Gene Chennault

Gene Chennault, left, stands in Heritage Plaza with the former Mesquite Mayor John Monaco. 

Gene Chennault was born on November 14, 1927 in Houston Texas. He served in the occupying forces in Munich after the Second World War. After returning home, he began working for the Dallas County Sheriff’s office where met Jack Ruby and earned officer of the year twice. Chennault is a current resident of Mesquite where he has helped the American Legion Post 504. 

How did you get to Dallas?

I was born in Houston, Texas November 14, 1927. After six months, my family moved to Dallas. From there, I went to several different elementary schools. The first school was at Letot, Texas. My father and uncle ran a dairy farm, Clark and Johnson on Greenville Avenue. At that time, I was six and in the first grade. We had a lot of cows. We used to ride them, me and my cousin. His name was Billy Glen. We stayed on the farm for a year, then there came a big flood that flooded the area around where the farm was. We moved to Vickery, Texas. We stayed there for approximately a year, and then moved to Dallas. I went to another elementary school, Oran M Roberts. I stayed there for a while then moved to Gaston Avenue. I went to William Lipscomb elementary then. My dad bought a place on Ferguson road -- a two-acre plot and a house. I went to Bayles Elementary School for one year. Then we moved to Dallas after we lost the house. We moved on Roscoe Avenue. I graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1947. 

What was your experience in the military?

After graduation, I went into the naval reserve for a year. I went to sea there for a while. I went to Cuba and different places. I came back and joined the army air force in 1948. After graduating from the school there, Blackland, I went to Williams Airbase in Arizona. There, we were taught mechanics and so forth. While there, we had flight cadet by the name of Doc Blanchard. He used to play for the army. All the other teams we played football with -- the camps had teams -- they cancelled on us because they thought he was going to play. From there I went to the Las Vegas airbase. I met Benny Binion. My stepdad knew him and told me to look him up in Las Vegas. I looked him up at one of the casinos. He had two girls on each side of him. I told him who I was, and he said 'let me have your hat'. He filled it full of chips and said don't spend it all here. That was pretty nice of him. I stayed there for a while then got shipped overseas on general patch. It took us 28 days. I think everyone got sea sick because they weren't used to a big ship like that. So, we land in Bremerhaven in Germany. I stayed there for approximately three days. Then we went to Neubiberg, that's in Munich Germany. I was stationed there. The colonel there at the time was John S Chennault. My squadron commander was Jack Chennault. They were brothers. They were Clair Chennault's boys. Clair Chennault was over the flying tigers. That's also where I met Colonel Scott. He's the author of God is my copilot. He wore a white scarf and everything. He was all dressed up. He flew p-51s. I got to learn how to be a crew chief on a c-47. Sometimes, we would go to Berlin, and we got to see Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell and some other writers. Another time it was country and western musicians. We met in the hangar. There were several officers sitting in the hangar. Roy Acuff got up and was half drunk. He told the officers to get up and let the enlisted men have a seat because they were the ones he was there to entertain. The officers got kind of mad about that, but they got up. I spent three years over there going to Paris, London, Ireland, Greece, Africa, Tripoli, Rome, you name it. I made just about every one of them. 

I came back, and I didn't do anything for a couple of years.

After serving, how did you come to work for the sheriff’s office? 

I went to work for the Sheriff's office in 1956. I was the patrol there for 10 years. I was there when Kennedy got killed. I sat with Jack Ruby's son. He said he had a gold watch up in his private room, and if I gave him $50, he would give that watch to me. I knew that was wrong and they would probably fire me, so I didn't take it. I don't know if he had a gold watch up there or not. I got officer of the year in 1966, and then the sheriff called me in. He said 'I'm either going to fire you or promote you,' He promoted me to sergeant and warrants. I worked with Bob McKnight. We were working on a case where three deputies got killed on the Trinity River in 1971. We had an informant that told us he sold two Hispanics dope who killed the deputies for their guns. We got him in the car and kind of threatened him. He told us he threw them in the Trinity River off US 75. We sent city divers down there to look for them, and they could never come up with the guns. We found out they were hiding out on San Jacinto Street, so the city backed us up. There were six of us who went into this house. They started shooting at us from the inside. A Mexican got shot. We finally got the other two out of the house, the ones who killed the officers, and we took them to jail. We went on, and Clarence Jones took over and assigned me to criminal investigations. I also made officer of the year for clearing the most homicides in 1975. I did that until Carl Thomas came in and demoted all of the people who voted democrat in 1977. I worked as a jailer. I had never been a jailer before, but I had to learn. We had a case tried in federal court. We won our back pay and everything, but we didn't get our titles. 

How did you meet Jack Ruby?

I met Jack Ruby around 1954 or 1955. I went to the Paris Cave on Main Street. It was downstairs. Jack Ruby and the manager of the place were talking. They had a guy that was pretty drunk. He was lying down on the table. The manager said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do with that guy. I can't get him up' Jack Ruby said he'd take care of it. He went over and had him by the ankles and dragged him upstairs to put him outside. That's the first time I met Jack Ruby. I’ve seen him a couple times and messed around with him some.

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