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Austin Filmmaker Bill Wittliff, Screenwriter Behind 'Lonesome Dove,' Dies At 79

Bill Wittliff
Courtesy of Texas State University
Screenwriter and photographer Bill Wittliff, who helped establish a research archive at Texas State University, died Sunday.

Bill Wittliff, the celebrated screenwriter behind Lonesome Dove, Legends of the Fall and The Perfect Storm, died Sunday of a heart attack. He was 79.

Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth made the announcement in an email to the campus community Monday. Wittliff founded The Wittliff Collections at the university in 1986, creating a research archive, library and exhibition gallery "focused entirely on the creative spirit of Texas and the Southwest," Trauth said.

RELATED | Bill Wittliff, A Giant In Texas Arts, Dies

A "gifted writer, filmmaker, photographer, artist and visionary," Wittliff was described by Trauth as an inspiration to all who knew him, particularly Texas State students. 

"Bill could usually be found in the corner of the room surrounded by students as he patiently answered questions about the creative process," she said. Trauth credited Wittliff with attracting people to Texas State from all over the world through the collection.

Wittliff donated his materials from Lonesome Dove, which won seven Emmys, two Golden Globes and a Peabody Award, to the archive at Texas State

In a 1981 interview with KVUE, he described his creative process as following the unknown.

"The process for me is you put one thing down and you see where it comes from and where it goes," he said. "A lot of time you have to throw them away. That’s where it goes."

In this 2017 video, Lonesome Dove producer Suzanne de Passe and Wittliff talk about the making of the miniseries:

Andy Jechow is the audience engagement editor for KUT News. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @AndyJechow.