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Project 7 - Thunder Over Austin

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | c. 1963

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  •  Segment 1 for lesson plan - Target Texas: The Cold War and the Lone Star State  
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Directed by Gordon Wilkison and written and narrated by Cactus Pryor, this episode of KTBC-TV's "Project 7" seeks to set the record straight on the unpredictable and unnerving thundering sound frequently heard from the skies over Austin during the early 1960s. The sound was in fact sonic booms created by Convair B-58 Hustlers breaking the sound barrier on training missions out of Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. Through interviews with military officials and demonstrations, the program explains the cause of the sonic booms, the potential effects on the citizenry below, and the reason why Austin was being subjected to them at all.
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
 
A particularly notable moment is his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
 
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
 
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.