About Behind the Tower

Behind the Tower: New Histories of the UT Tower Shooting is the collective work of eleven graduate students and one History professor at The University of Texas at Austin. We came together in the Spring of 2016 to participate in a new course offered in the Department of History, The Public History Seminar. We studied various methods and forms of public history, but we focused on producing a public history of the mass shooting that Charles Whitman carried out at UT Austin on August 1, 1966.

The fiftieth anniversary of the shooting has produced more attention to these events than in the recent past, but we found that reliable historical treatment was lacking. Our goal is to use this website to open up a discussion of all the issues connected with the shooting, its context, and its aftermath. None of us is a specialist in this subject and we only had one semester to identify important problems, collect and analyze research materials, and write our essays. We want this website to raise questions, elicit curiosity, and encourage people to continue to dig into the history of what has to be one of the most important historical events to take place in Austin, Texas.

Joan Neuberger, Professor of History
Keisha Laneé Brown, School of Information
Itza A. Carbajal, School of Information
Miguel Felipe Daza, Curriculum and Instruction
Alejandra Garza, History
Maria Esther Hammack, History
Victoria Hurley, Curriculum and Instruction
Rebecca Johnston, History
Justin Krueger, Curriculum and Instruction
John Lisle, History
Isaac McQuistion, Asian Studies
Justina Moloney, School of Information


One of the great pleasures of our collective work on this website was the generous support we received from people with the skills and funding that we needed. Everywhere we turned people were as passionate and committed as we were to seeing this project through.

We received a generous grant from the Media Humanities Project of the College of Liberal Arts that allowed us to hire the talented technical wizards Felipe Fernandes Cruz and Brian Jones. Felipe taught us far more about digital methods than we needed, including help with constructing our timeline and augmented reality self-guided tour. Brian designed and constructed our website from scratch. Both cheerfully entertained our general clumsiness with technical matters throughout the semester.

Archivists at the Austin History Center and the Briscoe Center for American History were especially helpful in guiding us through their collections, making reproductions and giving us permission to use their documents here. We are especially grateful to Susan Rittereiser at the AHC, as well as Michael Miller and Nicole Davis. At the Briscoe, Margaret Schlankey and Brenda Gunn graciously offered their services despite on-going construction. Patrick Timmons, a specialist on the history of gun legislation in Texas, introducted us all to the finding aids for doing research in public Texas archives.

We also would like to thank Jenny Cobb of the Bullock Texas State History Museum and Prof. John Moran Gonzalez of UT English and Mexican American Studies departments for their curated tour of their exhibit “Life and Death on the Texas Border,” and their discussion of public history with us afterwards. We also thank Prof Javier Auyero and Marcos Perez and Pamela Neumann for their discussion of their oral history public scholarship project, Invisible in Austin.

We would also like to thank Gary Lavergne, whose thoughtful and extremely well researched book, A Sniper in the Tower, inspired all of us in one way or another as we struggled to understand the significance of the events of August 1, 1966.

Finally, we want to thank Prof. Jacqueline Jones, Chair of the Department of History, for her support for this project, for public history in general, and for all of our efforts to expand the ways we teach history at UT Austin.