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by David Montgomery
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AUSTIN, Tex. — Hours after his younger brother Lee Harvey Oswald, the presidential assassin, was gunned down in the basement of the Dallas police station, Robert Oswald wrote a $710 cashier’s check to a Fort Worth funeral home as he made arrangements for his brother’s burial.
The purchase included a No. 31 Pine Bluff coffin and vault, a dark suit and flowers. More than five decades later, the simple pine coffin — now badly deteriorating — is at the heart of an unlikely epilogue to the tragedy that gripped the nation on Nov. 22, 1963.
Three days after he assassinated President Kennedy from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, and a day after he himself was shot and killed by the nightclub owner Jack Ruby, Mr. Oswald was laid to rest in a Fort Worth cemetery in a service so poorly attended that reporters were used as pallbearers.
The coffin was exhumed in 1981 to dispel conspiracy theories including assertions that the body inside may have been that of a Soviet impostor. Mr. Oswald, his identity confirmed by medical tests, was reburied in a new coffin, and the original was stored for years in Baumgardner Funeral Home in Fort Worth.
Now, a little more than a year since the nation observed the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, the latest chapter in the unfinished tale of Mr. Oswald’s original coffin is playing out in a Fort Worth court.