William Thomas Pettit Papers, 1949-1995

Collection Overview

Title: William Thomas Pettit Papers, 1949-1995

Record Series: MsC-61

Record Group:


Creator: Pettitt, William Thomas (Tom)

Date: 1949-1995

Extent: 17 boxes (21.25 linear feet)

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.

Language: Materials entirely in English.

Information for Users

Accessing the Collection:

No restrictions. Materials are open for research.

Technical Access: A considerable amount of material is recorded on obsolete technology, such as VHS tapes. These have not been digitalized.

Custodial History:

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.

Sensitive Materials Statement: Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy or similar laws, and the Iowa Open Records Law (see Iowa Code § 22.7). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Northern Iowa assumes no responsibility.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], in the [Series Title] #[series number], [folder number or title when applicable], [Collection Name], Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.

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Please see our full General Use and Service Policies for more information.

Historical Note

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.

Scope and Content

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. 


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

Boxes 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

Boxes 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

Folder 1: October 7, 1962. Richard Nixon. Meet The Press;

Folder 2: January 30, 1975. Kennedy Center Gala. Air Dub-Today Show. 5:30;

Folder 3: November 12, 1976. Convention;

Folder 4: July 31, 1976. Pettit in Mississippi;

Folder 5: August 4, 1976. Nightly News-Parts #1 & #2;

Folder 6: October 5, 1976. Pettit-Catholics. Today Show. 5:30;

Folder 7: October 6, 1976. Pettit-Catholics. Nightly News. 4:30;

Folder 8: October 15, 1976. Demopolis. Today Show (insert).

Box 9

Folder 1: October 23, 1976. New Home Revisited. Today Show;

Folder 2: November 1, 1976. Los Angeles-Mexicans. Today Show (insert);

Folder 3: November 1, 1976. Mexican Vote. Nightly News;

Folder 4: January 3, 1977. Herbert. Nightly News;

Folder 5: January 18, 1977. Company Town. 3:08;

Folder 6: March 23, 1977. Hayakawa. Today Show;

Folder 7: May 27, 1977. HHH. Today Show; July 22, 1977. Yazoo City. Today Show;

Folder 8: September 2, 1977. North Carolina-Wrap, Blacks.

Box 10

Folder 1: September 9, 1977. Pettit in Minnesota-2" Transfer. For: Farkas. 4ish;

Folder 2: April 30, 1978. Dukes-Baseball. Today Show. 3:27;

Folder 3: January 7, 1982. Tell The World What Happened. ABC. 1 hour;

Folder 4: April 1983. First Tuesday;

Folder 5: September 9, 1983. Milwaukee.;

Folder 6: September 19, 1983. JFK Film XFER;

Folder 7: December 22, 1983. 18 Political Segments-December 1983;

Folder 8: January 31, 1984. IACOCCA: An American Profile;

Folder 9: June 8, 1984. D-Day + 40;

Folder 10: June 24, 1984. Child molesters and panel discussion. 90min;

Folder 11: July 1, 1984. Summer Sunday. 1 hour;

Folder 12: August 26, 1984. Summer Sunday. 1 hour;

Folde 13: September 7, 1983. Potter/Airline(for Pettit). CBS Evening News. 2:15.

Box 11

Folder 1: September 23, 1984. Meet The Press;

Folder 2: April 4, 1985. Reagan Speech;

Folder 3: April 7, 1985. Meet The Press;

Folder 4: December 18, 1985. Barry Goldwater. Nightly News. 4:18

Folder 5: April 3, 1986. Jackson Browne, For America.;

Folder 6: September 3, 1986. Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, Exon Hearing;

Folder 7: August 15, 1989. Marathon & Music;

Folder 8: November 2, 1989. KGB. Call-IN Show;

Folder 9: August 16, 1988. River boat. and August 21, 1988. Huntington Indiana;

Folder 10: August 4, 1989. Sevastapol Navy Visit. Nightly News. 1:58;

Folder 11: November 17, 1989. A Poisoned Inheritance (The State of Europe, Poland). NBC London;

Folder 12: July 13, 1991. Oliver/Burrington Good Bye.

Box 12

Folder 1: March 12, 1990. C/S Comp. Moscow;

Folder 2: May 19, 1990. Donskoj Zeremony. 3:00;

Folder 3: July 15, 1991. Thatcher;

Folder 4: August 22, 1991. URI LUBRANI Int;

Folder 5: August 1, 1991. Kuwait. Newschannel. 1:47;

Folder 6: August 28, 1991. Baumee Int.;

Folder 7: September 27, 1991. Papa Joe's 40 yrs. Party. NBC London;

Folder 8: March 4, 1992. BBC Replay; Trident & Brit Rail. NBC London;

Folder 9: April 8, 1992. I Witness Video, special #2. NBC. 58:51;

Folder 10: January 19, 1993. Inaugural Parades. NBC News. 1:50;

Folder 11: April 4, 1993. Pettit-Comp Dub Reel;

Folder 12: May 15, 1994. Judge Breyer. NBC;

Folder 13: November 16, 1993. Frontline Excerpts: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald. PBS;

Folder 15: December 21 1993. "Moments We Remember," a half hour program featuring some of the stories of courage and commitment.;

Folder 16: April 30, 1995. Meet The Press;

Folder 17: May 1, 1994. Pettit Cut Spot-Haiti. NBC.;

Folder 18: April 27, 1995. Oswald Shooting/MTP. NBC;

Folder 19: May 15, 1994. Pettit/Track. NBC.

Box 13

Folders 1-7: Seven unlabeled tapes

Folders 8-22: Undated tapes

  • Folder 8: "Hare Krishna"
  • Folder 9: "Panama Canal," "Election 76," "NH Revisited," "Hayakawa," "Mexicans"
  • Folder 10: "Bus ride"
  • Folder 11: "Candidates for NBC"
  • Folder 12: "Parties," "Herbert," "Dukes," "Catholics," "Demopolis"
  • Folder 13: "Special Bulletin"
  • Folder 14: "Masterpiece #4"
  • Folder 15: "Jackson Commercial."
  • Folder 16: "Assault on Big Brother"
  • Folder 17: "The JFK Assassination: As it Happened"
  • Folder 18: "Oregon Canal"
  • Folder 19: "Leading, Building, Sharing: Campaign for the University of Northern Iowa"
  • Folder 20: "Alaska Earth Quake"
  • Folder 21: "Second Thoughts on Being Single"
  • Folder 22: Video with music composed by singer-composer Celdeni Fonall

Folders 23-28: Other tapes

  • Folder 23: September 21. Brountas at Work
  • Folder 24: November 1, 1976. Election, version #2. Today Show
  • Folder 25: September 2, 1982. Fantasy Island
  • Folder 26: January 31, 1984. IACOCCA: An American Profile
  • Folder 27: July 7, 1991. Tom Pettit Correspondence
  • Folder 28: April 19, 1995. GOP Today

Box 14

Folder 1: AFTRA agreements, 1991-1994

Folder 2: Appointment calendars, 1982-1984, 1993

Folder 3: Expense reports, 1989-1990

Folder 4: Expense vouchers, 1992

Folder 5: Correspondence, 1980-1995;

Folders 6-21: Briefing books from political campaigns and official visits covered by Tom Pettit, prepared by political parties, government officials, and NBC News, 1960-1985

  • Folder 6: 1960 Convention Handbook. Compiled and Edited by NBC News;
  • Folder 7: 1972. Democratic Convention. NBC News;
  • Folder 8: 1972. Republican Convention. NBC News;
  • Folder 9: August 16, 1976. Temporary Roll of Delegates and Alternative Delegates. 31st Republican National Committee. Republican National Convention;
  • Folder 10: August 16, 1976. Platform. Committee on Resolutions. Republican National Convention;
  • Folder 11: 1980 Democratic National Convention. NBC News;
  • Folder 12: 1980 Democratic Convention Guide and Directory. NBC News;
  • Folder 13: July 11-14, 1980. 1980 Republican National Convention. NBC News;
  • Folder 14: 1981. 1981 Presidential Inauguration. NBC News;
  • Folder 15: January 20, 1981. The Inaugural Address of the President. Office of the Press Secretary. 1981 Presidential Inauguration;
  • Folder 16: 1982. Decision 82: General Elections Handbook. NBC News Election Unit. 1982 General Elections;
  • Folder 17: March 20, 1984. Decision 84. NBC News. Illinois Primaries and Minnesota Caucuses;
  • Folder 18: 1984. Republican National Convention;
  • Folder 19: October 24, 1984. Decision 84: General Elections Handbook. NBC News Election Information Unit. 1984 General Elections;
  • Folder 20: October 17, 1984. US House Races. NBC News Election Information Unit. 1984 election of the US House of Representatives.;
  • Folder 21: January 20-21, 1985. Inauguration 85. NBC News. Presidential Inauguration 1985.

Box 15

Folders 1-14: Briefing books from political campaigns and official visits covered by Tom Pettit, prepared by political parties, government officials, and NBC News, 1986-1994

  • Folder 1: October 23, 1986. Decision 86: General Election Handbook. NBC News. 1986 General Elections;
  • Folder 2: September 24, 1987-October 3, 1987. The Visit of Vice President Bush to Europe. Office of the Vice President;
  • Folder 3: June 20, 1987. Vice President Bush to Visit Hacienda, Buena Vista. Hilland Knowlton/PRG Public Relations;
  • Folder 4: July 1-2, 1987. The Vice President's [George H.W. Bush] Visit to Dubuque, Iowa. White House Staff Office;
  • Folder 5: 1988. Keep Hope Alive: Jesse Jackson's 1988 Presidential Campaign. Keep Hope Alive PAC;
  • Folder 6: July 1988. Decision 88. NBC News. Republican National Convention: New Orleans, August 15-18, 1988;
  • Folder 7: July 1990. 87th Meeting of the OPEC Conference;
  • Folder 8: August 1992. Decision 92. NBC News. Republican National Convention: Houston, August 17-20, 1992
  • Folder 9: August 1992. The Trip of the President to New York, Reno, and Colorado Springs. Office of the Press Secretary;
  • Folder 10: 1992. Decision 92: General Election Handbook-President. NBC News;
  • Folder 11: 1992. Decision 92: General Election Handbook-Congress, Governors, and Initiatives. NBC News;
  • Folder 12: January 20, 1993. The Clinton Inaugural. NBC News. 1993 Presidential Inauguration;
  • Folder 13: 1993. The Presidential Inaugural Parade Script Book;
  • Folder 14: November 1994. Decision 94. NBC News. Senate and House elections;

Box 16

New clippings and other material apparently assembled for the possible preparation of a book or article on the 1988 Presidential campaign

Box 17

Briefing book binders

Processing Information

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; modified, February 2, 2015 (GP). Last updated by Library Associate Dave Hoing, October 2017. Linear feet count updated on August 7, 2017.