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Fire at University of Texas’ Little Campus, Building A (1964)

Gordon Wilkison

Silent | 1964

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  •  The Little Campus was the subject of a great deal of debate. Many wanted to preserve its buildings and their rich history, while others argued that space was limited and the growing campus needed the area for future buildings. A few buildings and a dormitory remain, but others were ultimately demolished to make way for the Frank Erwin Center 
  •  Former Congressman J. J. Pickle, who lived at Little Campus, credited the dorm with his growth in becoming one of the university’s most influential alumni. He later endowed several scholarships and a research center. 
 
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Shot by cameraman Gordon Wilkison for Austin’s KTBC, this news footage captures firefighters battling a blaze at the University of Texas at Austin’s Little Campus, Building A, on September 22, 1964. The building was located at the corner of East Avenue and 19th Street (now Interstate 35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard). The Little Campus was built in 1858 as the Texas Asylum for the Blind. The University of Texas later purchased the campus and turned it into dormitories.
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 in 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.