The tomb of Robert E. Lee Oswald, father of Lee Harvey Oswald
One of the most unique and fascinating of the New Orleans walking tours is the JFK/Oswald Conspiracy Theory Tour, in which we examine the intriguing connection of Lee Harvey Oswald to his home city of New Orleans.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin in the 1963 slaying of President John F. Kennedy, was only 24 years old when he was killed by Jack Ruby in Dallas. But his short life was remarkably full of extraordinary circumstances, mysteries, turnabouts, and tragedies.
It has been said that Oswald’s troubles began two months before his birth in 1939, when his father, Robert E. Lee Oswald, died of a sudden heart attack, leaving his wife, Marguerite, with two small boys and a baby on the way.
Robert E. Lee Oswald Sr., named because of his distant relationship with the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, was a World War I veteran and insurance premium collector with a home at 2109 Alvar Street (lost during the post-Katrina flooding in 2005). He was married to the former Marguerite Claverie, also from New Orleans. It was a second marriage for both.
When Robert died, the family was plunged into poverty. Lee and his older brothers were often sent to orphanages, children’s homes, and boarding schools. Marguerite married and divorced again and moved Lee 22 times before he joined the Marines days after his 17th birthday.
Lee’s brother Robert Jr. said in an interview:
What Lee missed from his childhood in comparison to me was the whole family being together all the time. The continuity there, the lack of stability, I think, entered into that to a large degree. But you go back to the death of Dad two months before he was born, that’s a tremendous impact.
And, in another interview:
Lee had none, absolutely none, unfortunately, of Dad’s guidance and discipline, that John [Pic, Robert and Lee’s older half-brother] and I did. I mean I had 5½ years and that made a lot of difference. Very early on, he’d learned that he wasn’t wanted. We weren’t wanted. Mother was always alienating herself from us. John and I were in three different orphan homes. Lee was in one. And he was placed in one when he was just barely 3 years old, one day after Christmas.
Robert E. Lee Oswald, Sr. was laid to rest in Cypress Grove Cemetery in a coping tomb and given the VA-issued headstone available to veterans. And his family was never the same.
Cypress Grove Cemetery can be reached by taking the Canal Street Cemeteries streetcar to the very last stop. Robert E. Lee Oswald’s tomb is in the rear of the cemetery, to the right. It is plot #934 Marigold, between Jessamine and Rose.
Learn more about the cemeteries of New Orleans on Lucky Bean Tours’ St. Louis Cemetery #1 Tour. Learn about the Oswald New Orleans connection on David Feldman’s fascinating JFK/Oswald Conspiracy Theory Tour.