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.
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.
Words cannot describe the sorrow that we feel this morning. Bill was more than a founder, he was a leader and a mentor. He inspired us. He cared about us and we cared about him deeply. We were all lucky to have known and worked with him. Bill Wittliff (1940-2019) #TheWittliff pic.twitter.com/rVSjkRPFE8— Wittliff Collections (@TheWittliff) June 10, 2019
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: