Just over a year before Lee Harvey Oswald climbed the stairs in the Texas School Book Depository to shoot President John F. Kennedy, he came to Texas Christian University in hopes of enrolling.
Paul Gregory, now a professor of economics at the University of Houston, was a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife, Marina, and he accompanied the two when they drove to the TCU campus in August of 1962.
Gregory met the Oswald family in June of 1962 when Marina Oswald agreed to give him lessons in Russian. According to Gregory’s recently penned article for The New York Times Magazine entitled “Lee Harvey Oswald was my friend,” Gregory’s relationship with the Oswald family grew as they transitioned the lessons into car rides around the city where Marina could aid Gregory in his Russian while she learned more about Fort Worth.
From 1959 to 1962, Oswald lived in the Soviet Union where he met Marina. In June of 1962, the United States embassy granted Marina a visa to immigrate to the U.S. Oswald came with her expecting to be greeted with great intrigue upon arriving back in America. Gregory had met Oswald when his father, who spoke and taught Russian, helped Oswald move into his home upon his arrival back in the United States.
“He considered himself someone who had travelled the world, seen a lot, learned a difficult foreign language, lived in another country, our Cold War enemy,” explained Gregory who, was 21-years-old and living in Fort Worth at the time. “When he was returning, he thought people would be very interested in him and his stories. He definitely felt he was someone who was extraordinary, but no one recognized it.”
Gregory had noticed a course catalog and application from TCU in Oswald’s home, a place he would visit often as his friendship with Oswald and Marina grew.
“Oswald had brought home some application forms for TCU,” said Gregory. “They had been laying around the apartment, and he and I looked them over. We decided one evening to drive out there, and he was going to submit his application.”
Gregory accompanied the 22-year-old Oswald into Sadler Hall on the TCU campus where the admissions office was located.
“We just went there without preparation. Lee had that application and a catalog, so he had probably gone to TCU earlier,” Gregory continued. “It seemed reasonable to go out and look at TCU.”
“Lee pretty much wanted to talk to the admissions person alone. Marina and I were not standing there listening. He wanted the conversation to be confidential, and he probably would have had to say, ‘I’ve not graduated from high school.’”
During a brief conversation, Oswald was told that he would be unable to apply without a high school diploma, and Gregory said Oswald never spoke about enrolling at TCU again.
“He was interested in politics and economics, and he wanted a political science or economics degree,” said Gregory. “Education was a primary goal. He read a lot on his own. He understood he needed a college degree to get anywhere.”
“In Marina Oswald’s testimony to the Warren Commission, she said that Lee had grandiose plans but she told him ‘you can’t get anywhere without an education and you don’t have an education.’”
Oswald never received the education he sought, and Gregory believes that contributed largely to Oswald’s dissolution.
That disconnect from society reached its apex when Oswald entered the book depository to fire three shots at Kennedy’s motorcade.
Gregory wrote in his New York Times article that he had picked up Oswald and Marina from the house of Robert Oswald, Lee’s brother, to drive them back to his house and later on to the train station where they would ride back to Dallas. That day was November 22, 1962, exactly one year before Kennedy’s assassination and just three months after accompanying Lee and Marina to TCU. It was the last time Gregory would see Oswald.
Because Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby less than 48 hours after shooting the president, those grief-stricken Americans who saw hatred triumph over freedom on November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza never received an explanation as to why Oswald had chosen to assassinate the president.
Gregory recalls that a Time Magazine with John Kennedy on the cover sat, for some time, on the table in the Oswald’s living room, and he added he does not know what recast in Oswald’s mind that changed him from the ambitious young adult seeking further education to the recreant assassin that killed the president.
“Every time I can remember,” Gregory said, “they spoke favorably of the Kennedys.”