In 1964, longtime Webb City resident Lois Spracklen was called for jury duty in the Jack Ruby trial. Ruby had shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963, two days after Oswald’s arrest for the alleged assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Lois Watson Spracklen is the daughter of Circuit Judge Ray E. Watson and Hazel (Gist) Watson. In 1964 she was living in Dallas, Texas, with her husband, Wally Spracklen, where he was employed as a research engineer.
Lois was a member of a special jury panel of 150 people who were called for examination to qualify for the jury that was to decide the fate of Jack Ruby. Lois was one of the last members to be examined, with 10 jurors already chosen. She was accepted by both the state and defense attorneys but was excused by the trial judge.
WCAGS member Marti Pittman interviewed Lois about this chapter of her life. Lois was 34 years old, not employed at the time and she and Wally did not yet have any children.
The jury selection lasted for weeks before she was excused. Because of the sheer number of people interviewed, the group met in an auditorium. Lois drove her car to the auditorium each day. She only knew one other woman in the pool, a lady who lived in the same area of town as she did. Potential jurors were told they could read the newspapers but not to discuss what was going on with other people.
Lois remembered one day during a long lunch break that she went shopping and bought herself a new pair of yellow heels, but not the really high ones like they wear today. Lois was relieved to be excused and said that some of the jury pool thought “they were quite something.” She stated that she did not have a good reason to be excused such as having children or transportation problems.
The trial proceeded without Lois as a member of the jury.
Jack Ruby was found guilty and was sentenced to death. His conviction was later appealed, and he was to be granted a new trial. Ruby died of cancer on Jan. 3, 1967, before a new trial could take place. In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Ruby had acted alone in killing Oswald, shooting him on impulse and out of grief over the assassination of President Kennedy.
Lois and Wally returned to Webb City in 1992 when Wally retired from Texas Instruments. He was active in community service until his death in 2008.