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Longtime Avalanche-Journal newsroom leader Burle Pettit dies

Burle Pettit, whose eloquent writing and effective leadership entertained Avalanche-Journal readers and influenced its reporters for more than four decades, died early Sunday. He was 87 years old.

Pettit joined the newspaper as a sportswriter in 1960 and steadily rose through the organizational ranks of the newsroom, culminating in his appointment as editor on January 1, 1995. He retired from that position five years later. late. After his retirement, he was named editor emeritus of the newspaper, his name appearing on the header of AJ’s opinion page. He also continued to write a very popular column, sometimes handing over the writing duties to his pet dog, Schnopper.

In 2019, a collection of Pettit’s Avalanche-Journal columns were published in the book: “A Boyhood Dream Realized: Half a Century of Texas Culture, One Newspaper Column at a Time.” That same year, he was recognized by the Lubbock Chapter of the Association for Women in Communications with the Mary Ann Edwards Outstanding Professional Communicator Award.

“Burle was a great reporter and a legendary reporter,” said Randy Sanders, who was named AJ’s editor after Pettit’s retirement. “He hired me in 1969 and brought me to Lubbock. For the next 31 years he was my editor. But more than that, he was my mentor and a dear and wonderful friend.

“I am truly sad to hear this terrible news, but I am comforted that he is no longer in pain and is with his sweetheart, Frances.”

Pettit was predeceased by Frances, his wife of 60 years, in 2017.

In many ways, Pettit was an important link to the rich history of the AJ community, coming to work at a time when editor Chas. A. Guy and President Parker Prouty were deeply involved in Lubbock, and the newspaper played an important role in Lubbock’s business and leadership.

“I was fortunate to spend the first years of my career under the tutelage of people like Parker Prouty and Chas. A. Guy,” he told AJ in the retirement story. “They taught me, among other things, the importance of doing everything with precision, fairness and objectivity.”

Pettit is a Moran, Texas native and North Texas graduate who later served on that school’s board of trustees. He was named executive sports editor AJ in 1966 and was promoted to editor in 1973.

Longtime Avalanche-Journal editor and reporter Burle Pettit wrote a regular column for the paper until recent years.  Pettit died Sunday at the age of 87.

Column writing was his strongest journalistic gift. He wrote the newspaper’s main sports column from 1962 to 1973, then wrote a Sunday general interest column from 1978 to 1986.

“Burle was a great citizen and was always for this field, but more importantly he was a great journalist,” former Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance said. “He wasn’t as concerned with being first as he was with being accurate. He didn’t want mistakes in any story. He always tried to be fair and objective.

In 1989, he was appointed editor-in-chief of AJ before becoming editor-in-chief. At the time of this appointment, he became only the second person, joining Guy, in the paper’s history to oversee both AJ’s news and editorial operations.

“Burle Pettit was one of the most prominent Texas writers, reporters, and reporters of his day,” said Norval Pollard, a former longtime AJ reporter who was hired by Pettit. “His mentorship and leadership has been invaluable to my career.”

Throughout his tenure, Pettit emphasized accuracy of storytelling, fairness of sources, and thoroughness of reporting.

“Burle was undoubtedly a community-minded editor, always concerned with ensuring that our readers were informed in an accurate and objective manner,” said former AJ editor P. Scott McKibben. “As a new publisher arriving in Lubbock in 1992, it only took a few weeks to find out that our newsroom was well run.”

Pettit, who at one point said he arrived in Lubbock thinking it might just be for a short stay, found it a great place to live and raise a family while writing. on Texas Tech athletics during the early years of his career.

“This community and this journal have been good to me,” he said in the article announcing his retirement. “I grew up in this building. If there’s anything I would wish for my sons and grandsons, it would be what happened to me at a time in life when you don’t always make a lot of good decisions. I had two great ones: I chose the right woman and I chose the right job. There is no better insurance for happiness that I can think of.

Pettit was a US Army veteran. At the time of his retirement, he was the only journalist in the state to serve as president of both the Texas Sports Writers Association and the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors Association. He is also a past president of the Football Writers Association of America.

His columns were marked by colorful reminiscences, memorable characters, and precision of words that enlivened his writing, earning him numerous awards from the Associated Press, Headliners Foundation, and United Press International over the years. year.

“Burle had a lot of friends and he did what he could to help Texas Tech,” Hance recalls, “but he wanted accuracy above all else. He was one of the last and one of the best of the real journalists.

Pettit has been involved in a number of community organizations over the years, including the Monterey Optimist Club, South Plains Food Bank, March of Dimes and the Salvation Army. He also held leadership positions at the First Christian Church in Lubbock.

“When you think of what an editor should be, you think of Burle Pettit,” former AJ editor Mark Nusbaum said upon his retirement. “His sense of fairness, his dedication to providing the reader with full and balanced coverage every day, and his general passion for his profession have served him well in his distinguished career. Moreover, because of Burle’s love of for Lubbock and the Avalanche-Journal, he made life richer for all whose lives he touched.

Services were on hold Sunday afternoon.