Biography

Photo credit: Gittings. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Pettis Norman, once known as one of the premier athletes in the National Football League, is currently recognized as a successful businessman with a keen sense of civic responsibility and boundless energy. His friends and associates attest to his integrity, positive approach to living, and astonishing capacity for hard work.
  • Pro Athlete — Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers
  • Community Leader — civil rights, race relations, education
  • Businessman — banking, real estate, restaurants, fuel
  • Bridge Builder — spokesperson, advocate, humanitarian
  • Author — The Pettis Norman Story

America’s Team

With more than fifty years of business success, this former Dallas Cowboys tight end achieved a record of accomplishments on and off the field. While attending Johnson C. Smith University, Pettis earned recognition as a starter, team MVP and two-time All-CIAA selection. He was voted First Team Courier All-American in 1962 , and graduated with a degree in physical education with a minor in biology.

Shortly after graduating, Pettis signed with the Dallas Cowboys — America’s Team — and served as the starting tight end.

Pettis played in five play-off games, three championships, and Super Bowl V. Notably, he played in the famed Ice Bowl. During his football career, he was voted one of the most popular Cowboys by the fans in Dallas.

San Diego Chargers

In 1971, Pettis was traded to the San Diego Chargers and chosen co-captain in 1972. He was voted the San Diego Chargers’ “Man of the Year” and was first runner-up for the NFL’s Man of the Year.

Dallas Cowboy Pettis Norman, standing beside his locker after the Cowboys lost the NFL Championship Ice Bowl game to the Green Bay Packers 21-17. Photo credit: Getty Images. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Veteran, Banker, Civil Rights Leader

Pettis achieved success in several fields of business. He is an acknowledged leader in the community — an industrialist, entrepreneur, and political activist — and respected throughout the country. While actively engaged in football, he served in the National Guard and prepared for a career in business. He devoted much of his time to community, civic, and educational endeavors during the off season, as well as working extra off season jobs.

In the mid ’60s, he began a seven-year career in banking with South Oak Cliff State Bank in Dallas, initially hired to work in public relations. He quickly rose to assistant vice president in business development and became the first African-American banking officer in Dallas, Texas.

President Lyndon Johnson requested that Pettis fly to Washington D.C. to help quell the rioting that occurred after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1969, he was hired by Dr Pepper to appear in advertisements geared toward the untapped black consumer market — the first African American male athlete to do so.

Pettis served in the National Guard from 1962 to 1968 while playing football. He is getting vaccinated in this photo and still manages to smile! Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Pettis was Dr Pepper’s first African American pro football male model. Photo courtesy of the Dr Pepper Museum. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

His experience in banking led Pettis to answer his calling in life — business. He ventured into real estate, apartments, restaurant franchising, and single-family housing for three decades. He created five companies under the umbrella of PNI Industries, including wholesale fuel distribution, petroleum transportation, convenience stores, wholesale automotive battery distribution and fleet maintenance. The success of his minority-owned business was chronicled in a report to Vice-President Al Gore regarding the Clinton Administration’s BusinessLINC initiative.

Pettis created The Dallas Together Forum, consisting of CEOs from Fortune 500 companies to address the pressing economic issues facing minorities and women and their inclusion in the “bounties of our nation.” The Dallas Together Forum became a successful role model replicated across our nation and communities abroad, reaching as far as Japan.

Servant Leadership

Giving back to the community and helping others are central aspects of Pettis’ philosophy. He has served on virtually every major civic board in Dallas, including the Dallas Urban League, Goodwill Industries, the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the Martin Luther King Center, Dallas Association for the Mentally Challenged, the Dallas Parks & Recreation, Johnson C. Smith University, Paul Quinn College, Dallas Women’s Foundation, Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, Dallas Citizens’ Council, Dallas Alliance, J.P. Morgan Bank Advisory Board, Goals for Dallas, and Dallas Together. He was also Vice Chairman of the Dallas Charter Revision Committee and co-hosted the Dallas Area United Negro College Fund Telethon with Lou Rawls.

With many commitments came recognition, and Pettis has been honored with hundreds of community awards for his tireless efforts. Among these are: Humanitarian of the Year by Lions Club International District 2; Outstanding Young Man by the Dallas Jaycees; Real Estate Council Doers, Dreamers and Unsung Heroes Award; Minority Supplier of the Year, Dallas Fort/Worth Minority Business Supplier; Paul Quinn College Distinguished Trustee Award; Johnson C. Smith University Distinguished Alumni Award; and the Liberty Bell Award presented by the Dallas Bar Association. He was named one of Johnson C. Smith University’s All-Time Great Athletes, JCSU Hall of Fame, the CIAA Conference Hall of Fame, and the Charlotte Sports Wall of Fame.

Pettis has been a horse whisperer since childhood and owned stakes in six race horses. Photographer: David Woo. Photo credit: Dallas Morning News. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

A Sharecropper’s Son

Pettis will never forget his roots. A native of Charlotte by way of Lincolnton, Georgia, he is a proud family man who raised three daughters with his late wife Margaret (may she rest in peace). He cherishes fatherhood and adores his children — eldest daughter Sharneen (may she rest in peace), daughters Sedonna and Shandra, one much-adored grandson Alex, and two great-grandchildren.

In 1995 Pettis married Ivette Hightower, daughter of the late Master Chief Harry Hightower, a proud naval officer for whom Hightower Hall at the Naval Station Norfolk is named. Pettis says one of his claims to fame was having a father-in-law who created the USS Missouri Buttermilk Pie recipe and served it to President Harry Truman. The Reverend Jesse Jackson officiated Pettis and Ivette’s wedding.

Pettis credits his mother and father, family, friends, educators, coaches and his faith in God as the primary factors in his success.