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Cactus Pryor Interviews Injured Vietnam Veterans

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1960s

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  •  Did you go the, did you go to University of West Virginia, by any chance? 
  •  Uh, Potomac State. Which is a branch of West Virginia University. 
  •  Did you ever know a Barney, Barney Nash? He's a radio entertainer in West Virginia. 
  •  I've heard of him, but... 
  •  He sings spiritual songs. I used to work with him, long time ago. 
  •  You know, I've had some stomach trouble lately. I've had so many exercises... 
  •  ...have you been here at Brooke General? 
  •  I arrived here on the 30th day of September, this year. 
  •  When did the family get here? 
  •  Last day of October. 
  •  How, how is your... I don't want to get too personal, but your family life, how is it conducted now? 
  •  ... for one thing I'm sure they have to keep the kids off of you. I have four kids myself. I imagine the wife has to be pretty diligent there doesn't she? 
  •  Yes, she does. They realize that I am hurt, when I do go home, and they try to steer clear of my arm, so they won't hurt me. So I don't really have too much problem there. 
  •  Uh, what were you, uh, what was your profession before you got into the service, Captain? 
  •  I was a student at Potomac State College, which is a branch of the West Virginia University until I was drafted into the army. 
  •  And when were you drafted into the army? 
  •  I was drafted the fourth of June, 1953. 
  •  So you are regular army then? 
  •  Yes, I am. 
  •  What was your branch of service? 
  •  Chemical core. 
  •  And now when did you first go to Vietnam? 
  •  We departed the states with the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, the 25th of June this year. Arrived over there the 16th of July. 
  •  The tactics that we're using in this particular war, that helicopters for example are used more so than any other conflict in the history of mankind. Had you studied that type of warfare? 
  •  Yes, we had uh quite a bit of training in the loading and unloading of helicopters, for supplies and then of off-loading troops into the area. So, we were able to train back at Fort Riley Kansas, where the first infantry division was, with helicopters because they are assigned to the division. 
  •  So we had them to train with, and immediately upon arrival in Vietnam we started a more intensified program for this area in the use of helicopters. 
  •  What do you intend to do in the future when you regain complete health? 
  •  Go back to duty. 
  •  You intend to continue your army career? 
  •  I certainly do. 
  •  Well Captain, we wish you good luck. You've had some good luck. You've had some bad luck, but we hope that in the future it will continue to be good luck. 
  •  Thank you very much. 
  •  We'd like to wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. 
  •  Same to you. 
  •  Captain Charles M. Workman. 
  •  Willie, you're from Lufkin, Texas, right? 
  •  Right. 
  •  And you're making the army your career, I understand? 
  •  I was thinking of it. 
  •  Oh, you're thinking of it. Why did you join to begin with? 
  •  Well, I was drafted first, and then after I got my first discharge I re-enlist, I came back. During the time I did come back I was planning on making it a career. And I'm still undecided. 
  •  But you haven't discounted it yet? 
  •  No, I haven't. 
  •  Willie, I understand that you have been stationed in Korea too as part of your career. 
  •  Yes, I was in Korea in '63 and the first part of '64. 
  •  Then how long were you in Vietnam? 
  •  Approximately three months. We left Fort Benning the 17th of August and we got there on the 16th of September. 
  •  How would you compare the Korean people and the Vietnam people? 
  •  Well, actually that's pretty hard to say because I had a better chance to understand the Korean people than I did the Vietnam people, because there was very little chance that I was around the civilian population during the time that I was in Vietnam, and by not getting a chance to get around them and understand them that much it's hard to say. 
  •  What did the doctor say about your future? 
  •  Well he said that regardless of all they're doing, still going to get well. 
  •  Well we're very happy that you are and hope you have a very merry Christmas. What are your plans for Christmas? 
  •  Not too much, my folks will be down for Christmas. 
  •  They will be here. 
  •  Right. 
  •  Are you able to eat what they'll be serving that day? 
  •  I hope so. 
  •  Turkey and dressing, I assume. And all the trimmings. 
  •  Right. 
  •  Thank you Specialist Fourth Class, Willie Brown from Lufkin, Texas. 
  •  How did you first meet Jane? 
  •  A buddy of mine that was stationed at Fort Hood when I was there, he was married to the medical records librarian at Seton Hospital and then he fixed me up with Jane, who was working at the hospital. 
  •  Jane is studying to be a nurse isn't she? 
  •  No sir, a music teacher. 
  •  A music teacher. Well, what's she doing at the hospital? 
  •  Working as a medical records clerk. 
  •  Did you, did you attend a university Tim? 
  •  Not yet sir. I'm planning on going to one, once I get out of the army. 
  •  What are you planning to study. What field of endeavor do you want to follow? 
  •  Business administration, sir. 
  •  Had you decided this before you went into the service? 
  •  Um, yes and no. 
  •  Yes and no. But are you definite now in knowing that this is what you want to do? 
  •  Yes, sir. 
  •  The service helps a lot of people make up their minds at what they want to do in the future. 
  •  Yes, sir. 
  •  When did you enter the service? 
  •  April of '64 sir. 
  •  Were you drafted or did you...? 
  •  I was drafted, sir. 
  •  And what type of training did you have? 
  •  Capt. Charles M. Workman and Cactus Pryor 
  •  Willie Brown of Lufkin, Texas 
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In this unedited news footage, Austin broadcast personality Richard "Cactus" Pryor speaks with three injured Vietnam veterans at Brooke General Hospital, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio.
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.
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 3 years old, Cactus made stage appearances before the shows began. Cactus attended the University of Texas 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 where he was program manager and hosted a variety of television programs, including a football program with Darrell K Royal and many celebrity interviews. 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 and used 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 60s and 70s. Cactus Pryor announced to his KLBJ listeners in 2007 that he had Alzheimer's disease, and Austin's "original funnyman" died in 2011.