Sunday North Texas got hit by 70 MPH winds that toppled age-old trees, cut off power for hundreds of thousands and left the area in a state of confusion and loss. Most claimed that they never saw it coming.
However, it may be that old Mother Nature was responding to the shock of learning that Alan Peppard had died Saturday night. According to his wife Jennifer Peppard, he died in his sleep of a heart attack.
Knowing Alan, he would have probably chuckled at the thought of his death creating a maelstrom. But he would have secretly loved the idea.
In conversations and writings about Alan, some folks have described him as a Dallas Morning News historian and some as a society columnist. Actually he was a writer whose specialty was remarkable people of the past and present.
For 30 years he was the society columnist at the DMN. It was a beat few wanted because Pulitzers rarely, if ever, acknowledge the beat. But it was also a tough beat. The people, places and occasions are so seductive. It’s hard to not succumb to the flattery, charm and hospitality. Being on a nickname basis with presidents, CEOs and billionaires is pretty heady stuff, but Alan had a certain comfort level with the environment, having attended Greenhill and SMU. After all, it wasn’t every society writer who played polo and drove a car that one DMN staffer claimed was “better than the publisher’s car.” Why, he even shared the same birthday (January 25) with radio legend Ron Chapman!
Besides his skills as a writer, he used his sense of humor like a keyboard. Alan once claimed he could tell someone who only knew him by his byline when they met him the first time — “They would call me ‘Peppard’ like George Peppard.” He said he was simply past tense pepper. The late Larry Hagman just called him “Pepper.”
And while the glitter and glamour of the world of Pickens, Simmons, Hunts, Joneses, Murchisons and Wynnes were synonymous with the writer, it was four females that he most loved being with — his wife Jennifer and their daughters (twins Amanda Rose Peppard and Isabel Eugenie Peppard) and Charlotte Katherine Peppard.
Just this past April at a party at Amanda and Brint Ryan‘s home, Alan was beaming with pride telling Chef Dean Fearing of the twins’ recent graduation from The Hockaday School.
Regarding his retirement on September 15, 2017, he told Glenn Hunter, “You remember after Forrest Gump ran back and forth across the country so many times? He said, ‘I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.’ That’s a metaphor for how I feel after 30 years of saying ‘Look at me.’
“I’m feeling quiet so I don’t have any specific plans to talk much about my professional future. If President Cuban needs me to be his chief of staff, then I will be chatty. I was born in Baylor Hospital, I attended SMU and I’ve never lived anywhere but here. I’m sticking with that plan. For my sanity, I need to stay close so I can walk around NorthPark with a credit card and leave a trail of retail inflation wherever I go.”
Perhaps Alan didn’t feel at ease reporting in this day and age of social media exposes, or being at the mercy of clicks and traffic counts. Whatever. His departure from the written world reflected a true sense of class.
Thursday, a memorial service will be held at Highland Park United Methodist Church at 1 p.m. No doubt there will be a gathering of countless numbers of the boldfacers still reeling from the shock of his death. Texas Monthly writer Skip Hollandsworth will provide a spellbinding eulogy. Yes, indeed, it will be a special occasion. The only thing missing will be Alan. But one can’t help but suspect that he’s already making the rounds with the likes of Al Hill Jr., Lupe Murchison, Harold Simmons, Caroline Rose Hunt, Stanley Marcus, Ebby Halliday, Nancy Hamon, Clint Murchison, Ruth Sharp Altshuler, Charles Wyly, Margaret McDermott, Sis Carr and, of course, Johnny Carson.