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1969: UTPB established; U.S. lands on moon - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

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75 years of the Odessa American 1969: UTPB established; U.S. lands on moon

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Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 5:30 am

UTPB created: Longstanding efforts to establish a four-year state university reached a climax in 1969, but the outcome would intensify the rivalry between Odessa and Midland.

In February, State Rep. Ace Pickens of Odessa introduced two bills in the Texas Legislature. One proposed to promote Odessa College to a four-year institution. The other would establish an upper-level school with its own regents.

The Chambers of Commerce in Odessa and Midland preferred the latter plan, and decided the new college would be built halfway between the two cities. However, a group of Odessans calling themselves the "Committee to Elevate Odessa College" gathered 24,000 signatures on a petition asking officials to reconsider their plans.

When it became clear that the Legislature would not approve the measure making OC a four-year university, Pickens and Rep. Dick Slack of Pecos teamed up to propose the Permian Basin branch of the University of Texas, which would offer upper-level and graduate courses. The bill passed the Senate, 23-5, on May 27 and Gov. Preston Smith signed the measure the following day.

Over objections from city officials in Midland, the Board of Regents of the University of Texas system chose a tract of land in northeast Odessa as the site of the new University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Later in the same year, Midland County created its own two-year school, Midland College.

Mistaken identity: On Sept. 18, Frank Sawyer, 70, moved to Odessa following his release from the Kansas State Penitentiary. Sawyer became a free man for the first time in 36 years after another man confessed to the crime for which Sawyer had been convicted. For 50 years Sawyer was either incarcerated or on the run after escaping from jail. He had served eight years in the Kansas prison when he won his freedom. Shortly after his move to Odessa, an Oklahoma district attorney, Wallace Gates, announced that Sawyer must return to that state to face a charge of jailbreaking and to serve the remainder of a 99 year term for kidnapping. However, Gates had difficulty finding a local judge who would issue an arrest warrant for the old timer, and Sawyer hired several lawyers to preserve his freedom.

Miss Teen America: On Nov. 8, 17-year-old Debbie Patton of Odessa was chosen as Miss Teenage America in the annual pageant held at Fort Worth.

Vietnam hero: On March 3, Odessa High School graduate Alfred "Mac" Wilson was a Marine rifleman in the first platoon of Company M in the Third Battalion of the Ninth Marines, fighting in Quang Tri Province. Returning from a reconnaissance mission, the platoon was ambushed. Wilson and another Marine were crossing an area swept by automatic weapons fire in an effort to reach a machine gun when an enemy soldier threw a grenade at them. Wilson shouted to the other Marine and threw himself on the grenade, saving his companion’s life. For his heroism, Wilson would receive the Medal of Honor.


>> On Aug. 24, Odessa celebrated the opening of a new $810,000 Family YMCA at 27th street and Nabors Lane with an open house and dedication ceremony.

>> Residents of the Barstow Independent School District vote 185-2 to consolidate with the Pecos Independent School District.

>> On July 20, Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin land on the moon. Armstrong is the first to step on the surface.

>>The Jackson 5 debut when they open for Dianna Ross at the L.A. Forum.

>>The laser printer is invented by Xerox.

>>Super Bowl III ends with the Jets 16 and the Colts 7.

>>Richard M. Nixon is inaugurated as the 37th president.

>>Woodstock draws a half a million people.

>>The Beatles release “Abbey Road.” It would be the final album recorded by the band although “Let it Be ” was the final album released by the band.

>>Steve Owens wins Heisman.

>>The cartoon “Frosty the Snowman” premieres.

Information is drawn from news accounts, archives and other historical records.

Odessa, TX

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