Recounting History: Survivors’ Stories of the UT Tower Shooting

Oct 3, 2016

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

AUSTIN, Texas – Oct. 3, 2016 – In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower shooting, “Texas Standard,” a daily statewide public radio news broadcast, aired the hour-long oral history, “Out of the Blue: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting,” the culmination of a two-year effort to locate survivors of the shooting and gather 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 Aug. 1, 1966, and how it shaped the lives of so many, including the city of Austin.

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., a survivor of the shooting, historians and producers from “Texas Standard” will gather at the Austin History Center (810 Guadalupe St.) to discuss the impact of this 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, will moderate 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 will range 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. The conversation will take place in the David Earl Holt Photo Gallery at the Austin History Center, where an exhibit about the UT Tower shootings will be displayed.

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided, and a Q&A session will follow the presentation. 

“Recounting History: Survivors’ Stories of the UT Tower Shooting” is the first of two community events featuring stories of survivors of the tower shooting. The second event, “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 Charles Whitman’s 1966 mass shooting on the UT campus.

About the Austin History Center Exhibit
On August 1, 1966, University of Texas student Charles Joseph Whitman climbed to the top of the iconic University of Texas Tower building and went on a shooting spree, killing 16 people and wounding at least 33 others. At the time, this seemingly senseless massacre of civilians was unprecedented and considered the worst mass murder in modern U.S. history. The Austin History Center’s newest photo exhibit, “Looking Back: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting,” seeks to better our understanding of this tragic event, both in the context of its time and impact locally, as well as how we can learn from the experience today as our country continues to experience mass shootings on campuses and in other public areas. The exhibit is on display through Nov. 20, 2016, in the David Earl Holt Photo Gallery at the Austin History Center. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m.

This event is produced by KUT's "Texas Standard," the Austin History Center, the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

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Contacts:
Erin Geisler, KUT, (512) 475-0871
Cecily Sailer, Austin Public Library and Austin History Center, (512) 542-0076