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The 71st Airborne Brigade

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | c. 1968 - 1973

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TAMI Tags
  •  The sons of Texas have met every challenge 
  •  Air National Guard 
  •  Ground forces 
  •  Birth of the 71st Airborne 
  •  Training 1st week 
  •  Tower training 2nd week 
  •  Qualifying jumps 
  •  General Blackwell - Dual missions of airborne infantry 
 
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  • About the video
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This short film provides an overview of the operations of the 71st Airborne Brigade of the Texas National Guard and an in-depth look at its paratrooper training program. The 71st Airborne was formed in 1968 from three battalions of the 143rd Infantry; it was headquartered in Houston and lead by General Thomas Blackwell. In 1973 it was reorganized and renumbered the 36th Infantry Brigade (Airborne).
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.