For more than 30 years, Dallas County documents on the legal battle over the exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald were tucked away in drawers at the Medical Examiner’s office.
On Tuesday, Dr. Jeffrey Barnard, the county’s medical examiner, presented the papers to the Sixth Floor Museum on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Nov. 22 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The documents from 1979 and 1980 contain the signature of Oswald’s widow, Marina, that allowed the exhumation of his body so he could be identified.
A British journalist had claimed the body was a Soviet agent buried in Oswald’s Fort Worth grave.
Oswald’s brother, Robert, sued to stop the exhumation.
But after legal wrangling, the exhumation took place in 1981. Examination by forensic experts at Baylor Medical Center confirmed the body was Oswald, the accused presidential assassin.
“You have documents which authorize the exhumation for the identification of Lee Harvey Oswald because that was the issue,” Barnard said. “The allegation was that wasn’t who was buried in that grave. And then you have the court saying, 'Well, we’re worried we’re going to get sued so you can’t use the county facilities.'”
Nicola Longford, director of the Sixth Floor Museum, said that the documents are “important history.”
“I think there is going to be enduring interest in any materials that relate to Lee Harvey Oswald,” Longford said. “And these are Dallas County records which have now been turned over to the Sixth Floor Museum. And we look forward to the opportunity to continue to examine these and make the accessible for future generations to study.”
Also on Tuesday, media in Austin got a sneak peek at artifacts from the assassination that haven’t been seen in 50 years. The items will be on display later this month in Austin at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. They include the clothes worn by Texas Governor John B. Connally, who was shot while sitting in the same motorcade as Kennedy.