A neighborly ride for Lee Harvey Oswald and 50 years of anguish

DALLAS (Reuters) - The Friday morning of November 22, 1963, started as a typical day for Buell Frazier - except that the man he was driving to work would later assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

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Frazier arrived at the Texas School Book Depository in downtown Dallas and went about his job of filling orders.

His co-worker Lee Harvey Oswald, meanwhile, was planning to assassinate Kennedy when the president’s motorcade passed by the building.

“I worked with him and gave him rides,” Frazier told Reuters ahead of the 50th anniversary of the assassination. “We weren’t friends.”

Frazier lived in the suburb of Irving, near Oswald’s wife and daughter, and about 15 miles from his job.

Usually Oswald, who on weekdays lived in a Dallas apartment by himself, would ride to work with Frazier on Mondays, after he visited his family over the weekend.

“I was a little surprised when he told me on that Thursday evening that he wanted a ride,” Frazier said.

That morning, Oswald placed a long package wrapped in brown paper in the back seat, and the two rode mostly in silence.

Frazier asked what was in the package.

“Curtain rods,” Oswald replied.

Frazier, then 19, said he had taken Oswald’s word for it. He then watched Oswald walk into work with the package under his arm.

The specially appointed presidential investigation team known as the Warren Commission determined that Oswald had brought a rifle into the building and its brown paper wrapping was found near the sixth floor window from which he fired at Kennedy.

Frazier was interrogated by police and testified before the Warren Commission that he had thought the package was too small to be a rifle.

Frazier said notoriety from that commute 50 years ago had haunted him and made it difficult to keep a steady job.

“I’ve tried to move on, but people don’t want to forget,” he said. “If I had to do it over again, I would have stayed 1,000 miles away from Dallas that day.”

Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Von Ahn