Bob Schieffer Rode to Dallas with Lee Harvey Oswald's 'Deranged' Mother

The newsman gave the assassin's mother a ride.

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Moderator Bob Schieffer smiles at the start of a presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Oct. 15, 2008.
As a fledging reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bob Schieffer took a car trip with the mother of JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

It's the kind of bizzaro story that would get plenty of link love online today, but when CBS News' Bob Schieffer -- then a newspaper reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram -- shared a ride to Dallas with Lee Harvey Oswald's mother, Marguerite, directly after President Kennedy's assassination, it didn't even get top billing. "They didn't put my story on the front page," Schieffer recalled to Whispers.

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Schieffer recently wrote about his experience with Mrs. Oswald for an issue of AARP magazine, explaining that she rang the newspaper to try and get a ride from Fort Worth to Dallas, as the president was being pronounced dead and her son was being named the chief suspect. "Lady, we're not running a taxi service," Schieffer said at the time, according to his article, only to hear that he was speaking to the alleged shooter's mother.

Grabbing a colleague with a car, Schieffer rode to Dallas with Marguerite Oswald, nabbing the first interview with her in the backseat, but getting shooed away by police before getting the chance to interview her son, Lee Harvey.

"She was one of the most peculiar people I have ever encountered," Schieffer told Whispers. "I mean the president had not been dead two hours and on that ride she immediately began to talk about how no one would feel sorry for her, everybody would give money to [Lee Harvey Oswald's] wife and she would starve to death," Schieffer continued, explaining how Oswald's mother was "completely and totally obsessed" with money.

A lot of her ramblings Schieffer kept out of his original story, a decision he partially regrets looking back 50 years. "On reflection, I realize I should have [included those quotes] because it would have given us a much better picture, early on, of who Lee Harvey Oswald really was and where he had come from," Schieffer said.

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As for his own opinion on the matter, Schieffer compared Lee Harvey Oswald to James Holmes, the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooter. "This guy was a loser, he had never been a success at anything...he thought he would have a place in history," Schieffer said of Oswald. Schieffer's view of mother Oswald wasn't much different. "I think she was just simply deranged," he said.

From that day forward, even though Schieffer never saw Marguerite Oswald again in the flesh, their stories were linked.

For Schieffer, the piece he wrote made him $110, when Newsweek and Time offered to pay him for his quotes. "One of them paid me $60 and one of them paid me $50 -- I can't remember which was which -- but that was the first time I ever sold anything to a national publication," he recalled, adding that it was "big money" since he only made $115 a week. "I guess that it made me a little more well known at the newspaper," he added. (TV would come calling later, after Schieffer returned from reporting for the newspaper in Vietnam.)

As for Marguerite Oswald, as Schieffer's profile rose, she continued to reach out to him. Each time she asked for money in exchange for an interview. "And, of course, she had no new information," Schieffer said. "She kind of lived out her life selling [Oswald's] clothes to souvenir hunters and things like that," Schieffer said of the woman, who died in 1981.

On Nov. 22, the assassination will have happened 50 years ago. To Schieffer it could have happened yesterday and it still feels surreal. "Sometimes I say in my mind, 'did that really happen?' But it did, you know?" Schieffer said. "And I wrote a story about it and I have that story framed on my wall in my office right now that I wrote that day."

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