Year
1966

An ex-Marine goes on a killing spree at the University of Texas

Charles Whitman takes a stockpile of guns and ammunition to the observatory platform atop a 300-foot tower at the University of Texas and proceeds to shoot 46 people, killing 14 people and wounding 31. A fifteenth died in 2001 because of his injuries. Whitman, who had killed both his wife and mother the night before, was eventually shot to death after courageous Austin police officers, including Ramiro Martinez, charged up the stairs of the tower to subdue the attacker.

Whitman, a former Eagle Scout and Marine, began to suffer serious mental problems after his mother left his father inMarch 1966. On March 29, he told a psychiatrist that he was having uncontrollable fits of anger. He purportedly even told this doctor that he was thinking about going up to the tower with a rifle and shooting people. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t follow up on this red flag.

On July 31, Whitman wrote a note about his violent impulses, saying, “After my death, I wish an autopsy on me be performed to see if there’s any mental disorders.” The note then described his hatred for his family and his intent to kill them. That night, Whitman went to his mother’s home, where he stabbed and shot her. Upon returning to his own home, he then stabbed his wife to death.

The following morning, Whitman headed for the tower with several pistols and a rifle after stopping off at a gun store to buy boxes of ammunition and a carbine. Packing food and other supplies, he proceeded to the observation platform, killing the receptionist and two tourists before unpacking his rifle and telescope and hunting the people below.

An expert marksman, Whitman was able to hit people as far away as 500 yards. For 90 minutes, he continued firing while officers searched for a chance to get a shot at him. By the end of his rampage, 16 people were dead and another 30 were injured.

The University of Texas tower remained closed for25 years before reopening in 1999.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Columbus lands in South America

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sets foot on the American mainland for the first time, at the Paria Peninsula in present-day Venezuela. Thinking it an island, he christened it Isla Santa and claimed it for Spain.Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. Little is known of ...read more

Warsaw Revolt begins

During World War II, an advance Soviet armored column under General Konstantin Rokossovski reaches the Vistula River along the eastern suburb of Warsaw, prompting Poles in the city to launch a major uprising against the Nazi occupation. The revolt was spearheaded by Polish ...read more

First World War erupts

Four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Germany and Russia declare war against each other, France orders a general mobilization, and the first German army units cross into Luxembourg in preparation for the German invasion of France. During the next three days, ...read more

Texans head for the thrills at Six Flags

On this day in 1961, amusement park lovers “head for the thrills” as Six Flags Over Texas, the first park in the Six Flags chain, opens. Located on 212 acres in Arlington, Texas, the park was the first to feature log flume and mine train rides and later, the first 360-degree ...read more

Michael Johnson brings home second gold

On this day in 1996, sprinter Michael Johnson breaks the world record in the 200 meters to win gold at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Three days earlier, Johnson had also won the 400 meters, making him the first man in history to win both events at the Olympics.Four years ...read more

Shane released by Paramount

Shane, considered by many critics to be the greatest western movie, is released by Paramount Pictures.Based on Jack Schaefer’s 1949 novel of the same name, Shane was a new type of western. After World War II, Americans began to crave books and ...read more

MTV makes its maiden broadcast

“If advertisers make the video disco channel a success, the implications for cable television and the recording industry could be far reaching,” wrote a New York Times business columnist in the summer of 1981 about the upcoming premiere of a new cable television network dedicated ...read more

MTV launches

On this day in 1981, MTV: Music Television goes on the air for the first time ever, with the words (spoken by one of MTV’s creators, John Lack): “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable ...read more

Mysterious flood strikes North Vietnam

A severe flood of the Red River in North Vietnam kills an estimated 100,000 people on this day in 1971. This remarkable flood was one of the century’s most serious weather events, but because the Vietnam War was going on at the time, relatively few details about the disaster are ...read more

Helsinki Final Act signed

The United States, the Soviet Union, Canada and every European nation (except Albania) sign the Helsinki Final Act on the last day of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The act was intended to revive the sagging spirit of detente between the Soviet Union ...read more

First drive-through ATM opens in China

On this day in 2007, Citibank opens China’s first drive-through automated teller machine (ATM) at the Upper East Side Central Plaza in Beijing. Like those of drive-through restaurants and drive-in movies, the origins of drive-through banking can be traced to the United States. ...read more

Joseph Priestley discovers oxygen

On this day in 1774, dissenting British minister Joseph Priestly, author of Observations on Civil Liberty and the Nature and Justice of the War with America, discovers oxygen while serving as a tutor to the sons of American sympathizer William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, at ...read more