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1975: Tragedy in Denver City, booming Odessa - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

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75 years of the Odessa American 1975: Tragedy in Denver City, booming Odessa

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Posted: Monday, August 24, 2015 6:00 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year marks 75 years of the Odessa American. Through the OA’s anniversary date of Oct. 2, we will count down the last 75 years, with a brief summary of some of the news and events that affected Odessans.

Under cover: On May 25, law enforcement officers apprehended a man possessing $87,800 in cocaine after a high-speed car chase. Shortly thereafter, Odessa American editors learned that the man arrested was actually an undercover narcotics agent secretly hired by Ector County Commissioners to operate out of the district attorney’s office. The paper agreed to keep the story under wraps until those suspects with whom the undercover officer had transacted drug deals could be indicted. The Odessa American broke the story of the phony drug bust on June 29, two days after an Ector County Grand Jury had returned 122 indictments against 80 people. More than 60 of those charged with drug related offenses were apprehended by the end of the summer. The bogus bust polarized the community, with some residents feeling government officials should not deceive the media and the public under any circumstances, while others felt that the end of wiping out drug dealers in the area justified the means.

New UTPB president: On Sept. 12, former UTPB vice president V. R. Cardozier was named permanent president, ending a nine month search to replace Bill Amstead, who had resigned on Dec. 21, 1974. H. W. Hise, who blew the whistle on the use of state funds for a golf course on the campus and lost his job, was reinstated by the university at the beginning of the year but dismissed in August.

Boom times: The local economy boomed during 1975 due to a thriving oil industry. Several national magazine and TV shows, including Time and CBS Evening News, offered glowing accounts of employment opportunities in Odessa. Though the media marketed the city as a land of plenty, newcomers to Odessa soon learned that housing was scarce. The Odessa Chamber of Commerce as well as UTPB officials named the shortage a top priority. The lack of living accommodations for UTPB students was especially critical, since the school needed to increase enrollment in order to secure more funding from the next legislature.

Early in December, the UT System Board of Regents alleviated the crisis by approving installation of 100 mobile homes on the campus for out-of-town students.

Headlines:

  • The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce is established “to promote business leadership, create economic opportunities and advocate for the Hispanic business community in Texas.”
  • Permian High’s Russell Wheatley kicked what was at the time the longest high school field goal in history, a 62-yarder against Longview that helped Permian to a 10-9 win in the state semifinals.
  • On Feb. 1, nine Denver City residents die from a pre-dawn hydrogen sulfide leak. The tragedy results in tough new laws and regulations to control the deadly gas, which is common to oilfields.
  • No homicides are reported in Odessa in 1975, an achievement that won’t be repeated until 1995. Over that 20-year span, 107 homicides would be recorded, including 12 each in 1981 and 1982.
  • United States evacuates remaining Americans from Vietnam on April 29 as South Vietnamese government collapses and North Vietnamese soldiers take control of country.
  • Super Bowl IX ends with the Steelers beating the Vikings 16-6.
  • Jack Nicklaus wins the 39th Masters. That same year, Lee Elder became the first African American to play in the Masters.
  • Jimmy Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975.
  • Bill Clinton marries Hillary Rodham.
  • Stephen King publishes “Salem’s Lot.”
  • Archie Griffin wins the Heisman.

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

Odessa, TX

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