Jay Hailey

Emma McBride, March 19, 2017

Jay Hailey: in His Own Words

I remember, when I was in the Library, waiting to go to another class, and I remember some other students running in and saying, “President Kennedy has been shot.” And everyone was confused and didn't know what to think, and so we all ran outside and looked for a television to see. I remember going to what we called the “Grill”. And there was a TV there, and so students all gathered around it, watching the TV.

What I remember doing next, was that I had an English class. So I went to class, expecting him to dismiss the class, and instead he said, “Well, this is a terrible thing that has happened, but we have to get through this material because we're already behind and we're not going to finish this semester if we don't, but we're just going to have to go ahead and have class.” And everybody was just stunned, you know, everyone was just like there is no way we can have class. I remember sitting there, I didn't hear a word he said.

The significance that was, some things happen to us, and we're in the state of shock, we don't understand the significance.

Did anything about the University of Texas shooting in 1966, remind you of the John F. Kennedy assassination just three years earlier? What seemed different to you?

Well, in that situation, I was very close to it. I was in law school by then, I had graduated from college, and then had come down to Austin, he had moved down to Austin for me to go to law school. So, in 1966 I guess I would have been in my first year, and I was in class there in law school and someone came running in, same thing, “Somebody's shooting from the Tower!”

And there at the Tower, but my vivid memory of it was we all jumped up, we all ran outside. And I remember running outside and saying, now wait a minute, they just said somebody's outside shooting people, and we ran outside, now that doesn't make any sense at all.

I remember, being behind a big tree, there was a huge oak tree. And I could hear the shots, and I could hear the shots, the rifle shots from the Tower. And I could see the puffs of smoke, coming from the top of the tower. And that time, people by that time were shooting back at it. Everybody went home and got their rifles and started, it was like a gun battle. And people just went down and got their deer rifles and started shooting back. And so they started shooting back, and I remember standing there like, “I can see him, can he see me, where I am behind this tree?”

And but I didn't feel in any real danger, and I certainly did not go anywhere near the campus, you know, over by the Tower, you know, while that was going on. That lasted for a while, and then the shots were quiet. And again, it happens and you don't, you don't understand the significance of it. I didn't know how many people had been killed.

But, I didn't, I didn't know anyone at the time, you know, who was shot, you know. It was not anyone I was close to, it was just this long list of people. But what I did find out later there is a, at my law firm right now, there's a lawyer named Jim Bryce, and he was there. And in fact, he was very instrumental in getting a monument put on the campus, here this last year, they had the 50th anniversary of that on campus. And, he helped organize a group who raised money to build this monument to the people that were killed. And he had just met a young woman, a woman who was pregnant, but they were good friends. And then, she was going to go meet the father of the baby, someplace for lunch or something, and she was shot. And she became somewhat famous because she, it was really a sad story. He wasn't there in the shooting, he left on, so he wasn't one of the ones involved, on the campus, one that was actually shot. But he met with her just a few minutes before she was actually shot.

And she, well her baby was killed. She survived, but her baby died. And the sad part about it is, they think he knew she was pregnant, and killed the baby, and intended to kill both of them, you know.

But she laid there for an hour, or so. They couldn't get to her to rescue her. And they've done a documentary about that, just recently, that my friend, Jim helped put together. And it's really interesting, and if you want to see a really interesting documentary, you can see it, it's called THE TOWER. And it's really well done, but a lot of the story is about her.

And this was in August, when it was really, really hot, and so she talks about just laying on this hot sidewalk, just thought she was going to die from the heat. Finally, a student ran out and risked his life, and pulled her to safety. In fact two students did, and they tell about them, and what, you know, they were just kind of regular people, but they really were heroes, and risked their lives to save her.