Skip to main content

Tower Fantasy: Shooter Charles Whitman


By: Wayne Brown

Forty-Five years ago, on August 1, 1966 a young, former United States Marine Corp sharpshooter killed both his wife and his mother in the early morning hours in Austin, Texas. He then proceeded to the campus of the University of Texas, climbed a clock tower and from there killed 14 more people and wounded 32 others. Two Austin police officers were able to climb to the top of the tower and kill the sniper. His name was Charles Joseph Whitman.

This was one of the first cases that most people today think of when we discuss mass killings or deranged acts. Almost fifty years later, similar acts are still perpetrated upon innocent, unsuspecting people and though technology has greatly advanced, we still describe those who carry out the acts as insane, mad, deranged, depressed, and angry. In many ways we have not made progress in this area as a society. Could it be that we are far too focused on the instrument of the death as opposed to the mind of the person carrying it out?

Early on in his life, Charles Whitman was a child most parents would cherish. He had a quick mind and demonstrated his intelligence early on scoring a 138 on an IQ Test at the age of six. He excelled in his early school work and earned good grades. He showed talent on the piano and trained on it for over five years. He was an athlete in high school sports acting as a pitcher on his school baseball team. At the age of 12, he earned his Eagle Scout badge in the Boy Scouts, a feat never before accomplished in his hometown by a boy of that age. He was active in church and served as an altar boy through age 14. In many ways, he was outstanding and in others he was a typical American boy that any parent would be proud to call their son. So what happened to Charles to change that direction in life?

Charles was the oldest of three sons born to the union of Charles Adolf Whitman and his wife, Margaret. The elder Whitman had been raised in Savannah, Georgia as an orphan. He grew up in the Bethesda School for Boys located in Savannah. It was there that he met Margaret and married her. Charles was the first born of the male children and soon followed by Patrick then the youngest brother, John. Before the boys were born, Whitman and his wife had left Savannah and bought a house in Lake Worth, Florida. The elder Whitman set up a sewer plumbing business there and provided a middle-class living for his family. It was in Lake Worth, Florida that Charles was born on June 24, 1941.

C.A. Whitman Family


Charles’ mother, Margaret, was a Roman Catholic and very devout in her religion. Conversely, her husband had no religious background thus Margaret’s desires took precedence in terms of church and school selection. All of the boys attended a Catholic high school (St. Anne’s – Palm Beach Florida) and all were active as altar boys in the local Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church. Margaret appeared to be doing everything she knew to provide her boys with a good foundation in terms of both education and religion.

Charles’ father was less connected with the boys and a strict disciplinarian. People familiar with the family knew that the elder Whitman ruled the roost. He made the rules for both his wife and children and he expected total adherence. He was known to launch into emotional and physical tirades when his orders were not followed to the letter. Charles once confided to his priest that his father had hit him in the face and knocked him into the backyard pool when he became aware that Charles had come into the house drunk from an evening of drinking. In later years, the elder Whitman would admit to having a bad temper and physically abusing his wife at times. He rationalized his actions indicating that his wife had a very strong stubborn streak driving him to employ physical abuse. These events remained in young Charles mind throughout his short life.

The one area in which Charles and his father connected was their interest in firearms. The elder Whitman maintained a sizeable gun collection of assorted types. He engaged all of the boys at an early age with these guns and not only taught them how to shoot effectively but also how to properly clean and maintain each gun. Charles was infatuated with the guns and carried that interest on as an adult. Though his future crimes and untimely death would involve firearms, there is no evidence that the young Whitman ever misused or abused firearms over the years.

By 1959, Charles Whitman had graduated high school and was apparently anxious to get out from under his dominant father’s roof. Charles had befriended a young Catholic priest, Joseph LeDuc, who just out of seminary school and served the Sacred Heart congregation for a brief period. LeDuc’s friendship extended beyond the church as he attended outdoor outings with Charles and the Whitman family. LeDuc remained a confidant of Charles Whitman over the years and Charles shared some insight into his life with him. Charles shared his father’s tirades along with the emotional and physical abuse over the years. No doubt, Charles Whitman, at 18 years of age, was more than ready to leave his father’s house.

Scroll to Continue

Whitman set his sights for escape on joining the United States Marine Corp. Through the Marines he could escape his father and pursue his love of guns by trying to become a sharpshooter. Charles’ father was totally upset with Charles entry into the Marines and even went so far as to make some phone calls to Washington to cancel the enlistment. His efforts proved futile and Charles departed for Marine Corp basic training on Parris Island Marine Corp Training Center off the coast of the Carolinas. It was July 6, 1959.

Whitman completed his Marine Corp basic training but apparently was unable to pursue his sharpshooter dream based on the needs of the Corp. After training he was assigned to a Marine unit at housed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He had proved himself very well with his shooting ability scoring a 215 out of a possible 250 on shooting accuracy. Charles was also above the curve in rapid long distance fire and at hitting moving targets. His commanders called him “a good Marine” and appeared to be impressed with his conduct and discipline. No doubt, Charles high level of performance in the Marines was directly tied to the abuse and belittling he suffered at the hands of his hot-tempered overbearing father. Charles was anxious to prove that he was more man than his father would ever be and a better one too.

By 1961, Charles had earned a Marine Corp scholarship which would, if properly carried out, would earn him an engineering degree and a path to officer training school with the Marines. He was moved to inactive duty status with the Marines in order to attend the University of Texas. He entered school at the Austin, Texas campus in September 1961 planning a major in Mechanical Engineering. Anyone who knew Whitman at the time fully expected that he was intelligent enough and capable of earning the degree. Ironically, this seems to be the point in time when things began to shift in a different direction for Charles Whitman. Up to this point in life, he had excelled at most everything he attempted. Things would be different now and while Charles seemed conscious of the fact, there was little that he could do about though, in the end, he tried.

Enrolled in his college studies and living away both his father and the Marines, Charles was experiencing a berth of freedom that had never been present in his life to this point. He was the master of his domain and in charge of his own time. This new found freedom quickly overwhelmed Charles and for the first time in his life, he began stepping off the righteous path away from the teachings of his mother’s church. He engaged in illegal hunting activities and soon became immersed in gambling accumulating gambling debts which he refused to pay. His studies began to take a second seat in his priorities and Charles found himself walking a very dangerous line with his behavior.

Charles was still the athletic type engaging in the art of karate and enjoying scuba diving. He also hunted for various types of game in the area around Austin. As a result of his love of hunting, he would get crossways with the University and start a downhill plunge which would undermine his educational goals. Whitman was living in a campus dormitory at the time of the incident. He had gone deer-hunting and had killed one of the small-breed White-Tail variety common to that area of Texas. Charles had dragged the deer back to the dormitory and then proceeded to skin it out in his dorm room shower. Needless to say that school officials did not look kindly on the act and made it known to the Marine Corp, the provider of Whitman’s scholarship. Two years later, in February of 1963, Whitman’s grades had fallen below the desired mark which was another area the Marines monitored on scholarship receipts. When the below par grades were combined with the deer incident, that was enough for the Marine Corp and Charles was dropped from the scholarship.

Whitman’s lack of focus on his educational duties can be partly blamed on the fact that he was now in love. Charles had met Kathleen “Kathy” Frances Leissner while both were students at the University of Texas. Romance blossomed over the course of a few months and finally the couple decided to marry in August of 1962. The marriage ceremony was performed by Whitman’s priest and confidante, Joseph LeDuc. The marriage ceremony took place in the bride’s hometown of Needville, Texas, a small town southwest of Houston. At this point in life, Whitman was keeping a journal. His entries contained remarks about his love for Kathleen. But entwined in those entries were references to strike Kathleen on at least three occasions and his remorse after doing so. His words indicated that he did not want to become the physical authoritarian that he had witnessed in his father.

NEWLYWEDS: Kathy & Charles


C.J. Whitman Journal


When Whitman lost his Marine Corp scholarship in 1963, he was ordered back on active duty with the Marines. He left Kathleen behind to finish out his tour of duty. Charles reported to Camp LeJune Marine Base, North Carolina and soon earned a new rank of Lance Corporal but trouble was brewing for Whitman and it was trouble of his own making. Charles began gambling with his fellow marines, he became embroiled in disagreements over loaned money and the high interest rates he elected to charge, and he rolled over a Marine Corp Jeep injuring himself badly enough to spend four days in the hospital. Whitman’s behavior was rapidly leaving black marks on his military record and earning him the label of “misfit” in the Marine Corp. Charles failed to alter his behavior and eventually was court-martialed for gambling and openly defying rules against personal fire arms on the base. Whitman was also charged with issuing threats against a fellow Marine who owed him money. The court martial resulted in a reduction of rank back to Private and a sentence of 90 days at hard labor along with 30 days in the brig for good measure.

Whitman remained in the Marine Corp on active duty until December of 1964 at which time he was honorably discharged. Charles had turned to his father after his court martial for help. The elder Whitman through some of his business contacts was able to get Charles’ enlistment reduced by one year. Charles returned home to Austin where Kathy had completed her degree and was working as a high school biology teacher. Charles enrolled again at the University of Texas electing this time to try his hand at the architectural side of engineering. He also worked a various odd-jobs on a part-time basis to earn money including working as a bank teller, loan collector, highway surveyor, and a freight-handler with a trucking company. His interest in scouting continue as he also made time to work with locals units of the Boy Scouts eventually leading to the role as Scout Master for Troop 5 of the Austin Boy Scouts. Whitman also continued to write in his journal entitled, “The Daily Record of C.J. Whitman”. For the most part, it appeared that Charles and Kathleen were in a happy marriage and living a reasonably good existence for a young couple. Though Charles tried to earn money and be a part of his community, he was constantly reminded of the fact that his wife was providing the majority of the financial support for them…a fact he did not like at all.

Inside, Charles Whitman was losing respect for himself rapidly. He looked back on his loss of scholarship, his poor grades, and his shortcomings as a Marine as a total failure on his part. He no longer had the discipline to maintain his diet and exercise and thus, in his eyes, was overweight. Coupled with these feelings, Charles disliked himself for continuing to take money and gifts from his father. In his mind, it was freeloading, an act that he despised. Whitman’s self-esteem was rapidly eroding though he tried very hard to keep up the external image that he wanted others to see. Kathy sensed that things were not right and made suggestions to him to consult a counselor. Her sense of things may have been driven by Charles’ physical abuse visited upon her as he admitted in the journal that he had begun to keep.

Whitman’s journal was most a compilation of disconnect thoughts which seemingly had been recorded as they pass through his mental process. There was considerable emphasis on the futility that life had taken on from his perspective and he was beginning to feel totally trapped within it…not a participant in it with the ability to control it but a victim of it totally cast upon its waters with no control over his destiny. One entry reflects the flavor of his rambling thoughts in the postings and also gives one insight into his perspective on life. Whitman wrote, I’ve dreamt of seas falling from the sky, oceans pouring from my mouth. My eyes, filling with rivers. Vast Waters. Drowning. I’m drowning. I have to get out; I have to escape this world. I’m on a doomed mission, I have to get out. I have to escape. Where’s my exit, my get out clause, where’s the back door?”

By early summer 1966, back home in Florida, Margaret Whitman was coming to the end of the road with her overshadowing and abusive husband. Her mindset was to divorce him but she could not make the move without assistance. Margaret contacted Charles and asked to come live in Texas with him and Kathy until things were settled. As always, Charles did as his mother requested and traveled back to Lake Worth and returned to Texas with his mother. The Whitman nest was rapidly emptying out as younger brother Patrick departed the house right behind his mother leaving only the elder Whitman and the youngest child, John, who had elected to remain with his father. Within days, the Charles’ father would begin making phone calls to Texas begging Charles to convince his mother to give up the divorce and come back home. While Charles listened, his heart just was not in it to take those steps for his father. Margaret Whitman continued her divorce proceedings while remaining in Texas with Charles and Kathleen. She earned some money as worker in the local cafeteria chain.

Charles was suffering with headache pain throughout 1965 and early 1966. Several doctors had prescribed medication to treat the pain but with no real lasting result. By late winter of 1965, Whitman’s search for relief from the pain had led him to five different University doctors to gain relief. With no success, Whitman then made an appointment with a psychiatrist coming away from the visit with nothing. He then resorted to Dr. Jan Cochrum, who prescribed Valium for him and also directed him to set up a session with the campus psychiatrist, Dr. Maurice Dean Heatly. Charles met with Heatly on March 29, 1966 but the visit, as he later stated in his suicide note, was “to no avail”. At one point in the meeting with Heatly, Charles revealed that he had thoughts about shooting people. He told Heatly that he thought about going up on the tower with a deer rifle and shooting people.” Dr. Heatly dismissed the comments as pure fantasy and asked Whitman to come back to see him the next week. Charles never returned or spoke with Heatly again.

When the school term had ended in May for the year, Kathy gained employment as a telephone operator with Bell Telephone for the summer break. She was assigned to evening shifts working from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Charles normally dropped her off and picked her up at the end of her shift. By late July, Charles was very conscious of his feeling toward life and suffering greatly with the frequent headache pains. When July 31, 1966 dawned, Charles seemed to know exactly what he had to do as if the power of hypnotic suggestion was controlling his every move. He had already purchased a knife and a set of binoculars from a hardware store along with some cans of Spam from the local 7-Eleven.

After visiting with friends, Charles drove Kathleen to the phone company site to begin her shift at 6 PM. He was back home and sitting in front of his type-writer by 6:45PM at which time he began to operate the keys and create his suicide note writing:

I do not quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I do not understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average, reasonable, and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot tell when it started), I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.” Whitman then went on to say, “The prominent reason in my mind is that I truly do not consider this world worth living in, and am prepared to die, and I do not want her (Kathy) to suffer alone in it. Similar reasons provoke me to take my mother’s life also.”

The note would then go on to detail how he had taken the lives of his loved ones and he offered instructions as to how his life insurance should be used; what to do with the dog, and requested that an autopsy be performed on his remains in order that medical science could figure out the source of his problems. He added notes to his brothers and father and referenced two rolls of film which should be developed and where they were in the apartment. At about 10PM, Whitman returned to the phone company to bring Kathleen home after her shift. Apparently neither Kathleen nor Margaret noticed anything abnormal in Charles’ behavior that evening July 31st, 1966.

Charles remained awake through the midnight hour of the 31st probably with the help of the Dexedrine that he had begun taking during the school year under the pressures of a heavy course load. Kathleen was long since asleep. Charles drove to his mother’s apartment on the pretense that he wanted to enjoy her air conditioning for a bit, something he did not have in his place. Once inside the apartment, Whitman used some method by which to render his mother unconscious, possibly strangling her from behind with a rubber hose about her neck, then immediately stabbed her through the heart with the hardware store Bowie knife that he had just purchased a couple of days before. He placed his lifeless mother’s body into bed and arranged the covers. Around 12:30 AM, Whitman, while still in his mother’s apartment, wrote, “I have just taken my mother’s life. I am very upset over having done it…I am truly sorry that this is the only way I could see to relieve her sufferings but I think it was best.” On his way out of the apartment, he wrote a note to the building doorman instructing him not to disturb her the next morning (a wake up for work) and signed Margaret’s name at the bottom. He then posted the note on Margaret’s apartment door. Charles left the penthouse apartment building about 1:30 AM then returned shortly after and requested that the doorman let him back in to get the pills he inadvertently left in his mother’s apartment. Soon he was back down in the lobby with the bottle of what is assumed to be Dexedrine tablets in hand departing again about 2 AM.

Charles then drove back home and just before 3 AM on August 1, 1966. Charles quietly moved near his sleeping wife and delivered five quick stabs of the Bowie knife of which three went into her Kathleen’s heart. Shortly after this killing, Whitman returned to his suicide note on the type-writer and wrote:

He added, writing now in blue ink, “3 AM and both are dead. I imagine it appears that I brutally killed both of my loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick, thorough job. If my life insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts and donate the rest anonymously to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.”

This particular statement by Whitman indicates that he was lucid enough to realize what he had done and what he was going to do. He was well aware that it was wrong but appeared to not be able to control the direction of it on his own. Without saying it, he had killed his love ones so that they did not have to endure the aftermath and hatred stemming from the tragic crime that he was about to launch upon as the sun rose on the day of August 1, 1966.

Kathleen "Kathy" Whitman


Just before 6 AM, Charles bought himself some time by calling Kathleen’s work supervisor to say that Kathy was ill and would not be available for her shift that evening. He had to wait for another five hours to contact anyone at the cafeteria where Margaret worked to report her illness as well. It was now not likely that either victim would be discovered until after his actions were carried out.

Charles then wrote bogus checks in the amount of $250 to cover the necessary expenses of his actions. He rented a hand-truck from a local equipment rental then he stopped in once again at the hardware store where he had purchased the knife two days prior. He picked out a military model World War II issue M-1 carbine clearing any suspicion by using the explanation that he had wild hogs roaming his property which he needed the rifle to kill. He made one additional stop at Sears to purchase a 12-guage semi-automatic shotgun then proceeded back to his house. There, he cut the barrel to a shortened length on the new 12-guage from Sears and placed it along with the M-1 Carbine with his other weapons. His cache included these two guns plus a 9mm German Luger, A Smith & Wesson Model M19 .357 magnum revolver, a Galesi-Brescia .25 caliber pistol, a Remington M141 .35 caliber rifle with pump action, and a bolt-action Remington 700 6mm hunting rifle complete with a 4 power magnification Leupold scope. He packaged the guns along with some other essentials in wooden crate and in his old Marine footlocker. He could then easily move the two boxes about with the rented hand-truck. In the box and footlocker, he had also packed a radio, a container of gasoline, 3 gallons of water, a compass, a hammer, a hatchet, canned meat, two knives, and a flashlight with batteries. Whitman then pulled a set of coveralls over his jeans and t-shirt, loaded his equipment boxes into the car and headed for the University of Texas campus. It was 11:00 AM, 1 August 1966.

Whitman's Guns


The University of Texas Tower stands on a hill on the campus making it appear taller than its 307 ft. stance. The tower was constructed on the campus in 1937 and had become a campus landmark by 1966. 20,000 people per year were visiting the tower to ascend up to its 28th floor which featured an observation deck. From its initial construction point the tower had been the scene of death including falls by workers in 1935 then again in 1950. Others had committed suicides here in 1945, 49, and 61. Still the tower and the observation deck had remained open and had remained popular with the visiting crowds. It was here that Whitman fantasized about shooting people from such a high, well protected perch. It was here that Whitman was driving as the time leading up to the noon hour approached.

Whitman arrived at the campus entry around 11:30 AM. He used his credentials as a graduate research student to convince the guard that he was moving some research items to the Experimental Science building located on the campus. One through the guard station, Charles parked the car and loaded the crate and footlocker onto the rented hand-truck for the trek up to the observation deck of the tower. Along the way, he encountered visitors to the tower who were on their way in or out but paid little attention to them going about his business of moving to the 28th floor. Charles was able to ride the elevator to the 27th floor. In doing so, he had to drag the loaded hand-truck up a set of stairs to gain entry to the 28th floor and the observation deck. This move had been designed into the ingress plan by Whitman. In retrospect there was little doubt that Whitman planned to be in position and firing his weapons when the noon hour struck at the clock tower.

Texas Tower (In Foreground)


Texas Tower Overlooking University Campus


Apparently Whitman had no cover story to gain entry to the observation deck so he prepared prior to entry for encountering any resistance by arming himself. Ms. Edna Townsley was on duty at the receptionist station which permitted entry to the deck. Charles hit her in the back of the head with the butt of a rifle two times then dragged her unconscious body over behind a sofa. Townsley was still alive at the time but would die within hours of her injuries. After hiding Townsley, Whitman leaned over the sofa holding two guns. He was in this position when a man and woman came off the deck into the reception area. The couple moved to the elevator and departed the floor while Whitman watched but took no action. At this point, the couple had no idea what was taking place but did spot Townsley’s blood on the floor of the reception area.

Whitman had barricaded the door coming off the stairwell from the 27th floor using a desk from the reception area. Now a family of four was at that door and attempting to open it. M.J. Gabour, his wife, Mary, and their two sons, Mark and Mike were at the door. Mark and Mike pushed on the door hard enough to push the desk away and had the door open far enough to for Mark to look into the room. Charles immediately unleashed the short barrel 12 gauge on him killing him instantly. The Gabours and son, Mike along with Marguerite Lamport ran down the stairs as Whitman came through the door firing. He shoot Marguerite Lamport on the stairs killing her, and then fired two more shots seriously wounding both Mary Gabour and her son, Mike. The two were trapped in the stairwell and bleeding for more than an hour. Lamport’s husband, William, along with M.J. Gabour ran out of the building seeking help and alerting those nearby.

Word spread rapidly throughout the building and people began taking precautions either running from the building or barricading themselves in various rooms within the building. In the meantime, Charles had moved out to the observation deck and used the rented hand-truck to jam the entry door to the deck. He had unloaded his arms and supplies and concentrated his attention of the south mall area of the campus. He then began firing starting first with the highly accurate scope equipped deer rifle. The carnage had begun just as Whitman had fanaticized that it would; just as he had related it to the campus doctor.

Whitman shot Claire Wilson through the abdomen. She was 18 and pregnant. The bullet struck her unborn baby in the skull killing it instantly leaving Wilson down on the ground screaming for help. Thomas Eckman was next as he moved to assist Wilson. The round caught him in the chest. Eckman fell over Wilson’s body and died there. Whitman then moved on to other victims shooting them in various parts of the body. Some were instantly killed and others lay either dying or wounded in the intense 95 degree heat of the August day. Whitman had them pinned down and those who tried to assist them were either shot or killed as well.

Whitman moved about the observation deck of the tower unimpeded selecting his targets at will. Initially, he had worked on the south mall of the campus then he moved to the west side looking down on Guadalupe Street, a busy route known to locals as “The Drag”. Even though there had been activity to the south, most folks along Guadalupe Street had not yet noticed and continued about their business. Whitman had a bevy of targets in his sights. Alex Hernandez rode his bicycle down the Guadalupe going about his paper route was the first target wounded by Whitman. He then turned his sights on Karen Griffin who was only 17 years of age. Initially wounded, she could not recover and died one week later. Thomas Karr, who was close by Griffin’s position was shot in the back and died within the hour. Suddenly Guadalupe Street was in chaos as others ran for shelter from the rain of bullets coming from the tower.

Charles continued shooting people along Guadalupe as Austin Police began to arrive. He had already critically wounded Officer Billy Speed. Whitman shot Harry Walchuk through the chest as the 38 year old father of six and a doctoral student at UT made his way out of a newspaper stand. Walchuk died at the scene from the wound. Three high school students had taken cover behind a construction barricade on The Drag. One peered out from around it to locate the position of the shooter only to be hit in the mouth by one of Whitman’s deadly shots. His name was Paul Sonntag. Another of the three, Claudia Rutt was also hit and later died of her wounds at the hospital.

Austin Police were now on the scene and had determined the shooter’s position. At this point they were at a loss as to how they could either capture or eliminate the shooter without getting officers killed or wounded. Local citizens had also become involved. Some had gone home and returned with their own guns assisting police in returning fire on Whitman and slowing down his deadly shots on victims. Whitman had the advantage of cover and had begun shooting out of the rain spouts built into the observation deck walls. This afforded him far more cover than shooting over the rail but significantly reduced his range of vision in locating potential victims. Whitman’s fantasy was playing itself out in real life form.

Three Austin Police Officers, Ramiro Martinez, Jerry Day, and Houston McCoy, along with Texas Department of Safety Officer, W.A. Cowan had worked their way to the base of the tower and entered. They were followed by a few civilians. The group made their way up to the 27th floor where they rescued Mary Gabour and her son, Mike. The officers cleared the 27th floor and then slowly climbed the stairs up to the 28th floor and the observation deck. Officer Ramiro Martinez led the way followed closely by a civilian, Allen Crum. Behind them came Officers McCoy and Day. The group would later reveal that they had no agreed upon plan except to somehow get to the observation deck and either capture or eliminate the shooter. At this point, they were not even sure if there was more than one shooter on the deck. From the reception area windows, the group was able to look out on to various areas of the deck and check for movement.

Officer Martinez concentrated his efforts on the door leading out to the deck. Finding it jammed and unable to open it, he began kicking the door and continued until the hand-truck was dislodged from the door allowing it to open. Martinez then led the way out on the deck crawling toward the northwest corner of the deck. Officer Houston McCoy followed him in a slow crawl. Civilian Crum and DPS Officer Day began a similar movement around the southwest side of the building. By this time, the group was convinced by the movements they had witnessed that the shooter was lodged in the northwest corner of the deck. If their calculations were correct, the shooters or shooters would be caught between the two-officer pairings. If they wrong, well that was the stuff that made the hearts beat fast and caused the adrenalin to flow. Time would tell.

Whitman was also becoming aware that his position might be compromised. At this point, he attempted to change positions drawing fire from Allen Crum. Crum’s gun misfired in the process but Whitman was convinced enough to remain in his northwest nest. Whitman was trapped in his own lair but did not know it yet. He had also been greatly limited in his ability to deliver shots by the rain of return fire from the ground and the need to fire out of the rain spouts. The fantasy was almost over but Whitman did not know it.

Finally, Martinez and McCoy in their slow crawl had reached a spot on the deck where it turned toward the northwest face of the building. Fearing the shooter to be in place and ready, Martinez pulled his 38 caliber service revolver and quickly rounded the corner firing. McCoy followed with a police-issue shotgun at the ready. Whitman was caught off guard as he sat against the north wall looking south still distracted by the fire from Crum. Martinez shots missed the mark as Whitman swung the rifle around to shoot at them. At that moment, Officer Houston McCoy unleashed two rounds from the shotgun saving the day. Whitman was hit twice in the head and upper shoulder area. In the excitement following, Officer Martinez grabbed the shotgun from McCoy’s hands and pumped another round into Whitman as he lay on the deck with the life oozing slowly from his body and his fantasy rapidly slipping away into the darkness. Whitman’s chaotic fantasy turned reality had lasted a total of 96 terror-filled minutes.

Austin Police Office Houston McCoy


Austin Police Officer Ramiro Martinez


In the aftermath of the tragedy, Officers discovered the bodies Kathy and Margaret Whitman along with the notes and journal which Charles had written. Whitman’s name and his deeds were broadcast nationwide and his name and deeds were spoken on the tongue of everyone in America. In 96 minutes time, Charles Joseph Whitman had become famous in his own way. Unwittingly, he had also set up a circumstance which would be repeated many times over in similar fashion throughout America by those who either suffered in similar ways mentally or by those who were drawn to the exposure and fame which Whitman had earned in his terrorizing actions of death and violence.

Charles Whitman’s wish to have his body autopsied was fulfilled and the results shed new light on the case. The autopsy revealed that Whitman had a tumor growing in his brain which was highly aggressive in nature. In scientific circles, the “astrocytoma brain tumor” was referred to as a “glioblastoma” inferring that the tumor could conceivably have affected Whitman’s ability to control his emotions or his behavior. Medical experts agreed that the pressure exerted by this tumor on other areas in the brain could have been a significant factor in Charles’ behavior, his mindset, and the headache pain which he constantly suffered. While the medical evidence strongly bears consideration of the effects of the tumor, one must return to the psychological influences of Charles childhood and the impact of his overbearing father on the eventual outcome of Charles’ life. No doubt, the two worked hand in hand through the final demise.


Unborn Child of Claire Wilson

Mark Gabor, age 16, shotgun blast to the head at close range.

Karen Griffin, age 17, gunshot wound to the chest. Died one week later.

Claudia Rutt, age 18, gunshot wound to the chest. Died at the scene.

Paul Sonntag, age 18, gunshot to the mouth. Died at the scene. Boyfriend to Rutt (above).

Thomas Eckman, age 19, bled to death from a shoulder wound while lying on the south campus mall.

Thomas Aston, age 22, gunshot wound to the chest.

Billy Speed, age 22, Austin Police Officer. Gunshot to the shoulder. Bullet traveled into his chest.

Kathy Whitman, age 23, Wife of Charles Whitman. Stabbed in the heart.

David Gunby, age 23, Gunshot wound to lower back. (died at age 58 on dialysis for kidney damage from wounds.)

Thomas Kerr, age 24, a senior at UT. Gunshot to the spine.

Roy Schmidt, age 29, an electrician. Gunshot to the stomach.

Robert Boyer, age 33, a visiting professor of physics. Gunshot to the lower back.

Harry Walchuk, age 39. Doctoral student and father of six. Gunshot wound (unknown)

Margaret Whitman, age 43, bludgeoned and stabbed in the heart.

Edna Townsley, age 51. Bludgeoned and gunshot wound.

Maguerite Lamport, age 56, Wounds from a shotgun blast.

©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.

30 July 2012


Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on August 04, 2012:

@50 Caliber....Wow, experience at Parrish Island reads like early scenes in some movie, "Full Metal Jacket". I do remember there were some ugly stories in the press in the 60's. I had friend growing up who took that hitch though there around '68. He had cut a tendon in his little finger as a child and could not hold a flat plane on his fingers in a salute. They got real physical with him over that even though they knew he had no control over it. I think those guys started believing their own publicity. Good stories. Thanks for the good words! WB

@WillStarr...Yes he did and that was the gun that he did most of the shooting with because it had the scope. It was also a gun that I believe he had owned for many years and used in poaching white-tail deer so he was probably pretty familiar with it. Thanks much! WB

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on August 04, 2012:

I remember that he also had a 6mm Remington, a cartridge very similar to the Winchester .243, but with superior ballistics. That, I believe, was the main weapon he used, speaking from long ago memory.

50 Caliber from Arizona on August 04, 2012:

Wayne, a most excellent job on writing this fine literature that is in a parallel of quality I would expect to read in the Encyclopedia Britannic or hear as a narration of the History channel. I remember it well and like said by Dr. Bj the most precise I have read or heard. It was big news at Parris Island and the Drill Instructors took the cold heart tact, that he was a failure in his abilities. I heard that second hand but found it quite believable as Drill Instructors were dirt bags in my opinion having been there and listened to their attempts of trying to break a recruit to bow down to what I felt was false superiority, having lived through it in the prior year, I think it should be considered as it was an era where 3 to 4 DIs on one behind closed doors in center squad bay and practiced body slamming leave no marks and vile language and treatment in general if you earned a trip inside the Hut. At 17 I dumped a DI off the two rope bridge one at chest height and one you walked on, at mid way I pulled the top rope and kicked my feet on the lower rope and right behind me was Staff Sgt.McNeely and he was screaming to move faster and I just got the bright idea and down he went into the water trap then waiting for me sopping wet he gut punched me and threw me in the water and I got to do the course 3 times the last two alone with two DI's a crappy rodeo of pay back ending in a trip to the hut with 4 DIs who bounced me to and fro and lost any respect I had for a DI and I will remember their names forever. After graduation the need to call them Sir was over and they had audacity to want to shake my hand as successful, I declined and called them "Hey you Sgt Helms, I hope to see the for of you later, and he wanted to know what I was talking about and I told him, "you know after you're done here and show up over there". I made little bones about it to him to warn the other three, I was pissed of and now the playing field opened up. I never saw them except the senior DI at the Helicopter base Tustin. We were in the chow line and he recognized me and asked if I was still mad, I told him I was never mad, just disappointed and I still in the heat would do what I thought was right, I was a Gunny he was a Master Gunny serving as crew chief on the 46s and I was setting right seat on the hueys a pass by him in stature just not rank and you could see the look of anger flare in his eyes over me working the brass for a move from his job to second seat pilot. Anyway point is some of Whitman's ire could have festered from there as well, it sure lowered my respect for the institution until I was refreshed to the commitment between the men in my original a further units. We were kids so some abnormal thoughts festered with a non player as a team. I actually thought about this a month back, I was in town and watched a gun match between a 60 y/o sniper using the M1 Garand in a shoot against the new 50 caliber rifles at 1000 yards on the firing range at the naval base that hosted sniper training in Norfolk Virginia and the M1 Garand out shot in speed and accuracy on a 12 inch iron plate at 1000 yards, no tower windage a sniper and his spotter, the old guys whipped the tail off the 50. but with the explosive rounds the 50 was still graded superior in penetrating and exploding concrete barriers where the 30-06 Garand couldn't compete. I remembered that Whitman used a m1 and your picture provided what I wondered was it the Garand or the 30 caliber carbine and it showed the low power carbine.

I also had the exposure to a man and wife team that I'd known 15 years and communicated much with them after I got the computer and noticed that she was fading off kind of strange and I asked her husband and he knew but said it would pass, I later got hold of her employer and it was a small family business and I knew them all. He finally looked up 2 neurologists and wrote them down and told her to pick one because she was going like it or not. They found a tumor in her forehead the size of a tennis ball, and it tested benign and they shaved her head and lifted the skull and pulled the thing out and said it expanded upon removal and was 1/2 the size that I saw, and he said you have to realize the pressure it applied to the brain. I visited her the night before surgery and it was like I never met her before and she couldn't give a hoot who was there to see her. I mean every year birthday cards funny emails and the like. So the added information on the tumor to me explains a lot after seeing first hand a woman go from dark back to normal immediately post surgery and coming out of the medications I saw her after she was released from ICU to a regular room.

Just finding out the weapons caliber and which rifle it was and the tumor has explained much to me on this subject that I had not heard of before.

Great job and thanks for the information on a subject I've not spent time researching and if I did I could never reach the height of your journalistic ability.

Voted up on all applicable buttons,

and Kudos for the point that this stuff is not due to firearms and there are other ways if firearms were not the weapon.

Peace dust

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on August 02, 2012:

@teaches12345...This is one of those crimes that never really drop out of sight like so many do. It was tragic and horrorific at the same time thus it imprinted in the minds of Americans who were old enough at the time...somewhat similar to the Kennedy Assassination. All these year later, we now find that the University in Aurora also was warned of potential violence on the part of the latest subject but the cautions were ignored after the subject dropped out of school. We have a lot of disconnects in the system which could do far more good that pursuing all out gun control....that moves only works in one plane. Thanks much.

Dianna Mendez on August 01, 2012:

I remember hearing the news on Whitman and how shocking it was to hear this. Now, it seems the increase of this type of murder is to be expected. I would blame it on family problems, mental issues or drugs, but I am not a professional in this area. However, it seems that there is certainly a pattern here. Great research on this subject and so interesting to read.

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on August 01, 2012:

@Gypsy Rose Lee....Yes, and he was becoming more and more conscious of his condition and knew that he needed help. Near the end, it seems that he became convinced that no one would help him. The part that I do not understand is the amount either hatred or envy that he must have held for his fellow human beings to want to resort to such violence....irrational things food for the rational mind! Thanks much! WB

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on August 01, 2012:

Wow now I have the whole story. My goodness this guy was really messed up. I'm sorry so many had to suffer but I can say that thank heavens this guy went straight to hell and didn't hang around to be fed and supported. Fascinating hub passing this on.

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on July 31, 2012:

@one2get2know....Hey, thanks....lots of good research out there that others pulled together many moons back. I just tried to use it and tell a story...a sad story. WB

@The Frog Prince...Luckily there was a lot out there already done, I pulled information from those documents and fashioned a chronology to it....but, still, it did take quite a bit longer than most things. WB

The Frog Prince from Arlington, TX on July 31, 2012:

Excellent research which I know ate up some clock before you even got to the keyboard to write. Very indepth and informative. I remembered the event but only vaguely.


Philip Cooper from Olney on July 31, 2012:

Great hub...thanks a lot....very detailed hub.

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on July 31, 2012:

@breakfastpop....Thank you....a lot of folks did a lot of work before me that made it much easier from a research standpoint. At the same time, there are only so many ways to tell the story so they all start to look similar in many ways. Glad you liked it. WB

breakfastpop on July 31, 2012:

What a comprehensive look this is into an awful tragedy. You did an amazing job putting this all together. Up interesting and awesome.

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on July 30, 2012:

@drbj...Well, considering this subject has been written humpteen-million times, that is quite the compliment and I am so glad to earn it. Thanks much! WB

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 30, 2012:

This was not the first account I ever read about Charles Whitman and those tragic shootings back in 66, Wayne. But it was the best I ever read: factual, informative, detailed ... like I said - the best account. Bravo to you and your writing skill.

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on July 30, 2012:

@WillStarr...This one has been written in about every way...that was the challenge to try to bring my own touch to it. Hope I got there. Thanks much! WB

@suzettenaples...Thank you, Suzette. Yes, we continue to analyze how the gun does the killing and pity the individual who fell victim to using it. We forget, and this story strong shows it, that once he mindset is in place, many things become murder weapons. What a tragedy that this psychiatrist shrugged his shoulders and basically said that he heard that stuff all the time. Maybe that is why there have been so many suicides at that very site as well. Whitman literally handed himself to him and he turned his back. I really have this sense that Charles Whitman was a good person suffering from childhood and health-related influences. Never once in the researching this story did I get a sense that this individual was seeking fame with his actions. It was as if he was being led to the slaughter by outside forces and he had no choice but to go when he ran out of places to turn. If our professionals cannot recognize the problem and raise the alarm, doing away with all the guns will have little effect...other methods and other venues will be employed. I also agree that the media needs to cool on their coverage of these actions. Thanks much! WB

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on July 30, 2012:

This is a well written and well told story of this tragic event. I remember when this happened. This was very suspensefully told. It is what is at the core of the person that causes these tragedies. I don't know what the answer is. He was trying to get help, had told a psychiatrist what he was thinking of doing and still as a society we were unable to prevent the tragedy and help the man. I don't know what the answer is. It is sad it is so easy for these people who are hurting to be able to get guns. And, the media glorifies these people in their 24/7 coverage of the dreadful acts. It is a vicious cycle that we keep repeating instead of breaking the cycle.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on July 30, 2012:

Well done Hub, Wayne, and I would tend to agree that the subsequent string of shootings through the years are all copycat versions of this one, although many probably never hear of Whitman, or this incident.

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on July 30, 2012:

@cjv123...You and my sister! LOL! Actually I am working a fiction piece at the present that shows some promise. I am winding down to retirement hopefully by the end of the year at which time I can concentrate my efforts on writing and attempting to keep from starving to death hopefully without the added worry of Obama being around for another term. Thanks so much for the good words, Carol. This story has been told again and again so it was difficult to bring a perspective to it...hopefully I did accomplish something in that light. WB

Carol from Michigan on July 30, 2012:

Excellent, excellent, excellent. Although I knew about this historic tragedy - you filled in many of the pieces. When are you going to start writing books Wayne? Every single one you'd write I'm confident would be a best seller!

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on July 30, 2012:

@Becky Katz...Yes, what a shame that this young man with so much potential was consumed by a medical condition that mixed with his childhood experiences to produce a volcano that finally erupted in the death of innocent people. This is a very sad story. I thought it needed to be told again in light of the recent events of Aurora. Thanks much. WB

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on July 30, 2012:

Wonderfully written case study. Very interesting and complete. I wondered with the headaches if it was a tumor. I was in elementary school when this happened and did not know much about it.

Such a sad ending to what started as a good life. The Doctors probably would have found the tumor now, saving many lives. Medical advancement is truly lifesaving.

Wayne Brown (author) from Texas on July 30, 2012:

@gmwilliams...Thanks much. Charles Whitman became famous over the world in the course of 96 minutes. For those who cannot distinguish between good and bad fame...he becomes the poster boy, an idol of sorts. At the same time, I did not find any indication that fame was on Whitman's list of priorities. He was trapped in life and for some unknown reason felt that his departure from it should include as many other innocent people as he could shoot. I believe he had a deep-seated psychological condition that was driven heavily by his inability to become a better man than his father...apparently seeing himself taking on too many of the ways of his father over the course. Of course, the tumor may caused the constant headaches which only added pressure to the process. In the end, he was using the drug, Dexedrine, very heavily which were uppers. This affected him greatly in his ability to stay focused, especially in his studies. In his journal entries you can pick up on the giddiness as his mind jumps all around with the thought procession yielding a lot of disjointed thoughts on the page. Glad you liked it. Thanks much for the good words. WB

Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on July 30, 2012:

To Wayne, thank you for presenting this hub. Even though this should not be used as an excuse, children are often the result of their familial environments. Children learn what they see. Insightful and well researched hub which should be REQUIRED reading!

Related Articles