‘I still don’t believe Lee was the lone gunman,” says Marina Oswald Porter, the widow of President Kennedy’s assassin. She talked to me on the 45th anniversary of Lee Harvey Oswald’s being gunned down in the basement of Dallas police headquarters. Marina, now 67, says, “I don’t know if Lee even shot the president.” Was he part of a conspiracy? “I don’t know. But he said he was a ‘patsy.’ It was an odd word for him to use. I think he realized he had been set up.”
I first spoke with Marina 20 years ago, and am one of the few journalists she has talked to in recent years (she was on Oprah in ’96). Twenty years ago she had already begun to have doubts about Oswald’s involvement in the assassination. Right after JFK’s death, she had been a persuasive witness against Lee, in fact, the star witness, during the Warren Commission hearings. “I was led,” she says. At the time, she was a naïve 22-year-old, a Russian, who spoke hardly any English. “I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to lead a witness.” She acknowledges, “I couldn’t say that Lee was wonderful. But it would be easier for me if Lee had gone on trial. If that was the end of it.”
Although Marina is uncertain of the details of a conspiracy, she has believed that Jack Ruby, who shot Oswald, was part of it and that crime figures might have been involved. She also questioned why Oswald was taught Russian while he was in the military and was able to enter and leave the Soviet Union so easily, taking her with him to America, at the height of the Cold War.
Raised under Stalin, Marina feared that after the assassination she would also be imprisoned. After Lee’s death, she once told me, she believed the FBI kept her under surveillance and that some of the men she met might have been FBI agents. In 1965 she married a Dallas carpenter, Kenneth Porter. The two divorced in 1974 but reconciled and have lived together for years although they never remarried. They have one son. She had two daughters with Oswald. “I have a grandchild who is already in college,” she says.
She leads “a very quiet life” in a Dallas suburb and became an American citizen several years ago. She still doesn’t drive or use a computer. “How could I? I misspell too many words in English.” She worked for years in a friend’s Army surplus store where, no, they didn’t sell guns.
She told me she has visited Russia several times to see a friend and stay with her aunt before she died. “It is better there than it was. Putin has done good things for the country.”
She has never visited Lee’s grave or gone to the museum in the Texas School Book Depository (where Oswald worked) that is focused on the assassination. She explains, “I can’t live in the past,” although she says she is often reminded of It., especially when the anniversary comes around. She does not read the books or watch the television shows about the assassination that debate Lee’s role. “All the books and programs are just trying to convince a new generation of their theories.” “The more I learn the less I know,” she says, “and that isn’t exactly pertaining to Lee.” But she adds, “I try to weigh this and weigh that. It is an enigma but I know there are too many coincidences, just too many coincidences.”