Old courthouse, jail a fading bit of Dallas lore

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She was helping the judge organize a mock trial of Oswald. They thought a great place for it would be the courtroom where Ruby was tried.

That was until Bursing walked into the room.

False walls and drop ceilings have been added. Water had damaged the courtroom’s decorative plaster. The floor is peeling. The Ruby-era furniture is gone.

Mothballed after Ruby’s trial, the courtroom now serves as storage space.

“I was just astounded,” said Bursing, now an attorney with Sawicki & Lauten.

There were plans in the 1980s to refurbish the Ruby courtroom along with its twin across the hall.

But there was only enough money - $222,000 - to renovate one courtroom. Officials picked the other one. There were never-materialized plans to raise private money for the Ruby courtroom.

Why would the county choose the less historically significant courtroom? One clue comes from notes of the county historical commission, which was proposing at the time a historical marker for the criminal courts building.

Early drafts didn’t even mention Ruby.

After discussions with the Texas Historical Commission, mention of Ruby was added to the marker’s text. But a handwritten note, labeled the “Jack Ruby Problem,” suggests that the Dallas group wasn’t thrilled.

“The Old City Hall marker inscription confronts the issue head on and publicly,” the unidentified author wrote, referring to the building where Ruby shot Oswald. “Doesn’t this sufficiently fulfill our obligation to history?”

Bursing, who grew up in North Texas, said, “It seems like Dallas reacted to the assassination by shutting it off.”

She has adopted the Ruby courtroom as a side project, persuading the county to include the courtroom in a broader space-utilization study.

And she helped organize a visit last year from staff members of the Texas Historical Commission, who were amazed at how many elements in and around the room were still intact, including murals that probably date back to the 1920s.

Bursing would like to see the room restored and turned back into a working courtroom.

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