Dean Blair Pittman, author and photographer, dies
Dean Blair Pittman, Jr., 79, a
widely known Big Bend author and a longtime photographer at the Houston Chronicle, died in Odessa, Texas, on Oct. 10, following complications from a stroke. His photographs
won numerous regional and national awards, and he was known for his books on
the Big Thicket and the Big
A memorial service will be
held Saturday (Oct. 22) at10:30 a.m. at St.James Episcopal Church in Alpine.
Pittman photographed a story
on the Big Thicket published in National
Geographic Magazine in 1974, which was influential in gaining recognition
for a National Wildlife Preserve. His later books included The Natural World of the Texas Big Thicket; King of the Dog
People; Texas Caves; Tales From The
Terlingua Porch; and More Tales From
the Terlingua Porch.
His photographs appeared in National Geographic books, Time-Life books, National Wildlife
Magazine, American Heritage, Smithsonian,
and other national publications. Photographs from his archive are held by Texas Tech University, including photographs of Elvis Presley, Lyndon
Johnson and other Texas figures.
Pittman began his career as a
journalist in 1964 at the Denton
Record-Chronicle, and moved to the Houston
Chronicle in 1967.
A longtime friend, Roy
Hamric, the former editor of the defunct Desert
Mountain Times in Alpine, said Pittman’s work on the Big Thicket was a
significant contribution to the creation of the Big Thicket National Preserve.
“He recognized the Thicket’s
importance early on, and he devoted a decade to meeting the people and helping
to tell that story. He was a student of nature and people, and after the
Thicket work, his home became the Big Bend, another
wild place in the Texas landscape.”
He moved to Terlingua in
1999, and lived alone in an rock casita in the desert. He was a regular member
of “the porch gang” at the Terlingua Trading Post, where he gathered many of
his stories for his popular books of Big Bend tales.
In 2009, he married Jean
Hardy, the owner of Front Street Books in Alpine, and in 2011, he moved to
Alpine to live with her following an automobile accident.
"Blair and I shared a
passion for Far West Texasand our desert and mountain country,” said Jean. “It was a joy for me to share
with him the last 10 years of his life."
Pittman graduated from Fort Worth’s Arlington Heights High
1955. He was an Explorer Scout Troop adviser from 1958 through 1961, when he
was only a few years older than his scouts. The troop specialty was caving, and
they traveled throughout Texasand adjoining states, where they explored non-commercial caves and helped to
One of his former Scouts and
a lifelong friend, Cedric Snyder of Austin said, “When Blair moved to Big Bend, he immediately was assimilated into the culture, as evidenced by his
many friends there. I was privileged to be best man when he married Jean, and
she was a godsend through his health issues the last few years.”
Pittman’s sister, Sue Fox of Fort Worth, said “I was fortunate to be the little sister who
sometimes got to tag along on his expeditions – mountain-climbing, rappelling,
Scuba diving and cave exploring. He made me braver than I might have been, and
far more daring.
“Blair had an energy about
him, always excited for the next new thing, and people were drawn to that
energy and enthusiasm. They wanted to be with Blair and to go with him on his
In 1962, Pittman married
Abbie Carlene Brummett in the Caverns of Sonora, where he worked at the time,
turning the natural cave into a commercial tourist attraction. They had a son,
Troy Randall Pittman, now deceased.
Other former wives included
Jeanne Norsworthy of Dallas, Houston,
and the Big Bend, an artist and great-granddaughter of Dallas Morning News publisher George B.
Dealey; writer Gay Scarborough of Houston, now both deceased..
He was born Feb. 12, 1937 to Myrtle Lawson and Dean Blair Pittman Sr., in Little Rock, Ark.; as a child, he lived briefly in Pecos,
Texas, and overcame bouts of pneumonia and polio.
He is survived by his wife, Jean,
and his sister, Sue Fox of Fort Worth.
Survivors also include granddaughters, Elizabeth "Toni" Pittman and
Rachel Smith, and her husband, Bryan; great-grandchildren, Anthony Lavender and