On this day in 1731, Capt. Juan Antonio Pérez de Almazán, the commander of San Antonio de Béxar Presidio, presided over what was probably the first election in Texas history. In March he had welcomed a group of settlers from the Canary Islands by laying out a place for their homes and by establishing a municipal government. The immigrants formed the nucleus of the villa of San Fernando de Béxar, the first regularly organized civil government in Texas. On August 1 the new city council met to elect alcaldes, and electoral politics was off and running.
On this date in 1966, Charles Joseph Whitman began a killing rampage that left seventeen dead and thirty-one wounded in one of the worst mass murders in modern United States history. Whitman first killed his mother in her apartment and his wife in their residence. He then went to the tower on the University of Texas campus where he clubbed a receptionist, who later died, then killed two other people and wounded two more. Gaining the observation deck at an elevation of 231 feet he began firing on persons crossing the campus and others on nearby streets, killing ten and wounding thirty-one (one died a week later). Police returned his fire from the ground while police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy gained the observation deck, where they shot and killed Whitman. An autopsy revealed a tumor in Whitman's head but medical authorities disagreed over its effect on his actions.
On this day in 1861, the controversial John R. Baylor declared himself governor of the Confederate Territory of Arizona in what is now Mesilla, New Mexico. Baylor, born in Kentucky in 1822, had come to Texas at an early age. During the Civil War he commanded the Second Texas Mounted Rifles, who were ordered to occupy a chain of forts protecting the overland route between Fort Clark and Fort Bliss. In July 1861 Baylor seized Mesilla without opposition and pursued the federal Seventh Infantry, which had evacuated Fort Fillmore, east into the Organ Mountains. Baylor secured their surrender in the battle of Mesilla at San Augustine Pass on July 27. Though he was subsequently promoted to colonel, Baylor was succeeded in Mesilla by Henry Hopkins Sibley and removed from command in the spring of 1862 after ordering the extermination of the local Apache Indians. The victory at Mesilla was nonetheless one of the war's early and surprising Confederate successes, and Baylor's dashing actions in the summer of 1861 added to his fame as a folk hero. He died in 1894.