Two city men called af­ter Kennedy death

Helped in in­ves­ti­ga­tion, re­port­ing

The Times-Tribune - - Local History / State - ERIN L. NISSLEY

In the af­ter­math of the Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion, two Scran­ton men re­ceived a mo­ment in the sun.

The first was Thomas J. Kel­ley, a South Scran­ton na­tive. The youngest of 10 chil­dren born to Pa­trick J. and Ju­lia But­ler Kel­ley at 313 Lo­cust St., Kel­ley grad­u­ated from St. John’s High School in South Side, com­pleted de­grees at St. Thomas Col­lege, now known as the Univer­sity of Scran­ton. He went on to earn a law de­gree from Ge­orge­town Univer­sity.

Kel­ley be­gan work­ing for the Se­cret Ser­vice start­ing in the early 1940s. He, his wife, for­mer Green Ridge res­i­dent He­len Da­ley, and their four chil­dren lived in Wash­ing­ton D.C.

But af­ter Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion on Nov. 22, 1963, Kel­ley trans­ferred to Dal­las to head the Se­cret Ser­vice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to a Dec. 15, 1963, Scran­to­nian ar­ti­cle. There, he served as the agency’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the pres­i­dent’s com­mis­sion on Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion. Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son cre­ated the com­mis­sion, usu­ally called the War­ren Com­mis­sion, seven days af­ter Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion. The group is­sued a re­port about 10 months later.

Kel­ley’s name ap­pears in the War­ren Com­mis­sion Re­port as some­one who ap­peared be­fore and pro­vided a signed af­fi­davit to the com­mis­sion. The re­port is avail­able on the Na­tional Archives web­site, www. archives.gov.

In Kel­ley’s af­fi­davit to the War­ren Com­mis­sion, he said he at­tended four in­ter­ro­ga­tions of Lee Har­vey Oswald held at the Dal­las Po­lice Depart­ment, three on Nov. 23 and an­other on Nov. 24, 1963.

In tes­ti­mony in­cluded in the com­mis­sion’s re­port, Kel­ley also said he was at the po­lice sta­tion when Oswald was shot.

“When we heard that he had been shot, we im­me­di­ately went down to the base­ment. Oswald was still in the base­ment. The am­bu­lance had been backed in to take him to the hos­pi­tal,” Kel­ley tes­ti­fied. “I at­tempted to en­ter the am­bu­lance with Oswald to go to the hos­pi­tal. I was pre­vented from get­ting into the am­bu­lance by the Dal­las po­lice­men who got into the am­bu­lance with him.”

It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear if Kel­ley’s name or work is con­tained in JFK doc­u­ments re­leased ear­lier this year.

In 1965, Kel­ley was pro­moted to the “top man in the agency in the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of coun­ter­feit money and forged gov­ern­ment checks,” ac­cord­ing to a Scran­ton Times ar­ti­cle pub­lished that Novem­ber. Be­fore re­tir­ing af­ter a 36-year ca­reer with the Se­cret Ser­vice, he also served as the head of pro­tec­tive in­tel­li­gence and then the as­sis­tant direc­tor for pro­tec­tive op­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to a March 2, 1978, Scran­ton Times ar­ti­cle.

About 300 peo­ple at­tended his re­tire­ment party, held in a ball­room at the Wash­ing­ton Hil­ton Ho­tel, The Scran­ton Times re­ported on March 7, 1978. Among the guests were sev­eral mem­bers of the Kel­ley and Da­ley fam­i­lies, who still resided in Scran­ton, the ar­ti­cle noted.

The Oswald bu­reau

The other Scran­ton res­i­dent who found him­self in Dal­las in the af­ter­math of Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion was long­time news­pa­per­man Joseph Lof­tus. The for­mer Scran­ton Repub­li­can, a fore­run­ner of the The Scran­ton Tri­bune, staffer had moved up to The New York Times.

“Lof­tus was shifted to Dal­las from a St. Louis as­sign­ment the night of the as­sas­si­na­tion ... and was placed in charge of the Times men at the scene,” ac­cord­ing to the Dec. 13, 1963, Scran­to­nian ar­ti­cle.

The as­sign­ment hit close to home. He spent years as The New York Times’ la­bor re­porter and be­came close with Kennedy and his brother, Robert, ac­cord­ing to a March 29, 1972, Scran­ton Times ar­ti­cle about Lof­tus’ ac­com­plish­ments.

“When the ac­cused as­sas­sin, Lee Har­vey Oswald, was slain by Jack Ruby, Lof­tus took over the ‘Oswald’ bu­reau for the news­pa­per,” the 1963 ar­ti­cle noted. “He su­per­vised the ef­forts of seven men as­signed to the tem­po­rary bu­reau.”

The North Scran­ton na­tive, who earned de­grees from St. Thomas Col­lege and Columbia Univer­sity’s School of Jour­nal­ism, got his start in Scran­ton work­ing for the Repub­li­can and then the In­ter­na­tional News Ser­vice. He left Scran­ton in 1936 and worked as a re­porter for the As­so­ci­ated Press. In 1944, he be­gan work at the Wash­ing­ton bu­reau of The New York Times.

He re­ceived the 1972 Penn­syl­va­nia Award for Ex­cel­lence in Jour­nal­ism from then-Gov. Mil­ton Shapp. Lof­tus also re­ceived the first Louis Stark schol­ar­ship to Har­vard as a Nie­man Fel­low in 1960.

He re­mained at The New York Times un­til 1969, when he took a job as a spe­cial as­sis­tant for com­mu­ni­ca­tions to then-Sec­re­tary of La­bor Ge­orge P. Shultz.

Lof­tus died in 1990 at his home in Sara­sota, Florida, ac­cord­ing to an obit­u­ary pub­lished Jan. 4 of that year.

is an as­sis­tant metro ed­i­tor at The TimesTri­bune. She’s lived in the area for more than a decade. Con­tact the writer: eniss­ley@timessham­rock.com

Scran­ton na­tive Thomas J. Kel­ley’s name ap­pears in the War­ren Com­mis­sion Re­port as some­one who both ap­peared be­fore and pro­vided a signed af­fi­davit to the com­mis­sion.

ERIN NISSLEY Lo­cal His­tory

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