running from the burning plane. He made his first appearance in the paper before he was born: He was sold for $600 in the adoption classifieds.