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William Thomas "Tom" Pettit
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Birth:  Apr. 23, 1931
Hamilton County
Ohio, USA
Death:  Dec. 22, 1995
Hamilton, USA



Tom Pettit was 
an award-winning 
television reporter. 

He was the only broadcaster 
on the scene - who was also 
on-the-air - when 
Lee Harvey Oswald was shot 
in the Dallas Police 
Department garage.


Tom Pettit was HUSBAND to
(#2)WIFE - Patricia Pettit

Tom was divorced in 1989 from
(#1) WIFE - Betty

Pettit was FATHER to
four children
(1) DAUGHTER - Debra
(2) DAUGHTER - Anne
(3) SON - James
(4) SON - Robert

Mr. Pettit, who retired from 
NBC News in 1995, won:
* Three Emmys
* A Peabody Award 
* The Polk Memorial Award.

His career stretched from 
the Eisenhower Era to the 
Clinton Administration.


Pettit's most famous report came 
from outside the Dallas City Jail 
in 1963. There he wasleaning up 
next to an inside wall, wearing 
a tan trench-coat and awaiting 
the transfer of Oswald 
(the accused assassin of JFK) 
to the County Sheriff's more 
secure facility. Although the
area was crowded with reporters,
the bespectackled Pettit was the 
only reporter providing live 
coverage as a handcuffed Oswald 
was suddenly shot by Jack Ruby.

In 1988, on the 25th anniversary 
of the assassination, Mr. Petit 
recalled standing just 6 feet away. 
He was watching as Ruby opened fire. 
"It was the only time I've really 
experienced doing eyewitness 
reporting while you're live on 
the air," he said.

Mr. Pettit began his broadcasting 
career in 1953 as a reporter for 
WOI-TV in Ames, Iowa. After stops 
in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and 
Minneapolis, Mn. Pettit joined the 
NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. 

He eventually held an assortment 
of posts at NBC Television Network, 
working as a correspondent in:
* Los Angeles
* Washington
* New York 
* London

He was Executive Vice-President 
of NBC News between March 1982 
and October 1985.


He was 64 years old; 

A spokesman for NBC News said 
the cause of Pettit's demise 
was due to complications 
after surgery to repair a 
ruptured aorta. 

He had been living in 
Hamilton, Bermuda.



"As you were
you will always be,
Treasured forever
in our memory." 



This biography is
humbly presented by
Audrey Burtrum-Stanley / Arkansas


Tom Pettit, 64, TV Reporter for NBC
Published: December 23, 1995

Tom Pettit, an award-winning television reporter who was the only broadcaster on the scene and on the air when Lee Harvey Oswald was killed in Dallas, died on Friday at Columbia- Presbyterian Medical Center. He was 64 and lived in Hamilton, Bermuda.

A spokesman for NBC News said the cause was complications after surgery to repair a ruptured aorta.

Mr. Pettit, who retired from NBC News earlier this year, wonthree Emmys, a Peabody Award and the Polk Memorial Award during a career that stretched from the Eisenhower era to the Clinton Administration.

But his most famous report came from outside the Dallas City Jail in 1963, where he was the only reporter providing live coverage as police led John F. Kennedy's assassin out for transfer to the county jail, and he was shot dead by Jack Ruby.

In 1988, on the 25th anniversary of the assassination, Mr. Petit recalled standing just six feet away and watching as Ruby opened fire. "It was the only time I've really experienced doing eyewitness reporting while you're live on the air," he said.

Tom Pettit Papers
Manuscript Collection: MsC-61
William Thomas Pettit (April 23, 1931-December 22, 1995). Papers, 1949-1995. 25 linear feet.


William Thomas Pettit
William Thomas Pettit was born April 23, 1931, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, and graduated from Waterloo West High School in 1949. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from the Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) in 1953, where he wrote for the student newspaper, the College Eye. He received a master's degree in American Studies from the University of Minnesota in 1958. He also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Northern Iowa in 1988.

Tom Pettit began his professional broadcasting career with WOI-TV in Ames, Iowa, in 1953. After two years he moved to KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and then to WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. He joined NBC in 1959 with WRCV-TV in Philadelphia, and, in 1962, moved to the NBC Los Angeles bureau. In 1968 he became chief West Coast correspondent for the National Education Television's Public Broadcast Laboratory. But later in 1968 he rejoined NBC as a Los Angeles correspondent.

He served as an NBC correspondent at the Washington, D. C., bureau from 1975 through 1982. In March 1982, he became Executive Vice President, NBC News, in New York. He served in that position until October 1985. He then served as Chief National Affairs correspondent from 1985 until 1989. From 1989 through the summer of 1992, he was an NBC correspondent based in London. He retired from NBC in 1995.

Tom Pettit won three Emmy awards, the Peabody Award, the American Medical Association's Medical Journalism Award, and the Polk Memorial Award during his professional career. He interviewed all United States Presidents from Harry Truman through Bill Clinton. He was well-known for his on-the-scene reporting of Jack Ruby's murder of Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas, in 1963.

Tom Pettit and his first wife, Betty T. Pettit, from whom he was divorced in 1989, had four children: Debra, Anne, James, and Robert. Tom Pettit later married Patricia Barry Pettit.

Tom Pettit died in December 22, 1995.


Tom Pettit left this collection of papers to the University of Northern Iowa under the terms of his will. The collection arrived at the Rod Library in October 2002.

The collection includes a small amount of biographical and personal material and a large amount of material relating to Mr. Pettit's work as a professional journalist. The most important part of the professional material is an extensive collection of his notebooks, scripts, and videotapes.

In order to make best use of Tom Pettit's papers, researchers should have a thorough understanding of recent United States and world political history. This understanding will help researchers to interpret Mr. Pettit's notes and scripts and to put stories into context.

University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson processed the papers and prepared this finding aid in 2003-2004.

Container Inventory

Box 1
Personal; family; photographs; education; professional

Biographical information including official biographical sketches, family data, photographs, NBC 25 year service award; Bermuda retirement plans, 1995; University of Northern Iowa honorary degree, 1988; course material and correspondence relating to seminars taught by Mr. Pettit at the University of Northern Iowa; 10 o'clock news attitudes survey; TV Guide article on television news, August 23, 1986; information relating to the British royal family, especially Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales; John F. Kennedy assassination 30th anniversary story, 1993; course notes for courses taken at Iowa State Teachers College, including courses taught by Professors Josef Fox, Charles Leavitt, James F. Becker, Mary Hunter, Lahron Schenke, Karl Svenson, Lyman Harris, Mary Hanawalt, and Boyd Guest; college essays and examinations; University of Minnesota graduate study bulletin, 1956-1958; "Changeover--the new-model farmer" (star paper for master's degree, 1958); NBC memoranda; NBC and personal telephone directories, 1976-1990; "Who's Who at NBC", 1985, 1986; NBC News policies and guidelines; Lawrence Spivak memorial service program, 1994

Box 2
Awards, memorabilia, and autographs, including certificates and plaques: key to the City of Council Bluffs, Iowa; honorary citizen of Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Los Angeles River Yacht Club Navigator; honorary citizen of Demopolis, Alabama; portrait of Tom Pettit presented by WSAZ-TV, March 1981; West Virginia Broadcasters Association speaker appreciation; American Medical Association Medical Journalism Award, 1971

Box 3-4
Tom Pettit's reporter's notebooks: these are handwritten notes taken in the course of covering and preparing a story; standard 4 X 8.5 inch spiral bound reporter's notepads; notes in longhand, but quite brief; some notebooks have dates, while others do not

Box 5-6
Scripts and notes for script preparation: handwritten notes and printed scripts; notes in longhand; some have dates, while some do not

Box 7
Scripts and notes for scripts: handwritten notes and printed scripts; notes in longhand; some have dates, while some do not; also campaign memorabilia, including press passes, identification cards, and ribbons

Boxes 8-13
Videotapes of news reports and special programs, most with dates and topics, but some without identification

Box 8
October 7, 1962. Richard Nixon. Meet The Press; 
January 30, 1975. Kennedy Center Gala. Air Dub-Today Show. 5:30; 
November 12, 1976. Convention; 
July 31, 1976. Pettit in Mississippi; 
August 4, 1976. Nightly News-Parts #1 & #2; 
October 5, 1976. Pettit-Catholics. Today Show. 5:30; 
October 6, 1976. Pettit-Catholics. Nightly News. 4:30; 
October 15, 1976. Demopolis. Today Show (insert). 
Box 9
October 23, 1976. New Home Revisited. Today Show; 
November 1, 1976. Los Angeles-Mexicans. Today Show (insert); 
November 1, 1976. Mexican Vote. Nightly News; 
January 3, 1977. Herbert. Nightly News; 
January 18, 1977. Company Town. 3:08; 
March 23, 1977. Hayakawa. Today Show; 
May 27, 1977. HHH. Today Show; July 22, 1977. Yazoo City. Today Show; 
September 2, 1977. North Carolina-Wrap, Blacks. 
Box 10
September 9, 1977. Pettit in Minnesota-2" Transfer. For: Farkas. 4ish; 
April 30, 1978. Dukes-Baseball. Today Show. 3:27; 
January 7, 1982. Tell The World What Happened. ABC. 1 hour; 
April 1983. First Tuesday; 
September 9, 1983. Milwaukee.; 
September 19, 1983. JFK Film XFER; 
December 22, 1983. 18 Political Segments-December 1983; 
January 31, 1984. IACOCCA: An American Profile; 
June 8, 1984. D-Day + 40; 
June 24, 1984. Child molesters and panel discussion. 90min; 
July 1, 1984. Summer Sunday. 1 hour; 
August 26, 1984. Summer Sunday. 1 hour; 
September 7, 1983. Potter/Airline(for Pettit). CBS Evening News. 2:15. 
Box 11
September 23, 1984. Meet The Press; 
April 4, 1985. Reagan Speech; 
April 7, 1985. Meet The Press; 
December 18, 1985. Barry Goldwater. Nightly News. 4:18 
April 3, 1986. Jackson Browne, For America.; 
September 3, 1986. Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, Exon Hearing; 
August 15, 1989. Marathon & Music; 
November 2, 1989. KGB. Call-IN Show; 
August 16, 1988. River boat. and August 21, 1988. Huntington Indiana; 
August 4, 1989. Sevastapol Navy Visit. Nightly News. 1:58; 
November 17, 1989. A Poisoned Inheritance (The State of Europe, Poland). NBC London; 
July 13, 1991. Oliver/Burrington Good Bye. 
Box 12
March 12, 1990. C/S Comp. Moscow; 
May 19, 1990. Donskoj Zeremony. 3:00; 
July 15, 1991. Thatcher; 
August 22, 1991. URI LUBRANI Int; 
August 1, 1991. Kuwait. Newschannel. 1:47; 
August 28, 1991. Baumee Int.; 
September 27, 1991. Papa Joe's 40 yrs. Party. NBC London; 
March 4, 1992. BBC Replay; Trident & Brit Rail. NBC London; 
April 8, 1992. I Witness Video, special #2. NBC. 58:51; 
January 19, 1993. Inaugural Parades. NBC News. 1:50; 
April 4, 1993. Pettit-Comp Dub Reel; 
May 15, 1994. Judge Breyer. NBC; 
November 16, 1993. Frontline Excerpts: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald. PBS; 
December 21 1993. "Moments We Remember," a half hour program featuring some of the stories of courage and commitment.; 
April 30, 1995. Meet The Press; 
May 1, 1994. Pettit Cut Spot-Haiti. NBC.; 
April 27, 1995. Oswald Shooting/MTP. NBC; 
May 15, 1994. Pettit/Track. NBC. 
Box 13
Seven unlabeled tapes

Undated tapes

"Hare Krishna" 
"Panama Canal," "Election 76," "NH Revisited," "Hayakawa," "Mexicans" 
"Bus ride" 
"Candidates for NBC" 
"Parties," "Herbert," "Dukes," "Catholics," "Demopolis" 
"Special Bulletin" 
"Masterpiece #4" 
"Jackson Commercial." 
"Assault on Big Brother" 
"The JFK Assassination: As it Happened" 
"Oregon Canal" 
"Leading, Building, Sharing: Campaign for the University of Northern Iowa" 
"Alaska Earth Quake" 
"Second Thoughts on Being Single" 
Video with music composed by singer-composer Celdeni Fonall 
Other tapes

September 21. Brountas at Work 
November 1, 1976. Election, version #2. Today Show 
September 2, 1982. Fantasy Island 
January 31, 1984. IACOCCA: An American Profile 
July 7, 1991. Tom Pettit Correspondence 
April 19, 1995. GOP Today 
Box 14
AFTRA agreements, 1991-1994; appointment calendars, 1982-1984, 1993; expense reports, 1989-1990; expense vouchers, 1992; correspondence, 1980-1995; briefing books from political campaigns and official visits covered by Tom Pettit, prepared by political parties, government officials, and NBC News, 1960-1985, namely:

1960 Convention Handbook. Compiled and Edited by NBC News; 
1972. Democratic Convention. NBC News; 
1972. Republican Convention. NBC News; 
August 16, 1976. Temporary Roll of Delegates and Alternative Delegates. 31st Republican National Committee. Republican National Convention; 
August 16, 1976. Platform. Committee on Resolutions. Republican National Convention; 
1980 Democratic National Convention. NBC News; 
1980 Democratic Convention Guide and Directory. NBC News; 
July 11-14, 1980. 1980 Republican National Convention. NBC News; 
1981. 1981 Presidential Inauguration. NBC News; 
January 20, 1981. The Inaugural Address of the President. Office of the Press Secretary. 1981 Presidential Inauguration; 
1982. Decision 82: General Elections Handbook. NBC News Election Unit. 1982 General Elections; 
March 20, 1984. Decision 84. NBC News. Illinois Primaries and Minnesota Caucuses; 
1984. Republican National Convention; 
October 24, 1984. Decision 84: General Elections Handbook. NBC News Election Information Unit. 1984 General Elections; 
October 17, 1984. US House Races. NBC News Election Information Unit. 1984 election of the US House of Representatives.; 
January 20-21, 1985. Inauguration 85. NBC News. Presidential Inauguration 1985. 
Box 15
Briefing books from political campaigns and official visits covered by Tom Pettit, prepared by political parties, government officials, and NBC News, 1986-1994, namely:

October 23, 1986. Decision 86: General Election Handbook. NBC News. 1986 General Elections; 
September 24, 1987-October 3, 1987. The Visit of Vice President Bush to Europe. Office of the Vice President; 
June 20, 1987. Vice President Bush to Visit Hacienda, Buena Vista. Hilland Knowlton/PRG Public Relations; 
July 1-2, 1987. The Vice President's [George H.W. Bush] Visit to Dubuque, Iowa. White House Staff Office; 
1988. Keep Hope Alive: Jesse Jackson's 1988 Presidential Campaign. Keep Hope Alive PAC; 
July 1988. Decision 88. NBC News. Republican National Convention: New Orleans, August 15-18, 1988; 
July 1990. 87th Meeting of the OPEC Conference; 
August 1992. Decision 92. NBC News. Republican National Convention: Houston, August 17-20, 1992 
August 1992. The Trip of the President to New York, Reno, and Colorado Springs. Office of the Press Secretary; 
1992. Decision 92: General Election Handbook-President. NBC News; 
1992. Decision 92: General Election Handbook-Congress, Governors, and Initiatives. NBC News; 
January 20, 1993. The Clinton Inaugural. NBC News. 1993 Presidential Inauguration; 
1993. The Presidential Inaugural Parade Script Book; 
November 1994. Decision 94. NBC News. Senate and House elections; 
Box 16
Newclippings and other material apparently assembled for the possible preparation of a book or article on the 1988 Presidential campaign

Box 17
Briefing book binders

Papers processed and finding aid prepared by Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist Gerald L. Peterson, October 2003-April 2004; with additional inventories by Public History intern Will Dodd, September 2004.

Last modified: October 10, 2004 (GP)

Manuscript Series 


Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives 
University of Northern Iowa 
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675 
Telephone: (319)-273-6307 
Fax: (319)-273-2913 

William Thomas "Tom" Pettit (born April 23, 1931, Cincinnati, Ohio; died December 22, 1995) was a television news correspondent for NBC from the 1960s through 1995. During most of that period, he filed reports for NBC Nightly News (as well as the preceding Huntley-Brinkley Report) and served numerous times on the panel of Meet the Press. He served as one of NBC's floor reporters at the political conventions in 1972, 1976, and 1980.

Pettit began his broadcasting career in the state of his upbringing, Iowa, in the 1950s before moving on to positions in Minneapolis (at WCCO-TV) and Philadelphia (at the NBC owned-and-operated station, now KYW-TV). His first position with the NBC network was in the network's Los Angeles bureau, where he worked for 13 years, except for a brief tenure with National Educational Television. By 1975, Pettit moved to the Washington, D.C. bureau, where he would cover national affairs until 1982, when he became executive vice president of NBC News under president Reuven Frank. In 1985, he returned to reporting, serving as national affairs correspondent until 1989, when he began a three-year stint in NBC's London office. He continued working as a correspondent until 1995, the year of his death.

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Pettit was dispatched to Dallas where he served, in effect, as a police reporter. In the famous footage of Lee Harvey Oswald being killed by Jack Ruby in Dallas, Pettit, standing six feet away, is heard exclaiming, "He's been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot!" NBC was the only network airing Oswald's transfer live.

Pettit was best known for his acumen in interviewing national leaders, including several presidents. He won several awards for his coverage, notably the Peabody and Emmy awards

Tom Pettit was HUSBAND to
(#2)WIFE - Patricia Pettit

Tom was divorced in 1989 from
(#1) WIFE - Betty

Pettit was FATHER to
four children
(1) DAUGHTER - Debra
(2) DAUGHTER - Anne
(3) SON - James
(4) SON - Robert

[Additional biography provided by Gary L. Pettit 
Journalist Beloved husband of Patricia Barry Pettit
Saint Columba Catholic Cemetery 
Newport County
Rhode Island, USA
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Created by: CLS
Record added: Feb 26, 2012 
Find A Grave Memorial# 85752501

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Thank you for your exceptional news reporting over the years for NBC. You were a great reporter and your services are sorely missed! RIP
Cory Walker 
 Added: Nov. 12, 2013
Rest in peace Mr. Pettit
Gary L. Pettit 
 Added: May. 3, 2011