Ike Pappas, a longtime CBS newsman who was a few feet from presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald when he was fatally shot and reported the chaotic scene live on the air, died Sunday in Arlington, Va. of complications from heart disease. He was 75.
Pappas, who also covered major events like the Vietnam War and anti-war demonstrations at home.
A New York City native, Pappas was in Dallas after John F. Kennedy’s Nov. 22, 1963, assassination, reporting for New York radio station WNEW, when police brought the manacled Oswald into the police station basement two days later to be transferred to the jail.
He had just asked the suspect, “You have anything to say in your defense?” when someone shoved Pappas, a gunshot sounded and Oswald crumpled, mortally wounded.
“There’s a shot! Oswald has been shot! Oswald has been shot!” Pappas said on the air. “A shot rang out. Mass confusion here, all the doors have been locked. Holy mackerel!”
“One of the wildest scenes I’ve ever seen,” he said seconds later.
The person who had elbowed Pappas aside turned out to be Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who was convicted of killing Oswald. Pappas told the story in testimony at Ruby’s trial and later to the Warren Commission that investigated the Kennedy assassination.
Pappas joined CBS News as a radio writer in 1964 and became a network correspondent in 1967. Besides the Vietnam War, he covered the 1967 Six Day War in Israel, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, the Kent State shootings in 1970, and coups in Greece, Bolivia and Chile.
Based in Washington, he was assigned to cover the Pentagon, the CIA, labor and other beats. One of 200 CBS News employees laid off by the network in 1987, he formed his own video production company, known as Ike Inc., writing and producing TV documentaries for PBS and other outlets.
In 1988 he made his film debut, portaying a reporter in the Paul Mazursky-directed comedy “Moon Over Parador” that starred Richard Dreyfuss.
He is survived by his wife, Carolyn, two sons, a daughter and two grandchildren.