“Out of the Blue: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting” is Texas Standard’s oral history on the anniversary of the first public mass shooting of its kind.
Richard Fairchild, who now lives in Kerrville, says he was at Scholz Garten when Charles Whitman began shooting from the top of the University of Texas at Austin tower on Aug, 1, 1966. Scholz’s is a popular politico hangout between the UT campus and the Texas capitol.
“I walked out of Scholz’s and got in the car and I … headed back toward the campus,” Fairchild says. “In the process I noticed that there were puffs of smoke, or something like that, that were coming off the tower.
H says he thought someone was sandblasting the tower to clean it again, even though it had been done recently.
When he turned on the radio the first word that came over the radio was “sniper.”
“So I hit the gas pedal, turned right and drove back to Scholz,” he says. “I come running in and I’m screaming and telling them there’s a sniper on the tower. And they look at me like I’ve lost my mind, or think I’ve had too much beer.”
No one was prepared for the shooting, Fairchild says. No one knew what to do. “It was kind of like the wild west.”
Some memories linger, like that of the tower shooting. “There are certain memories in your mind that are more indelible than others,” Fairchild says. “It’s just part of me.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.