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New Terminal Opens at Robert Mueller Municipal Airport (1961)

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1961

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  •  Seeing-eye doors! 
  •  At the airline ticket counters 
  •  Examining the lobby 
  •  Looking out at the gates 
  •  Cactus Pryor enjoys a cup of coffee at the Driskill restaurant 
  •  Exploring the exit concourse 
  •  Baggage claim before carousels 
  •  Inside the new control tower, overlooking the “ample” parking space 
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  • About the video
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In this 1961 television report for Austin’s KTBC, broadcaster and humorist Cactus Pryor joins Colonel Vance Murphy, Austin’s director of Aviation, for a tour of a newly opened terminal building at the now-closed Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. Pryor explores Austin’s new gateway from entrance to exit, examining the terminal’s ticket counters, lobby, gates, dining area, and baggage concourse. Named after a former city commissioner, Mueller was Austin’s first civilian airport, operating from 1930 to 1999. The expansion seen in this footage was the airport’s first, adding a new passenger terminal and control tower. Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Austin Mayor Lester Palmer attended the building’s dedication ceremony. After closing the airport in 1999, the Mueller area now hosts several local film organizations and production companies, including the Austin Film Society, Troublemaker Studios, and Detour Filmproduction.
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 in 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 at Austin. 
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 at Austin, 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.
Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor was a comedic television and broadcast personality from Austin, Texas. Cactus, an Austin native, was born in 1923, straight into the entertainment business. His father owned the Cactus Theater on Congress Avenue (hence the nickname); and starting at just three years old, Cactus made stage appearances before the shows began. Cactus attended the University of Texas at Austin and served in the US Army Air Corp. When he returned to Austin from his service in 1944, Cactus joined the broadcasting team at Lady Bird Johnson's KLBJ radio station, where he worked until 2008. 
He joined the world of broadcast television at KTBC in 1951 as a program manager and host of a variety of television programs, including a football program with Darrell K Royal. Cactus appeared in two films with his friend John Wayne, Hellfighters and The Green Berets. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, he became a sought-after speaker and event host, famous for his roasts of entertainers and politicians, most of whom he counted as close friends. Cactus was also known for his disguises. He would appear at functions in character, often pulling a fast one on the crowd as he charmed them first in disguise, then again as he revealed himself, using his earlier conversations to entertain the crowd. 
As an active member of the Headliners Club of Austin, Pryor starred in many humorous television news satires alongside Texas politicians, some of which can be seen in his film collection, as well as the Gordon Wilkison Collection and the Wallace and Euna Pryor Collection.  He was nationally known, but kept Austin his home, helping put the city on the map in the 1960s and 1970s. Cactus Pryor announced to his KLBJ listeners in 2007 that he had Alzheimer's disease, and Austin's "original funnyman" died in 2011.