Jim Duke

Graduate Student, Student Union

00:00 / 10:20
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“Yes, I was on campus on August 1, 1966. My story may be of no interest to you but here goes.

I do not remember the weather explicitly but I think it was a clear, hot day typical of the end of July and start of August. At the time I was in graduate school in the civil engineering program. My office was on the fourth floor of Taylor Hall on the east side of campus.  I did not know Charles Whitman. He was in the undergraduate civil engineering program.

That day, when I found out about the shooting that was going on, I was in the Chuck Wagon in the Student Union building. Whether I was simply having coffee and visiting with friends or was having a lunch I don’t recall. I also don’t recall how I got to the Union building. If I walked there from my office I would have likely approached the main building from the east mall, stopped at the computer center (which at that time was just east of the main building), crossed in front of the main building and gone into the Union building from the west mall.

At the time I rode a motorcycle from my apartment to the University. I cannot recall where I usually parked it near Taylor Hall (if I ever did). But on August 1, 1966 it was parked on the south side of 24th Street just east of Guadalupe Street and immediately north of the Student Union building.

I do not recall the time I chose to leave the Chuck Wagon but as I was going out the door of the Union building that was to the north of the Chuck Wagon, and facing Guadalupe Street, en route to my motorcycle, a man touched my arm and suggested that I may not want to go outside because someone was shooting people. That was the first time I knew that shooting that going on.

My recollection is that I remained in the Union building for about two hours. Some of that time was spent in the Chuck Wagon drinking more coffee.

At one point I went to the second floor on the east side of the Union building to take peeks at the tower through the windows that were there.

The peeks were brief, always trying to minimize exposure of my head to the tower.

There are other things that come to mind as well.

I recall seeing civilians arriving with hunting rifles to shoot back and I recall seeing an armored vehicle coming south down Guadalupe Street.

This vehicle was green and resembled a military vehicle. It had four gun barrels mounted on the upper part of the vehicle. It seems that I saw it fire a round from each barrel in quick succession at one point.

To the best of my recollection I saw no victims of the shooting. After the all clear was given I wandered up toward the west entrance of the main building, past the Undergraduate Library building. I saw emergency personnel maneuvering a stretcher with an obvious body on it. Since the head and face were covered I presumed that they had a dead body but I never found out who it was.

The end of my story carries a more personal note. August 1, 1966 was also the day that Scholz Garten had chosen to celebrate their 100th anniversary:  beer 5 cents per glass and 30 cents per pitcher. Those were good prices even in 1966. I went down there about dusk and the grounds were, of course, packed. Whether it was because of the price of the beer, the shooting or both, I don’t know. But I do know that there were no chairs outside on the patio so I rolled my motorcycle in and sat on it. Nobody complained. After all, I had added two chairs.

When I finally got home I received a frantic call from my fiancé who had heard about the shooting on the news in the Dallas area.  She wanted to know if I was OK and she chastised me severely (still does to this day) for not calling to assure her I was OK. We were to be married 26 days later on August 27th.  (Perhaps you need to know that long distance calls in those days were expensive, about $3 for the first minute. That would be equivalent to about $30 today.)

My fiancé became my wife and we hope to be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary this coming August.

I have been forever grateful to the person who touched my arm and told me that I shouldn’t leave the Union building that day. Even today his name is unknown to me.”