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From the Archives

Charles Whitman Probate File

Following the death of University of Texas Tower shooter Charles Whitman, his estate went through the probate process in Travis County. Because Whitman died without a will, an administrator was appointed to collect the proceeds of the life insurance policy and other assets and pay the debts of the estate. Donald F. Nobles, a 1960 University of Texas School of Law graduate who was serving as president of the Austin Junior Bar Association, was appointed co-administrator along with Whitman’s father, Charles A. Whitman, Jr. University of Texas School of Law professors Allen E. Smith, Parker C. Fielder, and John F. Sutton served as attorneys for the estate.

The Whitman probate file consists of ten folders: Pleadings and orders; Work papers and clipped cases; Claims and documents; Group Life and Health Insurance Company v. Raymond W. Leissner, et ux., et al.; Charles A. Whitman, Jr. v. Donald F. Nobles, Administrator of the Estate of Charles J. Whitman; Suits against the estate; Estate correspondence; Motions for summary judgment; Estate sale of automobile; and Estate sale of guns.

The estate was appraised at $39,110.37, including a $25,700 life insurance policy and a $10,000 policy for his wife. Damage suits were filed against the estate by eleven of the victims of his attack. Documents related to the claims against the estate by the victims, consolidated as Speed et al v. Estate of Charles J. Whitman, may be found throughout the probate file.

Tarlton Law Library digitized the probate files in the fall of 2018. Digital copies of the complete attorneys’ file are available at When browsing the digital collection, the folder title will appear as the subject.

This material was made public through the efforts of Austin attorney and University of Texas School of Law graduate Jim Bryce, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman, and Successor Administrator Virginia Nobles Markley.

A Sniper in the Tower, by Gary M. Lavergne and published by University of North Texas Press, 96 Minutes, a 2006 Texas Monthly article by Pamela Colloff, and Tower, a 2016 animated documentary by Keith Maitland, recount the horrific events of August 1, 1966. Austin History Center holds the Austin Police Department Records of the Charles Whitman mass murder case.