Episode 580: Charles Whitman: The Texas Tower Sniper



On the morning of August 1, 1966, twenty-five-year-old Charles Whitman arrived at the University of Texas Austin campus a little before noon, carrying with him several rifles, pistols, and a shotgun contained within a military footlocker. After talking his way past a guard, Whitman climbed to the twenty eighth floor of the campus clocktower and walked out onto the observation deck, then began firing at the people on the ground below. In the span of a just over an hour and half, Charles Whitman killed fifteen people and wounded thirty-one others before finally being shot and killed by a police officer who’d managed to make his way to the top of the tower. Investigators later learned that, prior to arriving on the UT campus, Whitman had also murdered his mother and his wife.

In 1966, mass shootings were virtually unheard of in the United States and Whitman’s spree killing shocked the nation. By most accounts, Charles Whitman was the picture of an all-American man, which made his actions all the more confusing. He was well-liked, had a successful military career, a beautiful wife, and once out of the military, he began pursuing a college degree in preparation for the next phase of his life. But behind the façade of American middle-class success lurked a deeply troubled man whose personal history and acute medical problems would eventually go a long way to explaining his actions on the morning of August 1.

Thank you to the incredible Dave White of Bring Me the Axe Podcast for research!


Austin American-Statesman. 1966. "U.T. sniper shoots 33." Austin American-Statesman, August 1: 1.

Colloff, Pamela. 2006. "96 minutes." Texas Monthly, August 1: 104.

—. 2016. "Memorial day." Texas Monthly, August 1: 22.

Flemmons, Jerry. 1966. "UT tower sniper kills 14, dies in hail of police gunfire." Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 2: 1.

Governor's Committee. 1966. Report to the Governor; Medical Aspects, Charles J. Whitman Catastrophe. Fact-finding report, Houston, TX: Texas Department of Public Safety.

Krebs, Albin. 1966. "The Texas killer: Former Florida neighbors recall a nice boy who liked toy guns." New York Times, August 2: 15.

Lavergne, Gary. 1997. Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press.

New York Times. 1967. "U. of Texas to reopen ." New York Times, June 18: 25.

Stuever, Hank. 1996. "96 minutes, 30 years later." Austin American-Statesman, July 29: 1.

Texas Department of Public Safety. 1966. Statement of John and Fran Morgan. Intelligence Report, Houston, TX: State of Texas Department of Public Safety.

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Continue reading...