Fifty Years Later: 1966 Editorials

Editor's note: Reprinted below are the original editorials from the Aug. 5, 1966 print edition of The Daily Texan.

The Tower Massacre

The University witnessed an appalling tragedy Monday. Charles Joseph Whitman, a 25-year-old mentally distressed student, filed suit against humanity, and prosecuted his case with death until he too was killed. From the University Tower and its Observation Deck, he shot and killed 13 persons and wounded 34. 

For almost 90 minutes, the campus was turned into a battlefield. Like a Viet Cong terrorist, Whitman killed without mercy and without discrimination. The University truly lived through a hell comparable to that which the South Vietnamese endure.

The death of these innocent victims is deeply grieved. The University has sympathy and concern for the survivors of the deceased victims and the wounded. The Texan hopes all persons on campus will contribute to the funds that have been established for the families of several of the victims.

Many of the victims came to the University to learn about life, to understand it, to practice it, to endure it. It is appalling and ironic to realize that such a massacre could occur in what is supposed to be an atmosphere of learning about life.

The University Tower, for many, has stood as a symbol of learning. The Tower now conjures up new images of death and horror. Regrettably, Monday’s tragedy was not the first time violent death has occurred from the Tower; there have been several suicides. The Observation Deck has constituted a safety hazard and still does. 

The Observation Deck of the Tower should be closed now for both safety and psychological considerations. Perhaps in several years, after memories of the massacre have dimmed and faded, the Observation Deck can be reopened occasionally and with new safety precautions. Then, once again, might visitors enjoy the Tower’s serenity, look off toward the pristine hills, then gaze down to mankind and his civilization, and realize that they still have much to learn about life.


Uncommon Valor

“Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue” is the inscription on the Washington D.C. statue of Marines raising the United States flag on Iwo Jima. Many persons exhibited courage and fortitude equal to that inscription during Monday’s massacre.

During those moments of great adversity, University citizens and Austin residents revealed their concern for their fellow man. 

In attempts to recover wounded persons from places open to the sniper’s fire, at least one was killed; another was seriously wounded. Police Officer Billy Speed lost his life after helping the wounded, and Morris Hohmann, who drove an ambulance, was wounded in a rescue attempt.

And there were others, like students Clif Drummond, Sam Potter, and Bob Higley, who braved the sniper’s fire to carry the wounded to safety. The Armored Motor Service generously allowed its armored cars to be used as ambulances, and its drivers unhesitantly went in for the wounded. Some persons stood in open streets directing traffic away from the University area. Some persons with binoculars served as spotters for police.

On the Observation Deck of the University Tower, there were the men who went in after the killer: Officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy and University Co-Op employe Allen Crum.

There were other law enforcement officers whose services may have gone unnoticed. Allen R. Hamilton, chief of University traffic and security, was responsible for calling for the armored cars and the National Guard.

On the whole, persons in the University area worked together bravely to aid their fellow man. Perhaps, one of the greatest incidents of courage came from a wounded student, a bullet in the back, laying face down in the grass north of Hogg Auditorium, he whispered, “I’m going to be all right—I’m going to make it.”


Help Is Needed

The University administration and Regents are to be commended for providing the public with the records of sniper Charles Whitman.

Yet, more information is needed, and the help of each person in the University community is needed to help shed light on the tragedy Monday. The Texan is collecting all available information about Whitman and the massacre for research. The Texan hopes every person will help us in this task.

Any information about Charles Joseph Whitman is needed. Persons knowing the sniper are urged to send accounts of Whitman’s character, moods, hobbies, pastimes, and political and moral philosophy.

All persons in the University community are urged to sent the Texan their personal accounts and observations of the massacre Monday and especially how the reacted. Any photographs of the occurrence are also welcome.

Such information will provide invaluable research material to historians and perhaps even to law enforcement officers.