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Waco hit by tornado
May 11, 1953

On this day in 1953, Waco was ravaged by a tornado that tore through the heart of the city. The storm killed 114 people and seriously injured another 145; 196 business buildings were completely destroyed, and 396 were damaged so badly that they had to be torn down. After the storm, many shoppers began to frequent suburban shopping centers, thus hastening the decline of the downtown business district. "White flight" also contributed to urban decay, especially after the city's schools were integrated in the late 1960s. Connally Air Force Base was closed in 1966, dealing a blow to the city. The Waco Urban Renewal Project was begun in 1958 to deal with the problem of inner-city blight, and in 1967 the city was chosen for the federal government's "Model Cities" program. By 1978 the Urban Renewal Project had helped to channel more than $125 million into renovating the city's urban core. Slums were cleared and a number of new buildings were constructed, including new apartment complexes, a shopping center near Baylor University, and a convention center. The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, a city zoo, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame have also contributed to Waco's urban revival.

Construction begins at Toledo Bend Reservoir
May 11, 1964

On this day in 1964, construction began on the Toledo Bend Reservoir. The reservoir is the largest lake in Texas and is formed by the Toledo Bend Dam eighty miles northeast of Beaumont on the Sabine River. The reservoir occupies parts of Newton, Sabine, Panola, and Shelby counties in Texas and Sabine and De Soto parishes in Louisiana. The area is rich in Native American history, and by 1967 more than 100 archeological sites had been found at the Toledo Bend project. The dam was completed in 1969. With a drainage area of 7,178 square miles, the Toledo Bend Reservoir conserves water for municipal, industrial, agricultural, and recreational purposes and stretches for well over 100 river miles. Recreational areas around the lake, including Willow Oak Recreation Area, Indian Mounds Wilderness Area, Ragtown, and Lakeview, provide boat ramps and picnicking and camping facilities.

Army officer charged with murders at Franciscan mission
May 11, 1752

On this day in 1752, in a notorious example of bad civil-military relations, carpenter Juan Ceballos and Father Juan José de Ganzabal were murdered at Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Mission, near the site of modern Rockdale, Texas. Suspicion fell on the post commander, Felipe de Rábago y Terán. Assigned to establish a presidio to protect several nearby missions in March of 1750, Rábago fell out with the Franciscans over where to build the fort. He further alienated the padres by chasing after both Indian and Hispanic women, and by carrying on an affair with the carpenter's wife. After spending eight years in prison awaiting trial for the double murder, Rábago was exonerated of all charges in 1760.