Tom Pettit; Award-Winning NBC News Correspondent

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Tom Pettit, award-winning former NBC News correspondent remembered for his exclusive live announcement of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald in a Dallas jail garage in 1963, died Friday after complications from surgery to repair a ruptured aorta. He was 64.

Pettit, who retired in April, was the recipient of virtually every award in broadcast journalism. During his career he won three Emmys, the Peabody Award and the Polk Memorial Award.

Pettit gained nationwide attention through his on-scene reporting of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. Later, he was stationed on camera in the basement of a Dallas jail, covering the transfer of Oswald, the accused assassin, to a vehicle when Jack Ruby shot Oswald to death.

As startled as viewers, Pettit professionally announced to the world: "He's been shot. He's been shot. Lee Harvey Oswald has been shot."

A seasoned political journalist, Pettit interviewed every U.S. president beginning with Harry Truman, and covered the presidential campaigns and national political conventions of 1960, 1964, 1972, 1976, 1980 and 1988 and the 1992 general election. The newsman began his broadcasting career in 1953 as a reporter for WOI-TV in Ames, Iowa, and later worked at KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.

Pettit joined NBC in 1959 as a reporter at WRCV-TV in Philadelphia.

From 1962 until 1975, he was based in NBC's Los Angeles bureau, with a brief time off in 1968 to serve as chief West Coast correspondent for the Public Broadcasting Laboratory.

He later worked in the Washington, New York and London bureaus, and for three years was executive vice president of NBC News.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and his four children from a previous marriage, Debra, Anne, James and Robert.

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