It was a hot day when I arrived on a Greyhound bus from New York City in Austin,Texas on August 2nd 1966 to start a post graduate course at The University of Texas, 'Oxford on the Range', and Austin, the state capital was in deep shock.
Two days earlier I had been in my seat at Wembley Stadium for the final of the 1966 World Cup Final when England won 4-2 in extra time, thanks to a hat-trick from Geoff Hurst, and Bobby Moore collected the trophy from the young Queen Elizabeth II after climbing those famous steps to the Royal Box. After the presentation I climbed into the box and sat in the Queens velvet seat, after removing the white cardboard with the name H.M. Queen on it, on which the Queen's royal bottom had sat for 2 hours. I still have that souvenir somewhere.
On August 1st, Charles Whitman a marine and student had killed his mother Margaret Whitman, then returned to his home at 906 Jewell St and stabbed his wife Kathy 5 times. He then went to Davis' Hardware and bought an M1 carbine and to Sears to buy a shotgun and green rifle case. He also went to 7-Eleven to buy some Spam. Killing is hungry work.!! He sawed off the shotgun and tugged his marine locker to the entrance at the foot of the 307 foot University of Texas Tower along with a Remington 700 with a 4 X Leupold sight, the M1 Carbine the .35 Remington, 3 pistols and lots of ammunition.
He got past security and went up in the tower elevator to just below the observation deck, where I had been a few months earlier on a previous visit, taking photos.. He shot the lady at the desk outside the observation deck and others who were up there and proceeded to take shots in all directions. 15 people died from his weapons and 31 were injured before Officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy went up to the observation deck and gunned him down. I remember the disgust the next few days in The Daily Texan when the UT Finance Office, on the ground floor of the tower, and the only secure area, wouldn't allow frightened students and staff into its safe area.
One of my most vivid sights was from the interior of the The University of Texas Co-op, the student owed store, on Guadaloupe Street called The Drag by all. On the cover of LIFE magazine there was an award winning photo of the top of the Texas Tower from the inside of the Co-op, ringed by a bullet hole and cracked circular spider pattern in the plate glass window, 500 feet from the tower.
The shootings in midday would have claimed many more victims but for the fact that the day was the 100th Anniversary of a legendary watering hole and bar, SHULTZES Beer Garden, half way between the campus and the Texas Capital building, at 1600 San Jacinto Street,where students and politicians used to hang out for a cold one and a hamburger and basket of fries, or chicken fried steak. In fact later it would be one of my student hangouts. To celebrate the centenary the owners were offering beer at century old prices -5 cents a glass and 15 cents a pitcher I think, so it was packed by those who skipped class for the bargains.
Whitman wasn't all bad however, because he left a note saying that he wanted to give his cuddly puppy Schocie to his wife's parents. What a nice guy!!
After that event and the riots in Watts, Los Ageles, police forces thoughout the USA started training specialized tactical SWOT units, for the increasing number of such violent acts. The recent tragedy at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia that has shocked the world will not be the last in a culture that worships the amendement to the US Constitution that allows the 'right to bear arms'.