Two city men called after Kennedy death
Helped in investigation, reporting
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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