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William H. Shelley


Photograph of William H. Shelley during the Police investigation of the Texas School Book Depository immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy


William H. Shelley, Foreman of the Texas School Book Depository, was in charge of all of the employees and operations in the building. Shelley testified that he was at work on November 22, 1963, had seen Lee Harvey Oswald at work that morning, and, during the shooting, had been standing outside with other employees watching the President's motorcade. 

Shelley's Key person file contains key insights into the social dynamic of the Texas School Book Depository, Lee Harvey Oswald's character, and the events that transpired at the Texas School Book Depository that day. 


William H. Shelley being brought to Dallas Police Department to give witness statement following the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy

William H. Shelley being brought to Dallas Police Department to give witness statement following the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy

Following the investigation, William H. Shelley and the other witnesses of the assassination were escorted to the Dallas Police Department to record witness statements. 


Witness Statement made by William H. Shelley on November 22, 1963

Witness statement made by William H. Shelley on November 22, 1963

The first statement made by Shelley that day was a witness statement (Shelley, KP File, Page 53) of what he had seen that afternoon. Shelley stated he was "standing on the front steps at 411 Elm watching the President in the parade" when he heard "what sounded like three shots." Shelley claimed to have then gone back inside the building, called his wife, and guarded the elevator of the first floor of the building, following Police instruction, he left Jack Dougherty, an employee at the Texas School Book Depository, who had been working on a project closely with Oswald that morning, in charge of guarding the elevator. 

William H. Shelly - statement of Oswald's character, history of employment at Texas School Bood Depository and interactions with Oswald leading up to the assassination 

The second statement made by Shelley (Shelley, KP File, Page 52) is a narrative account of Lee Harvey Oswald's work history at the Texas School Book Depository. Shelley stated that Oswald began working at the depository "approximately October 10th or 12th, 1963" and was put under Shelley's authority by Mr. Roy Truly, the Director of Operations. Shelley stated that he had "been working close with this man since he has been there" Oswald would "stay to himself most of the time" and "read about politics" during lunch in the break room. 

What actually happened with William H. Shelley following the gunshots? 

Shelley’s statement the day of the shooting, Shelley’s Warren Commission testimony, Oswald’s testimony, and other witness testimony show that Shelley’s timeline following the shooting was inconsistent, leaving many holes in the story and raising questions about what really happened and what role Shelley may have played.

Shelley's Warren Commission testimony

William H. Shelley's Warren Commission testimony raises many questions about the statement he made on the day of the assassination. In his Warren Commission testimony, Shelley stated that he did not immediately go inside the building to call his wife like he said in his original statement, and instead gave a timeline of trying to see what had happened and leisurely returning to the building once he had identified his supervisor, Mr. Truly, going into the building. This timeline is inconsistent and makes it clear that there would have been ample time for someone to exit the building by the elevator before Shelley began guarding the door.

Other information found in the Key Person file of William H. Shelley

William H. Shelley's position at the Texas School Book Depository put him in a place of authority, allowing him to oversee the employees but still on an engaged level where he was able to observe Oswald's engagement with his colleagues and day to day behavior. 

On the morning of November 22, 1963, Shelley had been overseeing the project of laying the new floorboard on the sixth floor of the building with employees: Bonnie Ray Williams, Charles Givens, Danny Arce, Jack Dougherty, James Jarmon, and Lee Harvey Oswald. Placing Oswald on the sixth floor and also providing insight into the particularly chaotic and unusual events happening that day. 

In addition to this key background information, Shelley's file offers insights showing how exactly Lee Harvey Oswald ended up having this job, the network of the employees and their social and professional interpersonal dynamics. 

Map of addresses (Dallas) found in William H. Shelley Key Person file:

TSBD Executive, Residence: Purple 

TSBD Employee Residence: Red

Key Identified Building: Blue

Oswald's Past Place of Work: Yellow

Oswald's rented boarding room: Orange

Texas Schoolbook Depository: Green

Oswald's connection to the Texas School Book Depository

It seemed odd that Lee Harvey Oswald would find himself working at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas when his wife and child were living with Mr. Michael and Mrs. Ruth Paine (2515 West 5th street) in Irving, Texas. 

Ruth had been studying Russian since 1957, and met the Oswalds through a party held by Everett Glover on February 22, 1963, a friend of Ruth Paine's who thought that she would be interested in meeting other Russian speakers. 

Ruth drove the Oswalds to New Orleans in May of 1963, when they moved there (Lee had lost his job as a photographer in Dallas and found work in his home city at the William B. Riley Company factory making tea and coffee canisters) and drove them back to Dallas in September 1963 after he had lost that job. 

Oswald, his wife, and child lived for free. Ruth Paine helped Oswald find his job at the Texas School Book Depository. Ruth recalled that her neighbor's brother, Wesley Frezier, worked at the Depository and facilitated the introduction to Mr. Roy Truly, the Depository's director of operations. 

Lee got the job in Dallas, lived at a boarding house in Dallas (1026 North Beckley), and would visit his family in Irving on weekends. 

Why was Lee Harvey Oswald in Irving?

Lee Harvey Oswald claimed that he had spent the night before the assassination in Irving at the home of Ruth Paine instead of his boarding room in Dallas, something he typically did only on the weekends. 

The FBI later claimed that the gun was stored in Ruth Paine's garage prior to the shooting.


"John F. Kennedy, Dallas Police Department Collection." The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 23, 2018.

"William Hoyt Shelley (1926-1996) - Find A Grave..." Find A Grave. Accessed April 23, 2018.

"William H. Shelley F.B.I Key Person File." National Archives and Records Administration. Accessed April 23, 2018.