TESTIMONY OF THOMAS M. RAY
The testimony of Thomas M. Ray was taken at 12:10 p.m., on March 25, 1964, in the office of the U.S. attorney, 301 Post Office Building, Bryan and Ervay Streets, Dallas, Tex., by Mr. Wesley J. Liebeler, assistant counsel of the President's Commission. Robert T. Davis, assistant attorney general of Texas, was present.
Mr. LIEBELER. Mr. Ray, would you rise and raise your right hand? (Complying.)
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. RAY. I do.
Mr. LIEBELER. My name is Wesley J. Liebeler. I am a member of the legal staff of the President's Commission investigating the assassination of President Kennedy. The Commission has authorized staff members to take the testimony of witnesses pursuant to authority which was granted to the Commission by Executive Order 11130 dated November 29, 1963, and Joint Resolution of Congress No. 137. It is my understanding that Mr. Rankin wrote to you and your wife last week and told you I would contact you to table your testimony.
Mr. RAY. Oh, yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Enclosed with that letter were copies of the Executive order and joint resolution and a copy of the rules of the Commission's procedure relating to the taking of testimony. Did you receive the fetter?
Mr. RAY. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did it contain copies of the documents I referred to?
Mr. RAY. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Technically, the Commission's letter requires the witness to be given 3 days' notice prior to the time they have to testify although that notice can be waived. I understand you did not receive the letter until Monday because it was misdirected to the wrong post office.
Mr. RAY. That's right.
Mr. LIEBELER. But I assume you are prepared to go ahead with your testimony at this time?
Mr. RAY. I sure am; don't want to come over here again.
Mr. LIEBELER. The testimony we want this time from you relates basically to some conversations that were had in late 1962 concerning the background of Lee Harvey Oswald. First of all, would you state your full name for the record?
Mr. RAY. Do I have to give my middle name?
Mr. LIEBELER. If you don't ordinarily use it, you don't.
Mr. RAY. Thomas M. Ray.
Mr. LIEBELER. Thomas M. Ray. What is your address, sir?
Mr. RAY. Route 3, Detroit.
Mr. LIEBELER. Texas?
Mr. RAY. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. What is your employment, sir?
Mr. RAY. We have a dairy farm which my wife operates with the help of a hired hand and my supervision and I also am a commission salesman for Sam Weiss in Paris who is the consignee of Gulf Oil in Paris, and right now I am right in the middle of changing my place of employment. I am going on the road for Paris Milling Co. the 15th of this next month as assistant sales manager and I have been with Mr. Weiss for about 9 1/2 years.
Mr. LIEBELER. You are a native-born American, aren't you, Mr. Ray?
Mr. RAY. Right; born in Paris, Tex.
Mr. LIEBELER. You are married to Natalie Ray, is that correct?
Mr. RAY. That is right.
Mr. LIEBELER. And your wife is a native of Russia, is that right?
Mr. RAY. That is right.
Mr. LIEBELER. Would you tell us briefly the circumstances under which you met and married your wife?
Mr. RAY. Well, I was stationed in Wiesbaden and as you probably already know there were a lot of displaced persons over there, and the army used these
displaced persons for various duties, you know, kitchen work and things like that and I met her there during the time that she and some other girls came to work for our outfit. All we had to do was go get them, you know, feed them and transport them back and forth and feed them and that's where I met her, in Wiesbaden.
Mr. LIEBELER. Then you were subsequently married and you brought her back to the United States, is that correct?
Mr. RAY. Yes, sir; after a length of time during which I was later discharged there and worked for the U.S. Force headquarters in Frankfurt. (At this point in the hearing, Mr. Robert T. Davis, assistant attorney general of Texas leaves the room.)
Mr. RAY. [continuing]. I was employed there about. well, I think actually I was on the payroll until they sent me back to New York which would have been 16, 17 months, I think.
Mr. LIEBELER. You were employed as a civilian is that correct?
Mr. RAY. Civilian employee of the Government.
Mr. LIEBELER. Were you an officer or enlisted man; what was your rank when you met your wife?
Mr. RAY. Buck sergeant.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you incur any difficulty when you tried to marry your wife when you were in Germany?
Mr. RAY. At various times it looked like we were running into stumps but we got over them. At times it looked like they were going to send all the Russian nationals back to Russia and I even made a trip to Paris, France, once to try to talk to the Russian Embassy there and never got to see him. I think along about that time the Government stepped in and kind of protected these people that did not want to go back, you know, and things kind of let up then and we were left about our business for awhile; there after the war, they were trying to get all the Russian nationals back.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did your wife have to obtain the permission of Russian authorities before she could marry you?
Mr. RAY. I don't think so. Now I'm not sure on that point. I wouldn't say for sure one way or the other; it has been so long ago.
Mr. LIEBELER. What was your purpose in going to Paris to try and see the Russian Embassy, to get permission to keep her here?
Mr. RAY. To keep her from being sent back to Russia. You know it was during that time that they were trying to send them all back.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did there come a time when you met Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife, Marina?
Mr. RAY. I met them.
Mr. LIEBELER. Will you tell us the circumstances surrounding your meeting them, where was it, what happened?
Mr. RAY. Well, do you want to start from the beginning?
Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; just tell us the story in your own words as to how you came to meet the Oswalds and what happened, what the extent of your contact was.
Mr. RAY. Well, I tell you how it happened. This Ed Harris and his wife that live in Georgetown, his wife had seen a magazine article or something about my wife and had gotten in touch and they had. gotten acquainted and they had visited us a time or two, you know, and, actually, we knew none of these people at the party before we came over here. We came and we met them over here.
Mr. LIEBELER. At the party?
Mr. RAY. No; we met them at a hotel and went to the party with them.
Mr. LIEBELER. Who were the people that you met?
Mr. RAY. Ed Harris and his wife.
Mr. LIEBELER. You had not met the Harrises before you came to Dallas to go to the Ford party?
Mr. RAY. Oh, yes; I say they were the only people we knew before we went to this party.
Mr. LIEBELER. The party we are referring to is the party at the home of Declan P. Ford?
Mr. RAY. Yes, and, actually, the arrangements for us to come along were made from our home. Mrs.---Ed's wife, Mrs. Harris called Mrs. Ford from our house and found out, you know, when the party was going to be and made arrangements to bring us along, or at least told her that we were coming or something. I don't understand this Russian that goes on when they start talking Russian. I don't know everything that was said but that's the way we happened to be at the party. We went along with the Harrises from Georgetown; at least we met them in Dallas and went to the party with them and that was the party that was on Friday night and we stayed over Saturday and we went back to the Ford's on Saturday night and then some--and visited awhile and stayed over until Sunday and Sunday afternoon we visited some other people that were at the party. But the only time I had any contact whatsoever with Oswald was at the party and frankly, I vaguely remember meeting him because when there's quite a few people at a party like that you don't get acquainted with all of them. I got acquainted with a few but I didn't get acquainted with Oswald or his wife.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember any conversation that you had with Oswald at all?
Mr. RAY. Nothing at all, no conversation at all, just no more than a handshake or something like that.
Mr. LIEBELER. You did not form any impression of him that you can remember at the moment, is that correct?
Mr. RAY. No; I did not.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember anything about his wife Marina Oswald?
Mr. RAY. The only thing I remember about her is when I met her, she was kind of small and she didn't speak any English so there I couldn't have any conversation with her in Russian and that's as far as it went.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you try to talk to her in English?
Mr. RAY. Oh, I might have said a few words but I do not recall.
Mr. LIEBELER It was clear to you that she did not understand English, is that correct?
Mr. RAY. That is right.
Mr. LIEBELER. Now, did you notice anything peculiar or out of the ordinary about Oswald's actions at this party that appeared so to you?
Mr. RAY. Well, frankly, I just didn't pay much attention to the guy. I wasn't around him very much.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did there come a time over the weekend either at the Ford party or following the Ford party where the Oswalds were discussed in your presence?
Mr. RAY. There was a time, yes, sir.
Mr. LIEBELER. Where was that, do you remember?
Mr. RAY. That was at the home of--I believe their name is Meller or Miller.
Mr. LIEBELER. M-e-l-l-e-r [spelling], would that be right?
Mr. RAY. Well, now the lady's name was Anna Meller and her husband was----
Mr. LIEBELER. Would it be T-e-o-f-i-l [spelling]?
Mr. RAY. Yes; something like that.
Mr. LIEBELER. Who was there at this time?
Mr. RAY. Of course, we were there, Natalie and I and the Harrises and Meller and her husband and it seems like this lady from Houston was there. I believe she was from Houston.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember her name?
Mr. RAY. No; I don't now.
Mr. LIEBELER. B-i-g-g-e-r-s [spelling]; does that ring a bell with you?
Mr. RAY. What was the first name?
Mr. LIEBELER. Tatiana.
Mr. RAY. Yes, I believe she was there that Sunday afternoon. I believe she was.
Mr. LIEBELER. Was anybody else there; do you remember George Bouhe?
Mr. RAY. Oh, yeah; George was there. I was trying to think. I got acquainted with George. He's one I got acquainted with.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember Lydia Dymitruk being there?
Mr. RAY. Well, I might.
Mr. LIEBELER. I don't want you to remember if you don't really.
Mr. RAY. Well, I don't really right now. I don't really remember.
Mr. LIEBELER. Tell us what the conversation about the Oswalds was to the best of your recollection.
Mr. RAY. The thing that I remember most was George telling us what a nut he was. It seemed that George had tried to help him and I think the Fords had tried to help him and maybe the Frank Rays or some of this group, you know, had tried to help him get adjusted and tried to help Mrs. Oswald get adjusted to the American way of life and frankly, George Bouhe came out and told me he said he was a damn nut.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did he tell you any specific reasons for his opinion?
Mr. RAY. Well, nothing real specific but it seemed that he wasn't too good to his wife. He didn't treat her as they thought he should. He wasn't real good to her.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did Bouhe tell you that Oswald was reported to have beaten Marina up?
Mr. RAY. I think that came into the conversation, too, and that she had gone and stayed a couple weeks with somebody. I don't know if it was the Fords or the Rays or who it was but that I think was the situation.
Mr. LIEBELER. Anyway, as far as you can recall Bouhe indicated that he was pretty much at the end of his rope as far as Oswald was concerned?
Mr. RAY. Yeah.
Mr. LIEBELER. He did not have a very high opinion of Oswald?
Mr. RAY. No; he did not have a high opinion of Oswald.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did anybody else there express an opinion about Oswald along these lines as far as you can remember?
Mr. RAY. Well, you know, sitting down at a table having coffee and tea and everybody talks a little but what George said about him impressed me more than anything else that was said. I am sure that the others did have things to say but frankly I was not interested in the guy.
Mr. LIEBELER. You don't have any recollection of what anybody else said at this point?
Mr. RAY. At this point I couldn't tell you what anybody else said; no. I am sure there was a discussion among the group. We were having coffee and cake and what-not and the subject came up about the Oswalds and that's the way it went.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you recall any discussion on the question of whether or not Oswald might be a Russian agent?
Mr. RAY. I don't know whether that was discussed or not. It seems to me like somebody brought the subject up. It might have been my wife for all I know but we were wondering since he had left the United States and wanted to be a Russian citizen and had been over there, the time that he spent in Russia, why the hell did they let him back in; you know what I mean?
Mr. LIEBELER. The United States you mean?
Mr. RAY. Yeah; why did they take him back and how--the question in my mind was how did he get his Russian wife out of Russia. It just looked odd to me.
Mr. LIEBELER. Was the question in your mind as to how he got his wife out partly related to the difficulties you had had?
Mr. RAY. I knew the difficulties I had had and of course I have known the relations between the Americans and the Russians since the war and you know, the cold war and it cools off and it gets hot and I wondered at the time how the hell he got his wife out of Russia without so much trouble or maybe he had a lot of trouble getting her out but it did look odd to me.
Mr. LIEBELER. Was that subject discussed at this time you can remember amongst the group there; did George Bouhe offer any opinion on this question?
Mr. RAY. I would say it could have been discussed and I cannot say whether it was or was not, you know that has been quite some time ago and it's hard to remember. I think the whole deal was discussed, you know, pretty well. We might have discussed that. I think we did but I wouldn't say for sure.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember if there was a conversation going on in Russian while you were there or did they speak in English--the people that were at the house?
Mr. RAY. Most of it was in English; now I am sure there was some Russian conversation going on because Ed Harris' wife irritates me to death with her Russian. If she starts talking to my wife, it's Russian and it just--I just get the drift of the conversation and that's all. I mean it is very rude the way she goes about it. She enjoys talking to Natalie and Natalie enjoys talking to her in Russian but it kind of leaves Ed and I out when we are together.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember whether the group came to any conclusion on this question as to whether Oswald might have been an agent? I don't want you to testify to something that you don't remember but do you remember whether the point was made that Oswald did not appear to have good connections here and he had trouble getting a job and holding a job and he did not appear to be a responsible individual and for these reasons, these reasons would lead you to conclude that he probably was not a Russian agent. Do you remember any conversation along these lines?
Mr. RAY. There could have been because I believe that was discussed and I believe George Bouhe might have said that he was such a nut that the Russians would not want him or something like that.
Mr. LIEBELER. When you say you believe is that that you have a faint recollection to that effect, is that what you mean when you say you believe?
Mr. RAY. I have a faint recollection of discussing that possibility, see.
Mr. LIEBELER. When you say you believe what you are really saying is that it seems likely that this might have been discussed or it is probable that it was discussed but you do not have any firm recollection?
Mr. RAY. No; I do not have any firm recollection about it.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you and your wife have any discussions about the Oswalds after you left Dallas and went back to Blossom or to Detroit prior to the assassination?
Mr. RAY. I am sure we did but at the time of the assassination I had completely forgotten, you know, that the guy even existed but I am sure we talked about it.
Mr. LIEBELER. You don't have any recollection of what your conversation might have been?
Mr. RAY. I know my wife was concerned because they let him back in the country.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did she tell you why she was concerned?
Mr. RAY. Well, she was kind of afraid he might be a Russian spy, that they might have sent him back for something.
Mr. LIEBELER. She expressed that feeling to you?
Mr. RAY. Yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Let's go up to the date of the assassination. Do you recall any conversations with your wife at that time about Oswald's involvement in the assassination or his alleged involvement in the assassination?
Mr. RAY. Well, I was working that day, of course, and by the time I got home it was all on television, you know, and they had captured Oswald and she had seen his picture on television and she told me that was the guy we met at the party. I said "What guy?" She said, "Oh, you know, the guy that married the Russian girl and came back over, you know, brought her back." Well, of course, I remembered that but she sometimes misunderstands things and I thought possibly that she could be mistaken, see. She told me "That's the guy that killed the President. I saw him on television and they said he is the one that killed the President." Well, I still thought perhaps she could be mistaken and so the next morning I had her find these names and addresses of these people and I called this George Bouhe and asked him if that was the guy that we thought it was. He said "Yes, it was" and we had a short conversation and he told me he had been out to get a newspaper and said it was all in the papers and I could read about it. But, at the time I called him he didn't remember me just right quick. I mean a year had gone by, a year or more had gone by or maybe it wasn't quite a year or something like that but I had to tell him who I
was before he remembered me and then of course after he remembered me, well, he told me "Yeah, that's the guy."
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you have any discussion with Bouhe as to whether or not Bouhe thought that Oswald was really guilty or really could have been the man who really did assassinate the President?
Mr. RAY. He said something about that he was trying to figure out how Oswald could have been at that place at that time and another place at another time. He couldn't figure how Oswald could have been at all those places in that short length of time.
Mr. LIEBELER. Would you tell us to the best of your recollection what he said? Can you remember anything more than that? In other words, at this point Bouhe expressed some doubt with the stories?
Mr. RAY. He expressed some doubt that in that way he could not figure how Oswald could have been in the building where the gun was fired and then later killed the policeman so many blocks away. I don't know how many blocks away it was and later apprehended in this----
Mr. LIEBELER. Texas Theatre.
Mr. RAY. Movie theater. He was trying to figure out how he got from place to place in a short length of time. There seemed to be a little doubt in his mind at the time I talked to him.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did he express any doubts as to Oswald's involvement based on his judgment of Oswald's character? Your wife testified and you did, too, to some extent that Bouhe was fed up with Oswald and did not think very much of him, didn't think him very capable or thought he was no account is the term your wife used. Did you have any discussion with Bouhe at this time when you talked to him on the phone?
Mr. RAY. I don't know but there was something said about--now, George was trying to justify himself in his association with Oswald, see. He said something about that the only thing he was guilty of was trying to help the guy; do you know what I mean? He had tried to help the guy when he first came back and he said, "If that's a crime, I'm guilty." I remember that statement.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did he express any concern as to his own safety or did he tell you that he thought he was going to have difficulty because of his previous association with Oswald?
Mr. RAY. No; he didn't say a word about that.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you think his statements about being guilty of trying to help Oswald were just an attempt to justify himself in his own mind?
Mr. RAY. I think so; yes.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you have any subsequent conversation? Have you told us all now you can remember in your telephone conversation with Bouhe?
Mr. RAY. Well, he said it was all in the paper. "You can read it in the paper", said "It's all in there."
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember if he said anything else?
Mr. RAY. I don't know it has been so long ago that I don't right now; I don't remember anything.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you ever talk to Bouhe on the telephone again about that?
Mr. RAY. About this deal?
Mr. LIEBELER. Yes.
Mr. RAY. No; that was the only time.
Mr. LIEBELER. Have you see him at any time?
Mr. RAY. Haven't seen him since then.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you talk to anybody else, or did you talk to anybody else that was at this party about this assassination?
Mr. RAY. Saw the Harrises, Ed Harris and his wife. I haven't--now, that's the only two people we've seen. I think Mrs. Ford wrote Natalie a letter. I don't know what the letter said. I wasn't interested but anyway she had tried to get her on the telephone or something and we did discuss this thing in Georgetown not too long ago. I had a niece to get married down at Kerrville so we had to go down to the wedding and on the way back we stopped and spent a little time at the Harrises and that's---of course, we discussed it then.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you talk with the Harrises about this get-together at Meller's that occurred after the Ford party at which Oswald was discussed?
Mr. RAY. I am sure we did; now, I don't really recall. We discussed the whole durned thing with the Harrises and I am sure that that came into the conversation but right now, I don't remember exactly when and how it came about, you know.
Mr. LIEBELER. Well, during this conversation with the Harrises was there anymore conversation about Oswald's possibility of being a Russian agent?
Mr. RAY. That subject always comes up and I am sure it did then.
Mr. LIEBELER. Can you tell us the best of your recollection what was said about it?
Mr. RAY. No; I cannot because I just don't remember.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you remember whether there was any consensus or agreement as to whether Oswald probably was or probably was not a Russian agent?
Mr. RAY. Well, actually I don't think that the Harrises think he was a Russian agent.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did they tell you that they did not think he was; how did you get that opinion?
Mr. RAY. If they had told me that they thought he was a Russian agent I would have remembered it. Do you know what I mean?
Mr. LIEBELER. Yes; and you don't have any recollection of them ever telling you that they thought he was? (Mr. Davis returns to the hearing.)
Mr. RAY. No, no.
Mr. LIEBELER. Or telling you any reasons why they thought he might be?
Mr. RAY. No.
Mr. LIEBELER. Did you form an opinion of this question as to whether or not he was a Russian agent or might be?
Mr. RAY. Just from what little I know about it and the conversation that we have been over, I think he needed psychiatric treatments or something. think he was just a damn nut like George said. Of course, you know a lot of times that might be the kind of man that they would want, you know, for a Russian agent.
Mr. LIEBELER. That is just----
Mr. RAY. He might have been smarter than we thought or smarter than the people that knew him thought; I don't know.
Mr. LIEBELER. That is just your own thought on it?
Mr. RAY. That is my own thoughts on it, see.
Mr. DAVIS. Have you all--I might inject here have you all gone over the point--did you ever discuss with your wife or the Mellers or any of these other people that it was strange about them being able to come out of Russia so easily? It was strange about him being able to move about in Russia so easily? Was it with all of them the consensus that it was unusual; were they somewhat amazed?
Mr. RAY. I don't know whether they were or not but I was amazed and my wife was, too, that he went over there and left this country and denounced his citizenship and then a couple of years later or longer---how long was he over there? Anyway, they let him----
Mr. DAVIS. Going on 3 years.
Mr. RAY. Come back and bring his wife with him. That looked kind of ridiculous to me.
Mr. LIEBELER. And that question was discussed in your meeting in the Meller's house and subsequently discussed between you and your wife, wasn't it?
Mr. RAY. Yes.
Mr. DAVIS. Let me ask you this: This group at the Ford's place where the Russian-born would tend to get together occasionally, has there been very frequent--I mean, have you and your wife gone---I believe this was the first time?
Mr. RAY. This was the first time we ever.
Mr. DAVIS. Did they mention about this having happened fairly frequently before? Do you know how often they had been meeting in Dallas?
Mr. RAY. It seems like now they kind of get together, you know, somewhere around New Year's--Christmas or New Year's; something like an annual affair for them to get together.
Mr. DAVIS. Did you know--were there any others in this group or did you
have any occasion to hear from any others that had a similar story like the Oswalds where they had found it that easy to go and come or go out of Russia?
Mr. RAY. No, no; see, most of these people are, the way I get it, were Russian descent or else they were like they had married a Russian over there or something of that nature, you see. I mean it wasn't everybody there wasn't Russian but there was some Russian connection with most of them.
Mr. LIEBELER. But you heard of no other examples where people had come out of Russia as easily as Oswald had; is that correct?
Mr. RAY. No.
Mr. LIEBELER. You know or did you hear of it?
Mr. RAY. I did not hear.
Mr. DAVIS. Has your wife or you or have you all heard of anyone since the time he came out where it has been easier for people to come and go? I believe your wife mentioned she thought it would be easier to contact her niece if conditions were easing up to that degree. Has this proved to be?
Mr. RAY. I don't know; 2 or 3 years ago she tried to call her niece on the telephone and tried 2 or 3 days and finally made the connection and the niece said, "Hello," and the line was out like that and she finally gave up.
Mr. DAVIS. In other words, to your knowledge you have seen no evidence it has been made easier to communicate back and forth?
Mr. RAY. No; fact of the business, my wife's mother had been dead a couple years before we even knew it.
Mr. DAVIS. How long has this been you received that information?
Mr. RAY. I think she died in 1953; I know it was a couple years gone by when my wife found out about it.
Mr. LIEBELER. Was your wife's mother living in Stalingrad when she died, do you know?
Mr. Ray. I don't know. She was, I believe, in Arzamas; I am not sure that's where she died but that's near Stalingrad, some place near Stalingrad and that's where at least part of my wife's upbringing, you know, took place, in Arzamas.
Mr. LIEBELER. Do you think now that you have told us about all you know or all you remember about your contact with Oswald and the discussion that you had about him? If there is anything you want to add at this point, go right ahead.
Mr. RAY. I think we pretty well covered it. I hope you have.
Mr. LIEBELER. We want to thank you very much, Mr. Ray, for coming down here and I think you have been helpful and I appreciate it very much.
Mr. RAY. Well, like I said before, I went to the FBI voluntarily with what information that I had. Frankly, I didn't know anything about the guy except what I have told you but I did have the names and addresses of some of these people that knew him and that's why I went to the FBI, because of that. They might contact these people and find out more about it.
Mr. LIEBELER. I think they have talked to most of them.
Mr. RAY. I am sure they have.
Mr. LIEBELER. Thank you very much.