The Enigma of Ruth and Michael Paine

by John Kelin


Researcher Nancy Wertz began her presentation on Ruth and Michael Paine by mentioning a program that aired on Public Television called Connections. This program, she said, explored the premise that "seemingly random and innocuous or irrelevant information sometimes does form a pattern. It simply becomes a case of the sum of the whole equaling much more than individual components."

A case in point, she said, was what she called the "high seas antics" of eighteenth and nineteenth century pirates leading to the creation of international law, leading to shorthand as a universal language, and the evolution of phonetics as a learning tool. Fascinating as such a seemingly random connections of data might be, Wertz said, "I believe that we in the research communty were onto grouping and analyzing casual and coincidental events long before they conceived the idea for this PBS series."

Wertz said that Dallas in 1963 was a sort of cornucopia of seemingly random connections. "After meandering through the miles of documentation in this case, I've finally come to two main conclusions." She explained these with a straight face, but I'm not certain she was entirely serious. "First, in 1963, I believe there were only eight employers in the entire Dallas-Fort Worth area: the Dallas Police Department, Bell Helicopter, the Carousel Club, organized crime, the Texas School Book Depository, the petroleum industry, and Federal government agencies."

To illustrate some connections here, she went on: "Harry Olsen worked for the Dallas Police Department ... Kay Coleman dated Olsen, and worked at the Carousel Club, and therefore knew Jack Ruby. Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, who worked at the Texas School Book Depository, Lee Harvey Oswald spent some weekend at the home of Ruth and Michael Paine, and we all know that Michael Paine worked for Bell Helicopter. That only took four to make connections, and we could probably make six of the places if we assume Ruby's gun running connections, and Bell Helicopter's need for secret security clearance levels."

Her second main conclusion, she said, is that there were only three places to live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1963. "Ruby's apartment building area on Ewing --- it's just a hotbed of activity, all the way down to the public telephone on the street. Ruth Paine's Fifth Street area in Irving is also a central location. The other is anywhere Lee Harvey Oswald happened to live. As David Lifton said ... he moved ten times within an eighteen month period."

Two members of a jazz combo who played at the Carousel Club, she said, lived across the street from Ruth Paine in Irving. But Wertz pointed out that connections, or presumed ones, don't always mean something. "In 1963 Ruth Paine lived on Fifth Street in Irving. Today, she lives on Fifth Street in Tampa, and I don't think this neessarily means anything." This got a pretty good chuckle going through the room.

The Paines are "two very unusual and multi-dimensional personalities, and mired in many facets of assassiantion research," Wertz said. As she wrote in a blurb appearing in the Conference program:

Michael and Ruth Paine have long fascinated researchers and investigators alike since they were first thrust into international prominence on the afternoon of November 22, 1963. While Marina Oswald quickly distanced herself from the couple who had provided room, board and a safe haven from her husband, attention continued to focus on the Paines behind the scenes. As Ruth Paine struggled to deal with her seemingly unique place in history, her actions and words continued to diffuse and intensify the situation simultaneously.

Ruth Paine swiftly became the Warren Commission's darling witness, second only to Marina Oswald in providing the necessary incriminating evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole gunman. The Warren Commission utilized Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole gunman. The Warren Commission utilized the FBI to conduct excruciatingly detailed investigation into the Paines' backgrounds, families, politics, finances and personal associations. Internal FBI memoranda illustrate the urgency of the scrutiny they avidly pursued. Amazingly, the HSCA investigation allowed her to completely slip through their collective fingers in the late 1970s.

"In recent years, some intensive examination of their backgrounds and behavior have begun," Wertz said. "Many dichotemies exist in their lives. They have not all been resolved, even three decades later."

Religion and Intelligence sometimes intertwine in their family activities, Wertz said, adding that they don't always seem to have lived up to principles they seemed to espouse:

"There is much more to learn and know" about Ruth and Michael Paine, Wertz said.

Both Paines were raised in families "immune to monetary hardships, yet were instilled with a strong sense of social responsibility to their beliefs." But a key question, Wertz continued, is What were those beliefs?

The FBI wondered the same thing, for two basic reasons: 1) The Paines were the closest friends of the Oswalds in Dallas, and 2) Michael Paine's father was on the "security index subject list" for political activities. The FBI called their investigation of the Paines a "high priority" of their overall casework, according to Wertz. Moreover, the Warren Commission considered, early on, conducting their own probe of the Paines --- meaning one apart from the FBI's. Apparently this never happened.

FBI Headquarters struggled to maintain control of the Paine investigation over its Field Offices and the Warren Commission. All told, some 3,500 pages of documentation were compiled on the Paines. What did it all accomplish?

Wertz believes the FBI's findings fall into eight main categories. "One was their friends --- tracing the social contacts they made in both their hometowns and the Dallas-Irving area ...number two, their educational background --- they reviewed nearly every class they ever took. Can you imagine nearly all your grades going into a public record, for generations to see?" Wertz said with an amiable laugh. "Number three, their religious affiliations and activities ... number four, their family histories ... number five, they investigated their finances. Michael was the beneficiary of several trust funds, and secured a monthly income from them ... number six, Ruth's summer 1963 trip across the United States to visit family and friends, attend Civil Rights activities in Washington, DC, and seek moral support for her marital difficulties, and approval of her association with the Oswalds and her planned rescue of Marina. A seventh area was Noshen [?] Island, which was the summer home of the Youngs, which was analyzed in excruciating detail. The eighth and final area, I feel, is the alleged pro-Communist statements made by the Youngs in 1950 at a social gathering.

"Nearly every document in the Archives associated with them falls into one of these categories. But the majority of the interviews and investigations conducted by the Field Offices searched out school and religious associations of Ruth Paine." These were mostly people in her past, and not those associated with the Oswalds, Wertz said.

The image of Ruth Paine these people provided was that of a thoroughly nice person, idealistic, charitable, generous, sensitive --- "I mean, you start to feel like you're reading about Mother Theresa here," Wertz said. Yet Ruth Paine was not a typical early 60s suburban housewife, according to the researcher. She was physically impressive, intellectually above average, intensely interested in the Russian language, and an independent woman who could handle finances.

Robert Oswald immediately distrusted her when he met her on the evening of the assassinaton. He encouraged Marina, successfully, to sever all ties with Ruth Paine.

"People have questioned the role she played in the investigation, and rightly so," said Wertz. "If Lee Harvey Oswald was influenced by [the TV show] 'I Led Three Lives,' I have wondered if Ruth Paine might have been influenced somewhat by Nancy Drew," a fictional teenage sleuth popular in a string of novels aimed at adolescents. She annoyed J. Edgar Hoover with her frankness and attention to detail, Wertz said, and flirted with the press after being thrust into the national spotlight. After certain comments she made to the press complaining about leaks of her Warren Commission testimony, Hoover fired off a memo to the Dallas Field Office urging them to reprimand her immediately. "The language that's in that memo sounds so much like the reprimands to the Field Offices for an FBI employee," Wertz observed, "that it makes me start to wonder what her real connection was." This, she said, is an area needing further exploration.

Most of those who knew Ruth Paine expressed no surprise in her altrusism toward the Oswald family. To the casual student, she seemed sincerely interested in helping those less fortunate. Few seemed touestion the extraordinary effort Ruth Paine made to keep in touch with Marina --- and thus Lee --- from February through November, 1963.

Most evidence does suggest they all met at the home of Everett Glover. However, one close friend, Wilbur Stratton, somehow got the idea she had placed a newspaper ad seeking someone with whom she could converse in Russian. "There was no followup on that portion of the FBI interview."

From the time they met, Ruth Paine was the only consistent presence in Marina's life outside of Lee. Oswald himself was willing to have Ruth take care of Marina when he was ready to move on. But with Ruth so willing to be at the Oswald's beck and call, Wertz wondered, "It's hard to distinguish when Lee was using Ruth, and potentially vice-versa." Ruth showed more concern for Marina's pregnancy than Lee did, according to Wertz, giving blood at Parkland, filling out forms, and driving Marina to the hospital when she was ready to give birth. She sat up with Marina, and later awaited the call that Marina had delivered a healthy baby girl.

Ruth Paine was cut off from Marina within twenty-four hours of the assassination. With years of hindsight, Ruth has speculated there were two reasons for this: Marina felt guilty for having lied about Lee's rifle kept in the Paine garage, and Ruth was a reminder of a very dark period of Marina's life.

To begin to understand the Paines, it is necessary to reconstruct the initial investigation on them, their interaction with the FBI and other government investigative agencies. Ruth's lengthy Warren Commission testimony and subsequent correspondence with Rankin about changes she wanted made illustrate her attention to detail in attempting to explain her version of consequential events. Ruth was further questioned when appearing at the Garrison trial yet her key witness status was completely abandoned by the HSCA a decade later. Later, Ruth was involved in the mock TV trial in the mid 1980s, worked in the Pro-Nica organization and surprisingly slipped again into the shadows. Exploration of her background continues with the release of documents in the great paper chase that perseveres to this day. Along the way, some interesting twists of circumstances will be shared.

"In later years," Wertz said, "Ruth has denied reading assassination research literature, yet she seems to know the latest investigative trends."

The Paine marriage, Wertz told the audience at the Lancer conference, was over by 1971. Ruth went back to Philadelphia, and taught at a Quaker school there. She went back to school herself, and in June of 1981 received a Master's degree in school psychology from the University of Southern Florida at Tampa.


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