Garden now a memorial to victims of UT sniper


This story originally was published on Aug. 2, 1999.

A green, peaceful place where, more than three decades ago, horror and death exploded from above, was dedicated Sunday to those who died and those whose lives were forever changed by Charles Whitman's bullets.

In a brief, somber ceremony, University of Texas President Larry Faulkner spoke at the leafy, sun-dappled plot of about one-half acre just north of the UT Tower. That area, known informally as the "turtle pond" for the pool along one side, officially became the Tower Garden on Sunday, the 33rd anniversary of the 1966 shootings that claimed 17 lives, including the sniper's.

About 100 people attended the 4 p.m. ceremony. Earlier in the day, flags on the main mall were lowered to half-staff. The Tower's chimes fell silent. Sunday night, its lights were darkened.

"Although near the center of campus activity, it remains a tranquil oasis," Faulkner said in dedicating the space, created in 1934 as a botanical garden. "This beautiful corner of the campus will help us remember what happened, the lives interrupted, the plans that went unfulfilled."

One of those lives was that of Roy Dell Schmidt, 29, who worked for the City of Austin Electric Department and was returning from a call on Aug. 1, 1966, when people on the street shouted at him to run for cover. He left his truck and ran. He was shot and killed.

On Sunday, his sister, Mildred Lynch of Moody, said that although she grew up in Austin and still visits frequently, she hasn't been to the Tower since her brother's death. The new garden will change that, though.

"It's very nice. It's something we can come back to," she said.

Carolyn Arnold was there Sunday with her daughter, Kim, who on that day was a 16-month-old baby in her mother's arms. Arnold was at the corner of 24th and Guadalupe streets when the first shots were fired just after noon.

"I watched everybody hide behind trees, and I was so frightened I just wanted to run and hide. But a guy standing next to me said, `Don't run. He's a marksman, and he'll shoot.' So I moved back under the shade of an awning and stayed still."

This was only the second time Arnold has been back to the Tower. The first time was the 30th anniversary. Arnold wanted her daughter to be with her Sunday because "she doesn't remember it, but it was something we experienced together."

Clif Drummond was 23 years old and the UT student body president. He had been shopping in the University Co-op across Guadalupe Street from the Tower and was walking on the West Mall as the shooting began. He ran into his office in the UT Union and, a pharmacy major at the time, grabbed his lab coat. "I figured I needed it for bandages, because I knew I was going to go out and do something."

He ran, zig-zag, back across Guadalupe Street. Over the next bloody hour and a half, he and others with him pulled four people, dead and wounded, off the street and sidewalk. On Sunday, he said, "I would reckon there were 100 people at least who did what I did that day."

Wayne Schmidt of Austin, the brother of Roy Dell Schmidt, still looks forward to the eventual reopening of the Tower's observation deck, closed since 1975 because of suicide leaps. "If you go up by yourself early in the morning, or in the evening to watch the sunset," he said, "it's a beautiful place to be."

Yet every time Schmidt sees the Tower, he thinks about that day so many years ago. "But," he said, "that's life. And you have to go on -- say a prayer to yourself and keep going."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Featured

HBO is bringing ‘Westworld’ to SXSW -- is Austin where the robot revolt will start? 
HBO is bringing ‘Westworld’ to SXSW -- is Austin where the robot revolt will start? 

HBO is bringing a bit of their smash hit show “Westworld” to South by Southwest. The cable Goliath is building a town from the ground up for an immersive experience exclusively for SXSW badgeholders.  Open from March 9-11 only, the “Westworld”-themed park will feature reproduced versions of iconic locations and elements...
Austin 'Black Panther' fans put on their Wakanda best this weekend
Austin 'Black Panther' fans put on their Wakanda best this weekend

It has come to pass as many (eventually) thought it would: experts are predicting “Black Panther” will deliver a $235 million-plus debut over the four-day weekend, making for the third highest four-day gross in history.  As Box Office Mojo noted, it is only the fifth movie to debut with over $200 million over its opening...
Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ to close SXSW
Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ to close SXSW

The North American premiere of Wes Anderson’s highly-anticipated and somewhat controversial stop-motion animated film“Isle of Dogs” will close the 2018 South By Southwest Film Festival, it was announced Wednesday.  Starring the voices of Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum...
Armie Hammer and Paul Thomas Anderson coming to Austin for Film Hall of Fame honors
Armie Hammer and Paul Thomas Anderson coming to Austin for Film Hall of Fame honors

Screenwriter and director Paul Thomas Anderson will accept the inaugural Jonathan Demme Award, and Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos will present Armie Hammer with Variety’s “One to Acclaim” award at this year’s Texas Film Awards. The March 8 gala will be held at the Austin Film Society Cinema.  Jonathan Demme...
‘Queen Sugar,’ ‘Drunk History’ and David Simon headline ATX TV fest
‘Queen Sugar,’ ‘Drunk History’ and David Simon headline ATX TV fest

The seventh annual ATX Television Festival released programming and panels for the fest, which takes place June 7 -10. Let’s take a look, shall we? * Look for a conversation with Blown Deadline producing partners David Simon and Nina K. Noble, celebrating 20 years of HBO series together, including “The Wire,” “The Deuce,&rdquo...
More Stories