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Obituaries

David H. Gunby, 58; Hurt in '66 Texas Shooting Rampage

November 16, 2001|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In August 1966, a 24-year-old ex-Marine sharpshooter and architectural engineering student named Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the University of Texas clock tower with an arsenal of weapons and opened fire.

Before he was shot to death by police, Whitman killed 14 people and a fetus.

On Monday--35 years after the rampage--Whitman belatedly claimed what medical examiners in Texas ruled was his 15th homicide victim.

David H. Gunby, one of 31 people wounded by Whitman's gunfire that day, died at a Fort Worth hospital of complications from the wound in his only good kidney after deciding to stop dialysis treatment. He was 58.

"We have had a couple of cases where a person died years later after an injury, but I don't think we've had a case that was this long, dated back this far," said a spokesman for the Tarrant County medical examiner's office.

During surgery for Gunby's wound 35 years ago, doctors discovered that he had been born with only one functioning kidney and that it contained bullet fragments.

In succeeding years, Gunby faced repeated kidney problems, a transplant that nearly killed him when his body rejected the organ, and dialysis three times a week.

Gunby is said to have rarely discussed the shooting Aug. 1, 1966, when he was a 23-year-old electrical engineering student.

That morning, he had just left the campus library when he realized he had left a book behind. As he walked across the courtyard beneath the tower to retrieve the book, a bullet entered the left side of his back and severed his small intestine.

Gunby family members told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he later returned to school and earned his degree in 1968. But the Eagle Scout who made straight A's and was in the National Honor Society was never the same.

He worked in the General Dynamics avionics department for nearly 15 years before layoffs in 1991 forced him to retire.

"On the outside, he lived a very good life, but every day he fought," Gunby's son, Michael, told the Star-Telegram. "To see what he had to go through, every day was a fight just to live. If his eyes were open, he was in pain.

"The only reason my dad has died is because of Charles Whitman."

In addition to his son, Gunby is survived his mother, Grace, of Dallas; his daughter, Christi French of Fort Worth; a brother, Bob Milstead of Abilene, Texas; and five grandchildren.

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