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The Voice of the Black Community
JCSU alum, former Dallas Cowboys star Norman pens autobiography
Recounts 12-year NFL career and beyond
Published Tuesday, August 11, 2020 10:26 pm
by Melanie Saxton

Pettis Norman, a Johnson C. Smith and West Charlotte High graduate who played 12 NFL seasons with Dallas and San Diego, is the author of a new autobiography.

Pettis Norman finally got around to telling his life story.

“It’s taken eighty-one years, but I’m finally getting around to writing my autobiography,” says Norman, a former Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers tight end who graduated West Charlotte High and Johnson C. Smith.

Norman, who lives in Dallas, describes his autobiography, “The Pettis Norman Story: A Journey through the Cotton Fields, the Cotton Bowl, the Super Bowl and into Servant Leadership,” as a fond look back at humble beginnings, a large and supportive family, a serendipitous college scholarship, and 12-year career in the NFL.
“I share the adventures my football years,” said Norman, who earned the nickname “Stone Wall” at JCSU as well as induction to the school’s and CIAA halls of fame, “but also life after football — entrepreneurship, marriage, widowhood, parenting, working on behalf of four former presidents, humanitarianism and marching for just causes,” Norman said. “These were all meaningful milestones.”

The book captures his proudest personal accomplishment, which was his role in the civil rights movement. “I think it’s important to capture the historic details before my memories are lost to time,” he said.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson requested Norman fly to Washington, D.C. to help quell the student riots after Martin Luther King’s assassination. He also traveled aboard Air Force One at President Jimmy Carter’s invitation. The book is in the final editing phase as the nation continues to struggle to achieve racial and social justice. “It’s been more than 50 years since civil rights legislation became law,” Norman said. “You’d think by now that all people, no matter their ethnicity or gender, would be equally valued as human beings. We have more work to do.”

As the 10th and youngest child of sharecroppers Fessor and Elease “Eloise” Norman, Pettis was taught to believe in his abilities and develop a sense of self-reliance. “We faced prejudice in the Deep South,” he said, “but my parents told me I was a child of God and anyone’s equal. I believed them.”

Norman, an inductee to the Charlotte Sports Wall of Fame, was a talented high school baseball player with a good curveball and fastball, and even pitched a perfect game in the state playoffs. He came close to choosing that sport as a professional. “There was talk at the time of me signing with the Charlotte Hornets in the minor leagues, and several major league scouts came to watch me play as well,” Norman said. “But God intervened and set me on a path to the NFL”

Right after high school, Norman enlisted in the Air Force but was released before bootcamp because JCSU football coach Eddie McGirt offered a scholarship. Norman earned a degree in physical education 1962, the first in his family to graduate from college.

The book includes light-hearted anecdotes as well, including friendships with fellow NFL players including Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes, a Florida A&M alumnus.
“Bob discovered that I had an irrational fear of bugs, and slipped crickets down my jersey at training camp,” Norman said.

Rookies didn’t earn the astronomical salaries of today’s players, so Norman supplemented his $9,000 NFL income with offseason jobs. He worked as a salesman for Sears & Roebuck (he once sold a high-end camping tent to a young Ross Perot) and became the first Black vice president at South Oak Cliff Bank. He also served in the Texas National Guard from 1962-68 and Dr Pepper hired him as model for a sports-related ad campaign.

“That photo shoot earned me the equivalent of three games,” Norman said.

After retiring as a player in 1973, Norman became a successful entrepreneur in fast food franchises, real estate, transportation and convenience stores. In 1975, he did a short stint as a television announcer and color commentator on World Football League games at Charlotte’s WRET (now WCNC) as well as stations in High Point and Atlanta.
He is also a member emeritus of JCSU’s board of trustees.

Norman’s autobiography also includes never-before-published reflections of the legendary 1967 “Ice Bowl” NFL title game between the Cowboys and Green Bay Packers by Renfro as well as Cowboys teammates Dan Reeves, Lee Roy Jordan, Bob Lilly and Walt Garrison. Retired Dallas general manager Gil Brandt also weighs in on the game, played at Lambeau Field where the temperature dipped to minus-13 degrees with a minus-33 wind chill factor.

“The Cowboys lost with just seconds left in the game, due in large part to Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak,” Norman said. “It was like playing on a frozen tundra, and several of my teammates flew home with frostbite. I think it’s the most talked-about game in NFL history,” Norman said.

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Great job, Home.
Posted on September 2, 2020
This is my uncle. The lady pictured in the article is my mother, Gladys Gresham... his older sister. I would love to have a few copies. Where cann I get them?
Posted on August 12, 2020

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