Whitman and Jackie

Jackie Bancroft Spencer Morgan (“Jackie”) was a friend of mine. On occasion she liked listening to life’s tales that I would tell. Several times she asked me about Charles Whitman.

You may remember Whitman, the shooter from the University of Texas Tower. I was there, not far from the pregnant woman that got shot. I had just left the law school when I walked into this melee. The 25-year-old Whitman had climbed the stairs to the observation deck, lugging with him a footlocker full of guns and ammunition. At the top, he killed a receptionist with the butt of his rifle. Two families of tourists came up the stairwell; he shot at them at point blank range. Then he began to fire indiscriminately from the deck at the people below. By the time the police shot him dead, Whitman had killed 13 people and wounded 32 more.

This was not the part of the story that intrigued Jackie, however. Whitman was an Eagle Scout and former Marine, studied architectural engineering, had been a Scoutmaster and had an I.Q. of 138. What Jackie wanted to know about was the mental demons that caused Whitman to do this. She wanted to know about the suicide note he had composed the night before:

“I don’t really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and  intelligent young man. However, lately (I can’t recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.”

In this suicide note he requested that an autopsy be performed to determine if something had changed in his brain — because he suspected it had.

“I talked with a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt overwhelming violent impulses. After one session I never saw a Doctor again, and since then I have been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail.”

Jackie never told me why she was so interested in this, but she didn’t have to. I knew that her only brother had been institutionalized (private institution) for most of his life with paranoid schizophrenia. His mental turmoil and suffering always bothered her.

I write about Jackie in my book:  “Observer: The Ronnie Lee and Jackie Bancroft Spencer Morgan Story, a tale of people, greed, envy, manipulation — even crime”

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