TexasEscapes.com 
HOME : : NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : BUILDINGS : : IMAGES : : ARCHIVE : : SITE MAP
PEOPLE : : PLACES : : THINGS : : HOTELS : : VACATION PACKAGES
Texas Escapes
Online Magazine
Texas Towns by Region
  • Texas Hill Country
  • Central Texas North
  • Central Texas South
  • South Texas
  • East Texas
  • West Texas
  • Texas Panhandle
  • Texas Gulf Coast
    Texas Towns A - Z
    Over 2800 Towns

    Texas Ghost Towns
    Over 700 Ghost Towns

    Book Hotels
  • Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

    The Deadly Tower

    by Murray Montgomery
    Murray Montgomery
    One of the saddest days in Texas history occurred August 1, 1966.

    On that day a crazed man started firing from the observation deck at the University of Texas tower — picking random human targets on the ground and hitting them with deadly accuracy.

    He hit 48 people within a span of 96 minutes. According to newspaper reports, from 1966, 15 were killed; he murdered his wife and mother before he started shooting from the tower.

    The following article tragedy appeared in The Gonzales Inquirer on August 2, 1966; excerpts from that story are the subject of this edition of Lone Star Diary.


    The Gonzales Inquirer August 2, 1966
    [Headline: Worst Rampage in U.S. History]

    AUSTIN, Tex. (UPI) — A crazed student went on an 80-minute campus rampage with an armful of weapons Monday in the worst mass killing in U.S. history. He killed 15 persons, including his mother and his wife, and gunned down 30 others before a shaken off-duty policeman shot him dead atop the 27-story University of Texas tower.

    Charles J. Whitman, a 24 year-old architectural engineering student who once rejected psychiatric help, climbed to a ledge near the top of the 307-foot tower and calmly stalked scores of summer students, professors and visitors to the rolling green campus.

    Shortly before the tower's clock struck noon, the first shot rang out. For the next hour and 20 minutes, the lazy summer campus was turned into a hellish battleground of dead, dying and wounded.

    When it was all over, 16 were dead — including Whitman — and 30 others were wounded.

    The noontime terror ended when patrolman Ramiro Martinez slowly edged his way around the observation platform and pumped six pistol slugs and a shotgun blast into the sniper, a Texas junior with a B average.

    Soon after Whitman's blood-covered and limp body was carried from the tower, police found the young man's wife and mother. The wife, Kathleen, 23, was stabbed to death in the Whitman apartment. His mother, Mrs. C.M. Whitman was shot to death in her home.

    Whitman, an ex-marine, ex-alter boy, ex-Eagle Scout, left three notes, one a rambling two-page letter which said his mother would be better off in heaven and that he hated his father "with a mortal passion."

    Police also found a camera with a note which read: "Please have the film developed, Charles Whitman." The film was sent to Dallas for processing.

    Police Chief R.A. (Bob) Miles gave this version of the last day of Whitman's life.

    Sometime before 3 a.m., Monday he stabbed his wife to death and shot his mother to death. "Wife and mother both dead," he noted in one of his letters.

    Some six hours later he purchased a 12-gauge shotgun on a time payment plan, carried it home, cut off its stock and sawed off its barrel. At the same time, he assembled an arsenal that included two Luger pistols, a 6.1mm rifle with a telescopic sight, a 35-caliber rifle, a 30.06 rifle, a 357 magnum pistol, the new shotgun and three knifes.

    He packed everything in a footlocker. Then he put away some water in a container, some gasoline, some sandwiches. And late Monday morning he lugged the entire thing to the campus tower, using a dolly to make the last part of the trip to the elevator.

    Getting off at the last stop, Whitman dragged his footlocker off the elevator and hauled it, step by step, up a long flight of stairs. The first killing occurred here.

    A woman elevator attendant whose job it is to greet visitors and have them sign a register blocked the sniper's way. He shot her dead. He than came upon a woman and two children, tourists visiting the campus landmark, and shot them down. The father escaped to a nearby room.

    Two unarmed campus security guards, hearing the shots' report, entered the building and took the elevator to the top. They found three bodies and quickly descended to warn others to stay away from the tower.

    City police were alerted and the siege was on — a desperate, nightmarish encounter between a small army of law officers and a single, well-armed man who held the strategic heights.

    A shot rang out. A bicycle rider careened crazily in the midday sun. Then he and the bike fell over.

    More shots. People fell like soldiers. More bullets rained down. A little boy, also on a bicycle, fell dead. Three bodies lay together. Rescuers could not reach them.

    Police officer Billy Speed crouched near the tower and a bullet ripped into his shoulder, "Oh, I'm hit," he cried out, slumping over. He later died.

    A student walking from class fell. Then another and another. Many lay where they fell. No one could get near.

    One of the city policemen hugging the ground was Ramiro Martinez, 29, who had been cooking a steak at his home a few minutes before and contemplating his duty shift to begin in three hours.

    With officer Houston McCoy and Allen Crum, a university employee, Martinez got to the top, making his way past four bodies sprawled on the stairs and the landing.

    He and Crum edged around opposite sides of the observation walkway. The sniper saw Crum and fired. Martinez emptied his service revolver into the sniper's body. McCoy burst on the scene and fired a shotgun blast. Martinez grabbed the shotgun and fired another blast pointblank at the sniper.

    Shaking with shock, Martinez grabbed a green flag and waved it. The siege was over.


    Murray Montgomery
    September 18, 2012 column
    More Lone Star Diary
    Related Topics:
    Austin, Texas | Texas Small Town Sagas |
    Related Topics:
    Texas People | Texas History | Texas Towns A-Z | Texas | Texas Hotels
    Custom Search
    Book Hotel Here - Expedia Affiliate Network

    CITY SEARCH


    TEXAS ESCAPES CONTENTS
    HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | HOTELS | SEARCH SITE
    TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

    Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
    TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | FORTS | MAPS

    Texas Attractions
    TEXAS FEATURES
    People | Ghosts | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Texas Centennial | Black History | Art | Music | Animals | Books | Food
    COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

    TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
    Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Rooms with a Past | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Stores | Banks | Drive-by Architecture | Signs | Ghost Signs | Old Neon | Murals | Then & Now
    Vintage Photos

    TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA | MEXICO

    Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
    Website Content Copyright 1998-2011. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved