56 Years Ago, a Gunman Rained Terror Down from the UT Tower


AUSTIN, TX — Today, August 1, marks the 56th anniversary of the tragic shooting on the campus of The University of Texas in 1966.

The gunman, Charles Whitman, was a student at UT who became disillusioned with life on earth. Before climbing the 27 floors up the 307-foot tower to the tower’s observation deck he gathered an arsenal of guns, including an M-1 Carbine, a Remington 700 6-mm bolt-action hunting rifle, a .35-caliber pump rifle, a 9-mm Luger pistol, a Galesi-Brescia .25-caliber pistol, a Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolver, the shotgun, of which he had sawn off the barrel and buttstock, as well as more than 700 rounds of ammunition. 

Starting minutes before the noon hour, for the next 96 minutes he shot and killed 14 people, including an unborn child, and injured 31 other people from the observation deck. 

Whiteman, the gunman, was eventually shot and killed by an impromptu assault team of three Austin Police officers and an armed civilian.

The four that made it to the observation deck that day were Austin Police officer Houston McCoy, 26; Allen Crum, 40, a civilian and retired USAF bomber tail gunner; Austin Police Officer Jerry Day; and APD officer Ramiro "Ray" Martinez, 29.

At around 1:24 pm, while Whitman was facing south looking for the source of a rifle shot, Martinez and McCoy rounded the northeastern corner of the observation deck. Martinez jumped out and fired in the direction of Whitman, missing with all of his revolver shots. Meanwhile, McCoy leaped out while Martinez was firing and saw Whitman's head looking over the light ballast, McCoy fired at the top of the ballast, hitting Whitman between the eyes with several pellets, killing Whitman instantly. Crum guarded the doorway to the deck. Day and McCoy cleared the 27th floor before making it to the observation deck. Day arrived minutes after Whitman was killed.

The UT Tower is an iconic structure built in 1937. For many years, it was the tallest structure in Austin. Today, it ranks as the 27th tallest building.

The UT Tower and Main Building on the University of Texas campus, Saturday, Mar. 26, 2022, in Austin. Tex. (Kirby Lee via AP)

The UT Tower and Main Building on the University of Texas campus, Saturday, Mar. 26, 2022, in Austin. Tex. (Kirby Lee via AP)

Subscribe to the LIVE! Daily

The LIVE! Daily is the "newspaper to your email" for San Angelo. Each content-packed edition has weather, the popular Top of the Email opinion and rumor mill column, news around the state of Texas, news around west Texas, the latest news stories from San Angelo LIVE!, events, and the most recent obituaries. The bottom of the email contains the most recent rants and comments. The LIVE! daily is emailed 5 days per week. On Sundays, subscribers receive the West Texas Real Estate LIVE! email.


Most Recent Videos


And the majority of those shot were hit with the scoped bolt action rifle, not the M-1, semi-auto rifle. Just goes to show that a determined shooter with a plan doesn't need and AK or AR to kill a lot of folks.

On the surface your argument is accurate.  Having said that, Charlie Whitman would likely done a great deal more damage had he had ready access to the kind of weapons we see being used by homocidal lunatics today.  He was also very skilled in the use of weapons so a bolt-action was very effective in his hands.

The monster guns being used nowadays require no skill.  Idiots can and do use them to inflict massive harm on the innocent. If Charlie could have had an AR-type weapon or an AK-type thing with a bump stock (as in Las Vegas) the death toll would have undoubtedly been markedly higher.

The difference is the weapon.

I get really goddamn tired of hearing justifications for civilian ownership for weapons of war.  There is no goddamn reason any Joe Smith who lives on Oak Lane in East Jesus, NE should have one of these things.  Regarding a previous statement about wiping out a dozen or so pigs, I doubt this.  After the first round is fired, these beasts scatter.  Killing a bunch of them would require something like a chain gun.  Getting two or three, maybe.  Other than that, horseshit.  I'm not buying it.

I continue to see no justification for weapons of war in the hands of civilians.  Were I to live in the country and had a pig problem I could see owning something in .243 or .223, semiauto, with a four or five round magazine.  Anything more than that is designed to be a people-killer.

Hmmmm, Tue, 08/02/2022 - 08:24

“Monster guns” lol. The whole point of the 2a is for weapons of war and self defense. Not shooting pigs and squirrels. 

I think calling a AR 15 a weapon of war is something of a stretch. No US soldier has ever been issued a AR 15. They want their soldiers armed with a weapon capable of full auto as well a 3 round bursts, that's why they get issued a M 16. Virtually identical to a AR, but with that one difference. Or is your issue the caliber? There are many rifle cartridges that inflict a much more damaging wound than the .223. The larger calibers, bullet weight and velocity all factor into the amount of energy they transfer on impact. If we want to really be terrified about a weapon, look into what the Barrett Super 50 can do, legal to purchase at a rather hefty price, and another magazine fed semi-auto. And I've yet to hear any uproar around the Ruger Mini 14, same caliber as the AR and 30 and 40 round magazines are available, I know first hand because I bought mine in 1980, and I still have it and it has killed absolutely no one. Every bit as lethal as the AR 15, but having a wooden stock, is much less ominous in appearance as AR's. 

So, being the owner of large capacity magazine capable .223 rifles, why are there no victims of my monster guns? Simply because I was taught responsible gun ownership and use by my father when I started shooting BB guns as a kid. I'd hazard to guess that very few, if any, mass shooters had that experience. So, my monsters will continue to reside harmlessly in my gun safe until I let them come out to play, and then so, I'll make sure they behave.

Hmmmm, Tue, 08/02/2022 - 15:25

I agree with you. I have firearms that were actual issue at one time and way more powerful than a .223 ar but I guess they just don’t look scary enough. The mini 14 in certain configurations was included in the houses bill they just passed, but not an m1 garand lol. The pistol grip makes the .223 mini more dangerous than a 30 06 battle rifle apparently. 

Regarding the M-16 versus AR-15 thing, you are correct.  The three-round burst capability of the M-16 was considered the most efficacious mode for the most commonly carried weapon in the weeds.  An AR-15 is one squeeze, one round.

I can pull a trigger two or three times in one second.  Two or three squeezes, two or three rounds, maybe two or three dead people.  I digress.

Mention has been made here of actual issued firearms that were way more powerful than .223 stuff.  Possible, but open to argument.  

A projectile delivers kinetic energy, defined as 1/2 mass times velocity squared, to its target.  This kinetic energy contributes to the formation of the wound channel (i.e., the damage to tissue in the target).  As a result, a smaller projectile honking along at a higher velocity when it strikes the target can administer more damage to the target than a heavier projectile tooling along at a more relaxed pace.  Most .223 weapons generate muzzle velocities of around 3200 fps, so their velocity squared is quite high.

There is some argument regarding to what degree a .223 projectile will "tumble" once it enters the target.  That is another issue entirely, but there is some discussion implying that this "tumbling" makes the round much more destructive.

The fact remains that an AR-15 type weapon gives a nutjob much greater ability to harm large numbers of people in a short period of time than a more civilized firearm.  The goddamn things should not be in the hands of civilians.

A question:  Why do we see more instances where nutjobs make the AR-15  type weapon their weapon of choice?

Your last question makes my point. Nutjobs.... they're the issue. Without them, we wouldn't be having this conversation. As far as .223 trajectory after impact, the type of bullet defines what it may do. FMJ will tumble, soft and ballistic tips will expand, or mushroom to create trauma. Blaming the weapon isn't the issue here, we have to confront the increasing number of "nutjobs". We didn't have any where I went to high school, and most, if not all, of the farm boys had shotguns and rifles hanging in the rear window of their pickup trucks in the school parking lot.

Post a comment to this article here:

X Close