Tag Archives: Waco

Today in Texas History – May 17

Grand jury indicts 106 in Waco biker shooting - CBS News

From the Annals of the Shoot-outs –  In 2015, members from the Bandidos and Cossacks  motor cycle gangs and other bikers began fighting at the Twin Peaks restaurant off Hwy 6 in Waco.   Police were monitoring the scene and after gunshots were fired a major shoot out commenced.  As one of Red’s friends cynically reported at the time, “No one was injured – (sotto voce) – nine bikers were killed.”  In fact, nine gang members were killed and twenty others injured.  Unraveling the sequence of events has been challenging.  It does appear that most of the dead were killed by police fire.  More than 150 were arrested at the scene, but there has been but one trial of Bandido leader Jake Carrizal more than two years later.  And that ended in a mistrial.  The overall impression is that the McClellan County District Attorney’s office was overwhelmed with the extent of these cases and has badly bungled the investigation and prosecution of some who clearly committed crimes and others who did not.


Today in Texas History – September 1

From the Annals of the River Crossings –  In 1889, the Waco suspension bridge crossing the Brazos River opened for traffic as a free bridge.  The bridge had opened in 1870 as a toll bridge.  Until then no bridges spanned the Brazos in Texas and for 800 miles travelers had to look for low water crossings or ferries to move east and west through central Texas.  In 1866, the Texas Legislature granted a charter to the Waco Bridge Company giving the WBC a monopoly on transportation across the Brazos for 25 years and prohibiting other bridges to be built within five miles.  The WBC eventually settled on a steel cable suspension bridge design as affordable and practical for the intended use.   The WBC  engaged the John A. Roeblng Company, the firm which originated the suspension span bridge concept.  The WBC hired Thomas M. Griffith, Roebling’s chief engineer, as civil engineer for the project.  The Roebling Company was commisssioned to provide cables and bridgework. After Robeling died in 1869, his four sons inherited the company, which was renamed The John A Robeling’s Sons Company. Washington Robeling, most famous for building the Brooklyn Bridge, finished the Waco bridge which opened to paid traffic in 1870. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River.  The toll revenues quickly paid for the bridge.  Popular demand for a free bridge arose and McLennan County bought the Suspension Bridge from the WBC  for $75,000 and then sold it Waco for one dollar in an agreement that required the City to maintain the bridge and eliminate any tolls.  The bridge was open to vehicles until 1871 serving for more than 100 years.  Despite many mostly cosmetic renovations, the bridge has been restored to its original glory and is now the centerpiece of Indian Springs Park.


Today in Texas History – February 28

From the Annals of the Cults –  In 1993, federal and state agents attempted to execute on an arrest warrant for David Koresh (fka Vernon Howell) and followers at the Mount Carmel Center compound of the Branch Davidians near Elk.  Based on an FBI and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms investigation, authorities sought to arrest Koresh for possession of illegal firearms. The ATF’s plan to arrest the leader of the Branch Davidians went severely awry.  The BD’s were not surprised because a Waco reporter asked for directions from a mailman who happened to be Koresh’s brother-in-law.  When the authorities arrived they were met with gunfire and an intense firefight broke out.  Four agents and six Davidians were killed.  The violence and stories about the bizarre and possible illegal practices of the BDs (including child marriage, polygamy and child abuse) captured the attention of the nation during the 51-day standoff which followed.  Ultimately, the compound was attacked with tear gas and other weapons resulting in a fire which destroyed the comp0und.  Only eight BD’s survived the fire.  Koresh was likely killed by one of his lieutenants Steve Schneider who then killed himself.

Today in Texas History – October 5

From the Annals of the Benevolent – In 1889, Liberal Hall was destroyed by fire. The Waco location was the home of the Religious and Benevolent Association founded by James Shaw and promoted freethinking.  The association began to publish a monthly magazine called the Independent Pulpit in 1883. The publication served as a forum for many of the members’ freethinking views. It was edited by Shaw and had a world-wide circulation. The introduction of such an association was bitterly opposed by churchmen across Texas.  Although, the RBA planned to rebuild it never did and the suspicious fire effectively put an end to the group.

Today in Texas History – July 29

From the Annals of Public Non-Broadcasting  –   In 2010, Baylor University’s KWBU-TV/Waco signed off after 21 years due to budgetary shortfalls. The PBS station went on the air in 1989 as KCTF and in 1994 the license was transferred to Brazos Valley Public Broadcasting Foundation and the station was moved to the Baylor campus.  The Waco community never fully supported the station and lack of local contributions ended its run.  Although Baylor had majority control of the BVPBF, KWBU still technically held a community license. However, the partnership with Baylor led to the perception that it was a “Baylor station,” which further cut into the community support needed to keep the station on the air.  Baylor itself was apparently uninterested in picking up the slack to keep public broadcasting on the air in Waco.  Could the University’s all-consuming focus on its corrupt men’s basketball and football programs have had anything to do with that?

Today in Texas History – July 6

From the Annals of Sugary Goodness –  In 1923, the Dr Pepper Company was officially incorporated in Dallas. Dr Pepper was first made in 1885 in Waco.  Wade B. Morrison, owner of Morrison’s Old Corner Drug, employed a pharmacist named Charles Courtice Alderton  who in addition to filling prescriptions served soft drinks to customers. Alderton’s experiments with combinations of fruit extracts and sweeteners produced one extremely popular flavor.   Morrison named the beverage after Dr. Charles T. Pepper, a physician and pharmacist for whom Morrison had worked in Rural Retreat, Virginia.

Red seldom drank anything else as a youth.  He still enjoys the occasional Diet Dr Pepper.

Texas, Baptists and Football

Not all Texans love their football, but a sizable majority do.  And although the state has produced exactly zero championships on any level above high school in more than a decade now, there remains the perception that Texas football is somehow superior and more manly than the rest.  The quest to achieve football prominence (or prominence in any sport) can overwhelm more pedestrian desires such as education, quality of life and safety.  What has happened at Baylor and in Waco is a prime example of misplaced priorities and an institution run amok in its goal of building a nationally recognized college football program.  Baylor had had brief moments of football success winning the Southwest Conference several times in the early days of the SWC and twice (1974 and 1980) under Grant Teaff in a more competitive era.  But until winning the Big 12 in 2013, it had been over 30 years without a trophy on the shelf.  Then sharing a Big 12 title in 2014 opened the possibility that the Bears might actually be on the road to long term success and regular national recognition.

But a what price?  Red does not know and probably does not care to know all the details of the investigation that has resulted in the firing of Head Coach Art Briles, the demotion of Ken Starr and the quick exit of the Baylor Athletic Director (whose name only the faithful knew before this week and even they will want to forget it).  Suffice it to say, that to fire a highly successful coach that had brought Baylor to national prominence, the facts are probably worse than we will ever know or want to know.  The athletic program, the administration and the Waco police and district attorney are all complicit in a horrendous cover up of gross criminality.  Anyone who has spent hard-earned money to send their child to what has been revealed to be a corrupt institution cloaking itself in Christian teaching can only be truly shocked and disappointed at how low this place has fallen.

Everyone Red knows that went to Baylor really loves the place.  It has a great reputation for being a place where students feel at home and build a sense of community and friendship.  Will that still be the case?

Red gives no credit to Baylor whatsoever for firing Briles and demoting Starr.  It is incredible that all of this occurred under the noses of the Board of Regents and they too must be considered complicit in the lack of oversight of a program that completely lost any ethical or moral mooring.

So when you are watching college football next fall, think about the consequences of the bloated importance placed on these games, these coaches and these players.  Something is seriously out of order when what happened at Baylor can go on for years without some consequences.