Jim Langdon

Student, Southeast of Austin

00:00 / 10:20
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“Yes, I remember that day very well. Although, I am not sure that my recollections from that day are likely to be of much interest to very many. I came to the University as a freshman student in 1963.

While I had attended High School in El Paso, Texas, shortly after I came to the University my father was appointed by then Governor John Connelly, to become the Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. In El Paso, he had been Chief Justice of the Court of Civil Appeals in El Paso at the time. So as a result, my parents had moved from El Paso to Austin by the time this shooting took place.

Accordingly, in the summer of 1966, I had a summer job working for Shell Pipeline Company right outside of Austin. We maintained the old Rancho pipeline right of way that ran from Houston to West Texas.

On the day in question, August 1, 1966, my recollection is that I had worked the whole day out on a Shell right of way somewhere south and east of Austin, and then at the end of the work day, we rode in the Shell trucks back to our warehouse, located somewhere south of Austin, where we often changed clothes and headed home in our own automobiles.

At the time I was driving an old Plymouth Valiant, with a radio that really did not work very well. However, I heard something about an event at the University and as I headed back to my parents’ home on Trailridge Drive in Northwest Hills, the University was right on my way home, I do not recall using I-35 much in those days…I think I came up Lamar and headed north that way to NW Austin.

I remember that I did divert over to the University and I believe that I actually drove north on the drag, probably around 5:30 or 6:00 pm that day. There was a good deal of activity, but I recall that it was still hard to figure out what had happened. I don’t recall a large police presence by the time of day that I drove by, nor do I recall that there were hordes of people walking around, but I do recall that for a very hot summer day, there were a lot of people wandering around.

It was not until I got home that evening that I recall learning the magnitude of what had happened.

Over the next few weeks, all of us learned of the various connections that linked us to this event. We learned where all the dead and injured were when they were shot – and of course each of these locations had significance for each of us, as at various times in our years at the University, we had all stood in most of these locations at one time or another. Then of course when more was learned of Charles Whitman, many of us had friends that knew him or had a class with him or some other connection. The same was true of many of the victims.

I seem to recall that one of my freshman psych professors was among those who had been shot, but survived. I recall seeing him around campus later in the fall with his arm in a sling. I recall that one of the dead or injured, was shot just up the street from the Kappa house – a location that I frequented often, as my girlfriend during those years lived there. I also recall – and this is a bit sick – being somewhat awed by the incredible distances at which some of these victims were hit. I could imagine that some people were just standing out in the open looking at the top of the Tower when they were hit.

I remember wondering what I would have done, had I been there.

I wondered if for example, if I had been out on the road in front of the Kappa house, would I have laid down or run for cover? What most people today, would find hard to imagine, is that with this shooting (which as far as I understand was unprecedented at the time), we had no frame of reference as to what this could possibly be… what was in fact happening?  Obviously this would not be the case today. My guess is that within seconds folks would understand the situation. I also think law enforcement really had no clue either – not a criticism just, I think, the situation.”