Maurice Neal "Nick" McDonald (1928–2005)
Maurice Neal “Nick” McDonald was a patrolman for the Dallas Police Department who achieved international renown for arresting Lee Harvey Oswald shortly after the murder of John F. Kennedy.
Nick McDonald was born on March 21, 1928, in Camden (Ouachita County), the second of three sons born to Beulah Lee Womack McDonald and Thomas “Bid” McDonald, a laborer in the southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana oil industry. After McDonald’s younger brother died, his parents divorced, and his mother moved to Maine; McDonald remained in Arkansas with his grandparents, Charles Womack, a local businessman, and his wife, Laura. While attending Camden High School, McDonald was given the moniker “Nick,” and, with his grandmother’s reluctant permission, he joined the U.S. Navy at age seventeen. Six months later, Seaman First Class McDonald was exposed to the palpable radiation of atomic bomb experiments at Bikini Atoll. When his two-year stint in the navy ended, he was awarded medals for his service. He resumed his formal education in Camden and attended Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County).
McDonald enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on December 29, 1950, the same day he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy Reserve. He was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, when he married Nevada County native Sally Lou Plyler on February 15, 1951. He was transferred to Rockville, Indiana, where his daughters, Vicki Lee and Michelle Ann, were born. He was honorably discharged as staff sergeant in 1954.
In 1955, the McDonalds relocated to Dallas, Texas, where McDonald was hired as a patrolman for the Dallas Police Department. His capture and arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas Theatre on November 22, 1963, catapulted the McDonald family into the national press. During the arrest, Oswald, who was wanted then for the murder of Officer J. D. Tippit, attempted to kill McDonald at point-blank range, but the officer managed to overcome Oswald.
The following day, McDonald became “an ordinary cop” again, arresting two kids for stealing hubcaps. For valor in his timely capture of Oswald, McDonald was promoted to the special services bureau and then assigned to the Secret Service protection of Oswald’s widow, Marina, and her two small children.
After his wife died in 1976, he became supervisor of the Dallas Police communications department for routine and emergency calls. In 1978, he married Rose Daisy Brown, a dispatcher from his department. Retiring as sergeant after twenty-five years of service, he moved to Hot Springs (Garland County) with his wife in 1980.
His wife encouraged him to write down his experiences with the Kennedy assassination and “not make it sound like a police report.” His ninety-one-page text titled Oswald and I was registered in the U.S. Copyright Office on October 27, 1993. He later expanded his text with commentary, photographs, press releases, declassified police documents, and additional research. He completed the work, approximately 400 pages, shortly before his death on January 27, 2005. His obituary ran in newspapers and magazines around the world.
The book version of Oswald and I was published in 2013. The City of Hot Springs proclaimed November 22, 2013, as “Nick McDonald Day.”
August, Melissa,et al. “Notebook: Milestones.” Time (February 7, 2005): 32.
Ewell, James. “He Doubts She Knew: Marina’s Guard Seized Husband.” Dallas Morning News, March 8, 1964, p. 12A.
McDonald, Maurice N. “Nick.” Oswald and I. Malvern, AR: RMSW Press, 2013.
Obituary of Nick McDonald. New York Times, January 28, 2005. Online at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A01E2DE143BF93BA15752C0A9639C8B63 (accessed October 13, 2021).
Robbins, Liz. “Ask Liz.” Hot Springs On the Go! (November/December 2013): 8–9.
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
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I met Mr. McDonald one time in Hot Springs in about 1987 in the security office of Doug and Gary Harp, retired Arkansas highway patrolmen. Upon meeting Nick, I found him to be quite modest about his notoriety, although he was very open to the questions I had about the whole ordeal in Dallas. I was captivated by the story as it unfolded from his perspective and the detail he was kind enough to include. I was most intrigued by the rest of the story, being his involvement with Mrs. Oswald and her daughters, as he and his wife had gone on to be lifelong friends of her family.
At the time, the conspiracy theories were rampant and becoming bigger and more involved by the minute. After hearing the story from Nick’s perspective, I asked him the obvious question, Did he think Oswald acted alone? Without hesitation he replied, No doubt, yes!
After some additional questions, I was convinced he was right. I think as time has gone on, the evidence has suggested more and more this conclusion.
My encounter with Mr. McDonald lasted about an hour. I was quite taken with my brush with history, even more so that Nick was as open with me about the whole ordeal, a perfect stranger. When he left, I asked Gary about why he was so willing to go into so much detail about the story that day in Dallas. Gary looked at me and hesitated, and said, “You didn’t have a camera and you weren’t writing anything down or taking any notes.” I really appreciated Nick taking the time to talk with me that day. I have told that story to many people. Though I did not take any notes or record anything, I remember word for word what he told me. Thanks, Nick!