FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Waco boasts some of the Lone Star State’s most memorable recent history: the siege of the Branch Davidian compound, a tornado that leveled downtown and now a biker gang melee that left at least nine people dead and 18 wounded.
The city of 129,000 people, standing halfway between Dallas and Austin on the Brazos River, is the birthplace of comedian Steve Martin and Dr. Pepper, which is believed to have been developed in 1885 by a young pharmacist trying to bottle the collective scent of various carbonated drinks. It’s also home to conservative Baylor University.
A closer look at Waco:
THE BRANCH DAVIDIANS
For many, Waco is best known for the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in 1993, when agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tried to arrest Branch Davidian leader David Koresh for stockpiling weapons and explosives at a ranch outside town.
The confrontation led to a 51-day standoff that ended on April 19, when the complex caught fire, killing Koresh and nearly 80 of his followers. The land is still used by surviving Branch Davidians, some of whom live on a rebuilt portion of the ranch. A section of the property has been converted into a memorial with simulated headstones for the victims of the massacre stacked into a wall.
A PRESIDENT’S RANCH
About 25 miles outside Waco is President George W. Bush’s Prairie Chapel Ranch. Known during Bush’s presidency as the Western White House, Bush entertained foreign leaders including Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair at the ranch, which is near the small town of Crawford.
The school with about 16,000 students is one of the nation’s top Baptist universities. Ken Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, is the school’s president.
The university’s student conduct code banned dancing until 1996 and today still prohibits “homosexual acts.” If students violate the code, the school “shall offer counsel and assistance to the individual so that the sanction imposed may be a catalyst for redemption in his or her life,” according to the school’s website.
Since last year, Waco has gained fame because of the hugely popular HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” starring Chip and Joanna Gaines, a Waco couple who rehabilitate historic properties across the city.
In a state where twisters are fairly common, Waco has its own footnote in tornado history. A catastrophic twister leveled downtown in 1953, killing 114 people and injuring hundreds more. It remains among the deadliest tornados in Texas history.
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