- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

DALLAS | The window in the former Texas School Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy is perhaps the most famous window in America, photographed by thousands of tourists every year.

But the frame from the sixth-floor window overlooking Dealey Plaza was removed years ago, its fate uncertain. Now, a long-running argument between two men who both claim to own the window frame is about to be settled in court.

It’s an obscure argument, of little interest to visitors like the group of Japanese teenagers who aimed their cameras through a rain shower at the infamous corner window last week.

“It’s right up there, that corner window,” one said excitedly.

But the court ruling, expected next month, could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to whoever is declared the owner of the original window frame; one abortive bid to sell it drew an offer of almost $3 million.

One of the claimants is Caruth Byrd, 67, of Van, Texas, the son of Texas oilman, D. Harold Byrd, who owned the book building at the time of the assassination. He says his father removed the window frame a few weeks after the 1963 assassination because vandals were chipping away at it.

“The family knew it was an important piece of history, and he wanted to protect it,” said Mr. Byrd.

He said he inherited the window frame from his father’s estate in 1986.

After allowing his window frame to be displayed at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza for more than a decade, Mr. Byrd two years ago put it up for sale on eBay. One bidder offered about $3 million but then could not come up with the cash.

That brought an immediate response from Aubrey Mayhew, who said Mr. Byrd’s window frame was not the historic one.

“I had that window removed in 1970 and have had it stored ever since,” said Mr. Mayhew, 81, of Nashville, Tenn.

Mr. Mayhew, a collector of Kennedy memorabilia and well-known music producer, bought the building from the elder Mr. Byrd in 1970 and owned it for almost three years. He originally planned to open a museum there but was stymied by Dallas leaders, who at the time wanted to play down the city’s role in the tragedy. When Mr. Mayhew was denied the necessary permits to build his museum, he lost the building to foreclosure.

In 2007, stung by Mr. Mayhew’s claim that the Byrd window frame was a fake, Mr. Byrd filed suit in Dallas. Mr. Byrd’s lawsuit says Mr. Mayhew’s claims had hurt the value of his window frame.

Mr. Byrd wants to be declared the legal owner of the School Book Depository’s sixth-floor window. After several postponements in the past two years, the dispute is set to be tried here April 15.

However, a third man - Ferris Rookstool of Dallas, a former FBI employee who also is a collector of Kennedy memorabilia - says he owns the frame. Several years ago, when Dallas officials replaced the window frames in the former depository building, he said, he got permission to remove all of them.

He said that he has stored 40 to 50 windows for several years and that “it’s probably one of them.” He is not part of the lawsuit being tried.

The Sixth Floor Museum has refused to take sides.

The Texas School Book Depository Building now houses the Dallas County Commissioners Court, the elected officials who oversee county functions, including hospital operations, the sheriff’s department, the district attorney’s realm, and parks and road upkeep.

The sixth and seventh floors have become the museum that houses historic records and memorabilia of that weekend.

Millions of people have visited. They pose in front of the “grassy knoll” - that elevated area made famous by conspiracy theorists - then they usually line up in front of the former book storage building and aim their cameras upward at an angle.

“That’s the window,” said Chihiro Tanaka, a Japanese tourist. She snapped again and again, then exchanged places with one of her friends so she could be in the picture.

The parade of tourists never stops. Generations change, but the ritual does not.



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