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  • Writer's pictureNeal Spelce

The Anniversary of the Tower Shooting

From the Texas Standard

Life was dramatically changed in the USA following an event in Austin, Texas, fifty-five years ago on August 1, 1966. That was when the nation’s first mass school shooting took place from atop the University of Texas Tower. Here’s how I described it while reporting from the UT campus, within range of the sniper’s gunshots:

“Another shot! The sniper fired three quick, successive shots. Apparently in the length of time it takes to cock the weapon and then …. Another shot! He just fired another shot and this time …. Another shot! That’s the fifth shot now in about 20 or 30 seconds.”

Don Carleton, Executive Director of University of Texas’ Briscoe Center for American History, writes this in his preface to my memoir, to be published in September 2021, With the Bark Off, A Journalist’s Memories of LBJ and a Life in the News Media:

“Neal Spelce’s riveting on-the-scene reporting of a sniper murdering fifteen people and badly injuring thirty-one others was quickly hooked into the national radio and television networks and broadcast across the nation in real time. Neal covered an incident that was, up to that time, the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in American history.”

This, sadly, was a harbinger of things to come across the nation and in other parts of the world. Since then, our lives have changed significantly. Security checkpoints have been set up in public places, video cameras are everywhere, SWAT teams were created to combat similar acts, EMS units were beefed up, and in many cases, created from scratch. One survivor of the UT Tower tragedy told me: “we lost our innocence that dreadful day.”

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