Shots Fired: Ongoing Repercussions of the Texas Tower Shooting

A community discussion about the making of an ambitious oral history project and the stories it brought to life.

By Texas Standard & KUT 90.5 FMOctober 4, 2016 8:42 am, , , , ,

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas at Austin tower shooting, we aired the hour-long oral history, “Out of the Blue.”

On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman climbed the steps of the UT-Austin tower and began to shoot his gun at the pedestrians and students on the campus below. Over a span of two years, we located survivors of the shooting and gathered their stories.

Each of the nearly 100 survivors’ stories – many of which had never been shared publicly until now – is an important contribution to better understanding what happened on that day, and how it shaped the lives of so many.

As a companion to the project, KUT and others are hosting two community events featuring stories of survivors of the tower shooting.

“Shots Fired: Ongoing Repercussions of the Texas Tower Shooting,” produced in partnership with KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2 at KLRU on the UT Campus. It will explore the history of the debate on gun rights and gun control since the tower shooting.

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., a survivor of the shooting, historians and producers gathered at the Austin History Center (810 Guadalupe St.) for “Recounting History: Survivors’ Stories of the UT Tower Shooting.” The event discussed the impact of the Texas Standard oral history project, what it unearthed after many years of silence, and the importance of gathering and recording stories for the sake of education, healing and historical legacy.

KUT’s Emily Donahue, who conceived the oral history project, moderated a conversation with Laura Rice, executive producer of “Out of the Blue”; Benjamin Wright, assistant director at the University of Texas at Austin’s Briscoe Center for American History; Leonard Schwartz, an Austin attorney who was a student at UT-Austin when the shooting took place; and Susan Rittereiser, curator of Archives and Manuscripts, and curator of the exhibit “Looking Back: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting” at the Austin History Center.

The discussion ranged from the day of the shooting itself, to the experience of remembering the events of that day, to the process of trying to tell the story of what happened, and the importance of individual stories through a historical lens.

These events are produced by Texas Standard, the Austin History Center, the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.