Carolyn Arnold’s FBI Statements
Support for Lee Harvey Oswald’s Alibi
Carolyn Arnold, a secretary working for the Texas School Book Depository, provided support for Lee Harvey Oswald’s alibi, that he had been on the first (i.e. ground) floor of the TSBD at the time of President Kennedy’s assassination. According to the two FBI agents who attended Oswald’s first interview:
OSWALD stated that he went to lunch at approximately noon and he claimed he ate his lunch on the first floor in the lunch room; however he went to the second floor where the Coca–Cola machine was located and obtained a bottle of Coca–Cola for his lunch. OSWALD claimed to be on the first floor when President JOHN F. KENNEDY passed this building.
A page of hand–written notes by one of the agents, James Hosty, was discovered in 2019. The notes contain a more precise version of Oswald’s alibi and are consistent with Carolyn Arnold’s account. According to the notes:
O [Oswald] stated he was present for work at TBD on the morning of 11/22 and at noon went to lunch. He went to 2nd floor to get Coca Cola to eat with lunch and returned to 1st floor to eat lunch. Then went outside to watch P. [Presidential] Parade
Statements to the FBI
Arnold was interviewed twice by the FBI:
- The Bureau’s report of its first interview, four days after the assassination, stated that as Arnold waited outside the TSBD to see the president, she noticed Oswald just inside the building, close to the front door, at about 12:15.
- In March 1964, J. Lee Rankin of the Warren Commission asked the FBI to interview every employee of the TSBD again, asking each of them an identical and very limited set of questions. In her second statement, Carolyn Arnold claimed that she did not leave the building until about 12:25.
FBI copies of both statements are reproduced below, along with an internal FBI document that clarifies the time mentioned in Arnold’s later statement.
The Timing of the Encounter with Oswald
The FBI reported that Carolyn Arnold saw Oswald after she had left the TSBD. According to the first account, she had left the building by 12:15; according to the second, she left at 12:25. The first statement, which she was not given the opportunity to check, is likely to be less reliable than the second, which she was required to sign.
Both of Carolyn Arnold’s statements, but especially the second, corroborate the accounts of two employees, James “Junior” Jarman and Harold Norman, who indirectly attested to Oswald’s presence on the first floor at “between 12:20 and 12:25,” in Jarman’s words (see Lee Harvey Oswald’s alibi).
A Gunman Was on the Sixth Floor
President Kennedy was shot at 12:30. A sighting of Oswald on the first floor at around 12:15 to 12:25 would seriously undermine the Warren Commission’s account, which was obliged to have Oswald on the sixth floor, assembling his rifle and his sniper’s nest, since before 12:15. There are specific problems associated with placing Oswald anywhere other than on the sixth floor at either time:
- Arnold Rowland, a witness in Dealey Plaza, saw a man on the sixth floor, holding a rifle, at 12:15 or very shortly afterwards (Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, vol.2, pp.171–173).
- Several other witnesses in Dealey Plaza noticed a gunman on one of the upper floors during the five minutes or so before the shooting:
- Howard Brennan (WCHE, vol.19, p.470 and WCHE, vol.3, p.143);
- Caroline Walther (Commission Exhibit 2086 [WCHE, vol.24, p.522]), who saw two men, one of whom was holding a gun;
- Ronald Fischer (WCHE, vol.6, pp.193–194);
- and Robert Edwards (WCHE, vol.6, pp.203–204), who was alerted by Fischer and saw the man but did not notice a gun.
- Oswald read the local papers, and almost certainly would have seen the 20 November issue of the Dallas Morning News, which reported that the motorcade was expected to arrive at the Trade Mart at 12:30 (CE 1364 [WCHE, vol.22, p.616]). He is likely to have worked out that the motorcade would probably pass the TSBD about five minutes before this. Even if he had discovered that the motorcade was running late, any gunman intending to shoot President Kennedy from the sixth floor would surely have been in place by 12:25.
Earl Golz Interviews Carolyn Arnold
In an interview with the journalist Earl Golz in 1978, Carolyn Arnold claimed that “she saw Oswald in the 2nd–floor lunchroom as she was on her way out of the depository to watch the presidential motorcade …. She left the building at 12:25pm.” (Earl Golz, ‘Was Oswald in Window?,’ Dallas Morning News, 26 November 1978, p.13A; available as PDF [155 kB]).
Golz quotes her as saying that Oswald “was sitting there … in one of the booth seats on the right–hand side of the room as you go in. He was alone as usual and appeared to be having lunch. I did not speak to him but I recognized him clearly.” She explicitly denied that her sighting of Oswald took place near the front doors: “Why would I be looking back inside the building? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
When and Where Did Carolyn Arnold See Lee Oswald?
Carolyn Arnold watched the motorcade alongside colleagues with whom she shared an office. One of these colleagues, Virgie Rackley, stated to the FBI on 25 November 1963 that “at about 12:15pm … she left her office” (Commission Document 5, p.66). Rackley repeated the time, “approximately 12:15” in an FBI interview on 19 March 1964 (CD 706, p.8). If the group left together, it is likely that Carolyn Arnold’s first statement correctly records the time of her sighting of Oswald as about 12:15, even though the location may have been incorrect.
Arnold’s phrase, “booth seats,” could refer to either the second–floor lunch room or the first–floor domino room, both of which contained padded benches “on the right–hand side of the room as you go in” (for photographs of the interior of the TSBD, see CD 81 and CD 496). The second–floor room is more likely, however:
- She and her colleagues shared an office on the second floor, next to the lunch room.
- Their most direct route out of the building would not have taken them past the domino room.
- There was a stronger reason for her to visit the second–floor lunch room than the domino room. Photographs of the lunch room in CD 81 and CD 496 show that in addition to tables and chairs, the room contained at least one vending machine, a fridge, and a counter with what appear to be a kettle and a coffee machine, which suggests that the room may also have had a supply of running water. The domino room contained only tables and chairs.
The investigative journalist, Anthony Summers, also interviewed Carolyn Arnold in late 1978. He quotes her as saying that “about a quarter of an hour before the assassination, I went into the lunchroom on the second floor”, where she saw Oswald (Anthony Summers, Not in Your Lifetime: The Assassination of JFK, Headline, 2013, p.92). Confusingly, Summers continues his quotation from Arnold with words identical to those in Golz’s article, although Arnold’s quoted phrase, “about a quarter of an hour before the assassination”, does not appear in Golz’s article and was presumably spoken to Summers. The same is true of another quoted phrase on the same page of the book:
Arnold had some reason to remember having gone into the lunchroom. She was pregnant at the time and had a craving for water. She also recalled, in 1978, that this was “about 12:15. It may have been slightly later.”
There is other evidence that Oswald visited the second–floor lunch room during his lunch break and before the assassination. In a statement to the Sheriff’s Department, Eddie Piper, a colleague of Oswald’s, claimed that he was on the first floor when, “at 12:00 Noon, this fellow Lee says to me, ‘I’m going up to eat’” (WCHE, vol.19, p.499). Oswald himself, of course, claimed to have visited the second–floor lunchroom before the assassination, according to the earliest official account of his alibi (WR, p.613) and a set of hand–written notes on which that account was based (http://www.prayer–man.com/then–went–outside–to–watch–p–parade/).
Oswald’s Movements During the Assassination
If Carolyn Arnold’s revised account, with its detailed and forceful identification of Oswald, is accurate, Oswald’s movements at the time of the assassination would have been as follows:
- Oswald began his lunch break on the first floor. Charles Givens claimed on the day after the assassination that he saw Oswald “reading a newspaper in the domino room where the employees eat lunch about 11:50 A.M.” (CD 5, p.329; see also Sylvia Meagher, ‘The Curious Testimony of Mr Givens’, The Texas Observer, 13 August 1971).
- Some time after mid–day, Oswald went from the first floor to the second–floor lunch room.
- Oswald was there at about 12:15, when he was seen by Carolyn Arnold.
- Shortly afterwards, he went downstairs to the domino room, and saw James Jarman and Harold Norman at 12:23 or a few minutes later.
- At 12:30, as Kennedy passed the building, Oswald was on the first floor, either just inside or just outside the front doors. There is photographic evidence that may show Oswald standing in the doorway at the time; see Who Is ‘Prayer Man’?.
- At about 12:31 he may have gone back up to the second–floor lunch room to obtain another soft drink. According to the official account, Oswald encountered a police officer, Marrion Baker, and the building supervisor, Roy Truly, at the entrance to the lunch room (WR, pp.149–152). It is quite possible, however, that this encounter did not happen, and that Oswald remained on the first floor. Baker’s first statement does not mention the encounter, a bizarre omission considering that Baker made his statement while in the same small room as the recently arrested Oswald. For more about Oswald’s supposed encounter with Baker and Truly, see What Was Lee Harvey Oswald’s Alibi?.
The Authorities and Carolyn Arnold
The FBI’s version of Arnold’s second interview contains a trivial and obvious typo: A.M. for P.M. The Bureau’s account of her first interview contains more serious inaccuracies:
- the area of the TSBD where Carolyn Arnold saw Lee Harvey Oswald,
- and the strength of her recognition of him.
She was not the only witness who questioned the reliability of the FBI’s version of their statements. Arnold Rowland, for example, pointed out several errors to the Warren Commission and mentioned that the FBI agents “just didn’t seem interested at all” in evidence that contradicted the lone–gunman account (WCHE, vol.2, pp.182–185). Carolyn Walther, like Arnold Rowland, had seen another man standing near the gunman, and was similarly unimpressed with the FBI’s attitude to her evidence. She told Earl Golz that “I talked to them [FBI agents] and it seemed like they weren’t very interested. They were going to set out to prove me a liar and I had no intention of arguing with them and being harassed. … And if they didn’t want to believe it or had some reason not to, well, then, that was all right with me.” (Earl Golz, ‘Was Oswald in Window?,’ Dallas Morning News, 26 November 1978, p.13A.)
The Warren Commission treated Carolyn Arnold as it treated many other awkward witnesses. She was not called to testify before the Commission. Neither of her statements was published in the Warren Commission’s Report or in its 26 volumes of Hearings and Exhibits. The Commission discounted her evidence and that of Eddie Piper, and concluded that “Charles Givens … was the last known employee to see Oswald inside the building prior to the assassination … at 11:45am” (WR, p.143). Carolyn Arnold’s five colleagues from the Texas School Book Depository who stood with her as the motorcade passed, and who could have commented on the reliability of her account, were also ignored.
Statement to FBI, 26 November 1963
Mrs. R. E. ARNOLD, Secretary, Texas School Book Depository, advised she was in her office on the second floor of the building on November 22, 1963, and left that office between 12:00 and 12:15 PM, to go downstairs and stand in front of the building to view the Presidential Motorcade. As she was standing in front of the building, she stated she thought she caught a fleeting glimpse of LEE HARVEY OSWALD standing in the hallway between the front door and the double doors leading to the warehouse, located on the first floor. She could not be sure that this was OSWALD, but said she felt it was and believed the time to be a few minutes before 12:15 PM.
She stated thereafter she viewed the Presidential Motorcade and heard the shots that were fired at the President; however, she could furnish no information of value as to the individual firing the shots or any other information concerning OSWALD, whom she stated she did not know and had merely seen him working in the building.
on 11/26/1963 at Dallas, Texas File # DL 89–43 by Special Agent Richard E. Harrison
Statement to FBI, 18 March 1964
I, Mrs. R. E. (Carolyn) Arnold, hereby freely and voluntarily make the following statement to E. J. Robertson who has identified himself as a Special Agent of the F.B.I.
My name is Carolyn Arnold and I am married to R. E. Arnold. I reside at 3325 South Tyler Street, Dallas, Texas. I am 20 years of age, born June 1, 1943, at Memphis, Tenn. I am a while female, and am employed by the Texas School Book Depository as a Secretary.
On November 22, 1963, at the time President Kennedy was shot, I was standing in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building. I was with Mr. O. V. Campbell, 7120 Twin Tree Lane, Dallas; Mrs. L. C. (Bonnie) Richey, 220 South Marsalis, Apt. 117, Dallas; Mrs. Barney (Betty) Dragoo, 2705 West Brooklyn, Dallas; Mrs. Don (Virgie) Baker née Rackley, 3600½ Live Oak, Dallas; and Miss Judy Johnson, 915 Sunnyside, Dallas, at the time President Kennedy was shot.
I did not see Lee Harvey Oswald at the time President Kennedy was shot.
On the morning of November 22, 1963, I do not remember seeing any stranger in the building housing the Texas School Book Depository.
I left the Texas School Book Depository Building at about 12:25 PM, November 22, 1963, and never returned to this building on that date.
I have read the above statement consisting of one and one–half pages and it is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.
Mrs. R. E. (CAROLYN) ARNOLD
- E. J. ROBERTSON, Special Agent, FBI, Dallas, Texas, 3/18/64
- THOMAS T. TRETTIS, Jr., Specail Agent, FBI, Dallas, Texas, 3/18/64
FBI Radiogram, 31 March 1964
TO SAC DALLAS (89–43)
FROM DIRECTOR FBI (62–109060)
ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY, NOVEMBER TWENTY–TWO, NINETEEN SIXTY–THREE, MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION CONCERNING.
RE BUREAU AIRTEL MARCH SIXTEEN, LAST AND YOUR AIRTELS MARCH TWENTY–FIVE AND TWENTY–EIGHT, LAST RELATING TO COMMISSION’S REQUEST FOR SIGNED STATEMENTS FROM INDIVIDUALS KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN IN TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY BUILDING ON NOVEMBER TWENTY–TWO, NINETEEN SIXTY–THREE.
BEFORE STATEMENTS CAN BE DISSEMINATED TO COMMISSION, FOLLOWING CORRECTIONS NECESSARY:
STATEMENT OF MRS. R. E. PAREN CAROLYN UNPAREN ARNOLD, PARAGRAPH SIX, LINE TWO, TIME INDICATED AS TWELVE TWENTY–FIVE A.M., SHOULD BE QUOTE P.M. UNQUOTE. IF THIS IS TYPO, BUREAU WILL HANDLE.
STATEMENT OF VIRGINIA H. BARNUM DOES NOT DISCLOSE HOME ADDRESS.
STATEMENTS OF MRS. R. A. REID AND MRS. ROBERT E. PAREN PAULINE UNPAREN SANDERS, SR., PARAGRAPH THREE EACH STATEMENT DISCLOSES DATE OF ACTIVITY AS NOVEMBER TWENTY–TWO NINETEEN SIXTY–FOUR. SINCE THIS DATE IS OF PRIMARY CONCERN, IT MUST BE CORRECTED.
STATEMENT OF JOYCE MAURINE STANSBERY PARAGRAPH SIX, LINE TWO SECOND WORD MISSPELLED. BUREAU WILL HANDLE IF THIS IS TYPO.
ABOVE CORRECTIONS MUST BE IMMEDIATELY HANDLED EITHER BY ADVICE TO THE BUREAU OR BY OBTAINING NEW CORRECT STATEMENTS FROM INDIVIDUALS INDICATED. HANDLE IMMEDIATELY SO DISSEMINATION TO PRESIDENT’S COMMISSION CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED.
Commission by letter 3/16/64 requested signed statements be obtained from every person known to have been in Texas School Book Depository Building on 11/22/63. Each statement must contain six specified items. Dallas has obtained 75 signed statements and above corrections as indicated necessary before dissemination can be made. As soon as necessary information and data is obtained, from Dallas, appropriate dissemination to Commission will be made.