Oak Hill facility to bear names of heroes of UT Tower rampage


This story originally was published on Aug. 1, 2008.

The people who risked their lives to stop Charles Whitman's killing marathon from the University of Texas Tower on Aug. 1, 1966, finally are getting permanent recognition for their bravery.

But the new memorial is 12 miles from the UT Tower.

A Travis County building in Oak Hill will be named the Tower Heroes Building today at the unveiling of a black-and-silver metal historical plaque that lists the names of 10 law officers and four civilians who braved Whitman's heavy gunfire to try to end the 96-minute massacre that turned the UT campus and surrounding area into a killing field.

The new memorial at the precinct building that houses constable, justice of the peace and tax offices in Southwest Austin was spearheaded by retired Austin advertising executive Forrest Preece and Precinct 3 County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.

"It became obvious to me if those people were going to get recognized, it was going to take an outside party doing it," said Preece, who was nearly hit by one of Whitman's bullets and who raised the $1,600 for the plaque. "I wanted these guys to get a public building named after them."

Two Austin police officers, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez, shot Whitman as he sat in the northwest corner of the 231-foot-high observation deck of the tower. At the same time, Austin police officer Jerry Day and University Co-op employee Allen Crum were stalking Whitman on the deck from the south.

Whitman had fatally shot Austin police officer Billy Paul Speed as the officer ran toward the tower on the South Mall.

In addition, Austin police officers Phillip Conner, Harold Moe, George Shepard and Milton Shoquist went up the tower, as did Texas Department of Public Safety agent William A. "Dub" Cowan Jr. UT employees Frank Holder and William Wilcox also assisted. And, midway through Whitman's killing spree, civilian Jim Boutwell, who later became a Williamson County sheriff, flew a small plane around the tower with Austin police Lt. Marion Lee, a sharpshooter who tried to take out Whitman.

Besides those 14, the plaque honors all law enforcement officials, medical workers, students and civilians who "risked their lives by returning fire, assisting victims, and directing traffic."

"The name of this building honors ALL who were heroes on August 1, 1966. Many of their names will never be known," the plaque reads.

The only memorial about the Whitman massacre on the UT campus is a plaque installed in 2006 on a rock at a turtle pond on the north side of the Tower: "The University of Texas at Austin remembers with profound sorrow the tragedy of August 1, 1966. This space is dedicated as the Tower Garden, a memorial to those who died, to those who were wounded, and to the countless other victims who were immeasurably affected by the tragedy."

The university tried to raise $800,000 to refurbish the area into an elaborate reflection garden, but "we were unsuccessful with it," said Don Hale, vice president of public affairs for UT.

"From what I've learned about the tragedy, it had a huge impact on the city and this community," Hale said. "I'm not surprised people want to recognize the courage and the bravery of people involved in that event."

NAMES ON TOWER HEROES PLAQUE

Austin police officers:
Billy Paul Speed (killed by Whitman)
Phillip Conner
Jerry Day
Lt. Marion Lee
Ramiro Martinez
Houston McCoy
Harold Moe
George Shepard
Milton Shoquist

Department of Public Safety:
William A. 'Dub' Cowan Jr.
Civilians:
Jim Boutwell
Allen Crum
Frank Holder
William Wilcox


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