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'Peppy' Blount, Longview's man of many trades, dies at 85

By Jimmy Isaac jisaac@news-journal.com
June 22, 2010 at 6:09 p.m.


Ralph E. "Peppy" Blount, whose life as an attorney, football collegiate player and pro league official, politician and telethon anchor led him to write biographies and novels, died Tuesday, according to local sources. He was 85.

Rader Funeral Home spokesman Sid Brown said services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at First Christian Church, 720 N. Sixth Street.

"He's an incredible storyteller. He was never without a story," said First Christian Church Senior Minister Richard Emerson. "He is a man of incredibly deep faith, and one I look up to."

Blount, a descendant of William Blount of North Carolina, whose signature appears on the U.S. Constitution, also was an Air Force combat pilot during World War II.

Blount was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1945 - the youngest person ever elected to the body.

Blount has his own <a href= "http://Wikipedia.com">Wikipedia.com</a> page, which touts several books he authored about his days as a collegiate football end, a fighter pilot and an on-field official for football, including a dozen years in the now-defunct Southwest Conference and two years in the American Football League.

Blount presided in the mid-1960s over the Gregg County Commissioners Court as county judge.

Shortly after completing his term as judge, Blount began hosting the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Labor Day Telethon for KLTV. Every Labor Day weekend for 33 years, Blount anchored the telethon as master of ceremonies until 2001 - a year when East Texans pledged $440,000, exceeding earlier goals of $320,000.

"I never cease to be amazed" with how much East Texans give, said Blount in 2002. "It has led me to believe that we have the most generous people living in East Texas than anywhere else in the world."

Blount remained active in local politics and was never hesitant to speak his mind on current issues.

In 2008, he wrote a scathing letter to Longview News-Journal editors after Longview and Pine Tree schools decided to play their cross-town rivalry football game in Tyler. Blount called the decision, "the most foolish, asinine decision in local public school history."

Earlier that year, he urged East Texans to write lawmakers demanding they vote to allow oil drilling in Alaska.

In February, he endorsed local attorney Snow Bush in the Republican primary for Gregg County Court at Law No. 2 judge in a letter to the News-Journal. Bush was defeated by attorney Vincent Dulweber.

"Throughout my adult life, I have been very hesitant to ever endorse anyone for public office," Blount wrote in the February letter. "You're asking your friends and fellow citizens to elect a person to public office whose actions may subsequently give you other thoughts about your earlier endorsement."

In 1985, Blount released his first literary work - "Mama, Don't Let your Babies Grow Up to Play Football." The biography detailed his life as a star end for the University of Texas Longhorns in the late 1940s and his career as a pro and college referee.

More than a decade later, Blount returned his attention to writing.

In January 2000, he released "We Band of Brothers," a biography in which he told of his World War II experiences as a decorated combat pilot in the Pacific theatre. Two years later, he released his novel "A Time for All Reasons" about a West Texas kid training to be a pilot.

Blount's books are available on Amazon.com, including his 2005 biography, "All Things Considered ... it's Been a Great Life."

Local resident John Harrison met Blount as a teenager in the late 1940s when Blount had returned from the war and already had reached his 6-foot, 7-inch frame.

Blount's surviving wife, Eva Jean, and Harrison's older sisters were friends when Harrison encountered Blount at a party and said, "'Blount, you're sitting down, and you're taller than I am standing up.' We've just been friends for that long."

Blount was never shy about his opinions of his support, said Harrison, 76, who acknowledged Blount advised him during Harrison's 1972 run for Longview Independent School District's board of trustees - a seat he won and still holds.

"(Blount) was very outspoken, and if there was something that struck his fancy, he would certainly let everybody know about it," Harrison said. "I know he was well respected in the community, and I certainly considered him one of my good friends."

He also knew how to make an entrance. Harrison said Blount would answer a telephone call not with "Hello," but by saying, " 'I'm here. Where are you?' "

Longtime News-Journal employee Becky Campbell remembered the 1970s when Blount would visit the newsroom and loudly announce his arrival. "If no one responded, he would say, 'That wasn't the response I wanted.' And he would go back out and do it again," Campbell said.

While at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 1940s, Blount played in three championship bowl games with the Longhorns.

In a September 2008 interview with the News-Journal, son Jeb Blount talked about his father's influence on his own football career, which culminated in a Super Bowl ring while playing for the 1977 Oakland Raiders.

When a reporter asked Jeb whether his dad pressured him to play football, he answered, "No, not at all. Dad allowed independent thinking. He never forced the issue. My intelligent brother, Stephen, decided football was not his passion, and he did it in the eighth grade. My Dad congratulated him for his decision."

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