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Austin Home Show - Beautifying Town Lake (1967)

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1967

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  •  A letter that was presented to Lady Bird Johnson from Austin City Council about the beautification plans for Town Lake, which would be renamed in her honor in 2007 
  •  Plans for beautification including tree planting and the construction of a gazebo 
  •  The roof of Sandy's Hamburgers, which is still operating today 
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  • About the video
  • Gordon Wilkison Gordon Wilkison
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This segment of the Austin Home Show depicts an interview with host Bill Richardson and the director of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, Beverly Sheffield. Sheffield outlines the future landscaping plans to beautify Austin’s Town Lake. Learn more about Beverly Sheffield in the Bev Sheffield tab.
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
A particularly notable moment is his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.
From the Austin Chronicle 
The Patron Saint of Barton Springs: Beverly Sheffield, 1913-1999
If there could ever be a human soul that matched the beauty of Barton Springs, it was Beverly Sheffield. Sheffield spent a lifetime caring for our wondrous pool. He started working as the director of Austin Aquatics in 1935, went on to run the Parks and Recreation Department until 1973, and stayed active in Austin parks and civic issues the rest of his life. His list of successful endeavors to improve Austin's quality of life, and create the Austin we know and love today, is virtually endless. He helped map out our tremendous park system and made sure it sparkled with so many pools. He was also a major force behind the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail, the Zilker Hillside Theatre (re-named after Sheffield in 1997), and many improvements to Barton Springs. Sheffield received about every civic award given in Austin and was nationally recognized in the field of recreation.
Sheffield also had one important event in his life at the pool -- an almost tragic turn -- that changed him forever. On an August day in 1962, he was working an annual party where hundreds of Springs devotees, along with the City Council, celebrated the birthday of Charlie Morrison, the gregarious "mayor" of Barton Springs. In a rare break from his busy schedule, and at the crowd's insistence, Sheffield joined the party in the pool to swim the traditional lap. But he almost didn't make it out of the water. In an irony that never escaped him, Austin's recreational visionary swam a few hundred feet and realized something was very wrong. This overachiever had, as he confided many years later, lost touch with his physical well-being during his middle years. His plight unnoticed by everyone, too weak to call out for help, Sheffield struggled back to the diving board and collapsed on the sidewalk.
As he recovered, Sheffield made a vow to turn his physical life around. He kept that vow by swimming in Barton Springs for the rest of his life. At the age of 50, he set a goal of swimming the distance from New York to Los Angeles: 2,820 miles. Over the course of 36 years (and two pacemakers), he not only completed that goal, but swam well beyond it.
Sheffield's signature smile showed the rewards of a job well done, a life well-lived, and a community well-served. And in his smile one could see something more -- the mark of a man who was lucky enough to rekindle the spirit of his youth in his later years.
Somewhere, in a watery place, there is a man still swimming, and smiling while he does it. That man is Beverly Sheffield.