Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and preservationist Pierce Morriss Allman died on Nov. 25 at 88.
Pierce was born on January 5, 1934, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Robert Moss Allman and Margaret Deavours Allman. His father’s corporate job took the family to various parts of the country in Pierce’s early years, but the family eventually settled in the Park Cities. As a youth, Pierce’s work and dedication with the Boys Scouts of America catapulted him to the country’s top scouting spot, earning 104 of the 105 merit badges available at the time and becoming the youngest Eagle Scout in the country. As a teenager, he started a paper route for The Dallas Morning News, a job he maintained throughout his college years.
Pierce graduated from Highland Park High School in 1950, and in 2012, he was honored as a Distinguished Alumni. Pierce supported the Highland Park Independent School District by chairing the Leadership Council, serving on the District’s Strategic Planning Committee, and co-chairing the Save Our School and Community Committee to keep the school district independent. In 1989, Pierce received the Blanket Award from Highland Park High School. He co-founded and served as president of La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas, an event benefiting the Park Cities and the Highland Park Independent School District. Pierce also served as chairman of the Celebration of Highland Park’s Centennial Anniversary in 2014.
While at SMU, where he majored in Radio and Television Broadcast, he was head cheerleader, class treasurer, and starred in numerous SMU theatrical plays and musicals. He was a Rotunda Favorite and recipient of the University’s “M” award.
Pierce Allman dedicated much of his life to preserving the history and strengthening the future of both SMU and Dallas,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His leadership, generosity and Mustang spirit have left an indelible mark on our campus and the wider North Texas community, and his legacy will endure for years to come through the lives that he touched, the memories he created and the students he impacted during his lifetime on the Hilltop.”
After graduating from SMU in 1954, Pierce joined the U.S. Air Force, serving in the Strategic Air Command in Austin from 1955-1957. He returned to Dallas and was hired as program director of WFAA radio, where, among many responsibilities, he ran the Cotton Bowl activities for the Southwest Conference. It was at WFAA where he met Allie Beth McMurtry, a recent graduate of Texas Christian University at the time. He and Allie Beth were married on October 5, 1963, in her hometown of Graham, Texas.
“Pierce was my number one supporter, my soulmate, sweetheart, love of my life and husband of 59 years,” said Allie Beth Allman, founder of Allie Beth Allman and Associates. “We were a team, personally and professionally. Pierce was by my side throughout my entire career and is responsible for much of my success. Without Pierce, there would not be an Allie Beth Allman & Associates.”
“He certainly left an indelible mark on our lives, and he will be greatly missed not only by his family but also by all of the lives he touched through his philanthropic efforts,” she added.
Numerous news outlets reported his eyewitness account on Nov. 22, 1963, of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza,
Per news reports, Pierce had rushed into the Texas School Book Depository to call WFAA, asked a man exiting the building where a payphone was. The man who directed Pierce to the phone was later identified as Kennedy’s assassin, and Pierce phoned in the first live news report from the Texas School Book Depository.
Pierce was instrumental in the founding of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and serves as the voice of the audio tour of the museum.
In 1964, Pierce became Director of Alumni Affairs at SMU. He established the university’s first alumni directory, steered the fundraising efforts and supervised the building of the R.L. Thornton Alumni Building, wrote lyrics to a new Mustang fight song, and served as “the voice of the Mustang Band” – for which he later planned and executed a 50th anniversary celebration.
Over the years, Pierce established what would become the Allman Lecture Series, featuring Nobel Laureates from physics to literature. A member of the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Executive Board since 1994, Pierce provided a lead gift in 2010 to launch the Dean’s Research Council. He served on the Dedman College Campaign Steering Committee’s SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, was Chairman of the Dedman College Executive Board, and Chairman for the Committee on Educational Events. In 2018, Pierce was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from SMU.
After working at WFAA and SMU, Pierce established a public relations division for Tracy Locke, where he won a Clio Award and numerous honors for his work.
In 1972, he established his own public relations company, Allman & Company, representing local, state, and national clients, including the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, and the Dallas Bar Association. He was instrumental in the Dallas Bar acquiring the Belo Mansion, where the Bar remains headquartered today. In 1985, Pierce and Allie Beth founded Allie Beth Allman Real Estate, today known as Allie Beth Allman and Associates, where since its inception, he served as its Director of Marketing.
He co-founded and served on the board of the S.M. Wright Foundation of Dallas, which is a nonprofit that works to provide support to underprivileged children and less fortunate families through hunger relief, economic empowerment, and assistance in the areas of education, health, and social services.
Pierce’s other civic, city, educational, and business accolades include serving as past chair of the Turtle Creek Park (formerly Lee Park) and Arlington Hall Conservancy; co-founder and past president of both the Park Cities Historical Society and Friends of the Highland Park Library; serving on the board of the Old Red Museum; committee chair of the SMU Alumni Association; member of the Administrative Board at Highland Park United Methodist Church; advisory board member of the Baylor Medical System Foundation and Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas; and serving with Allie Beth as chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy Celebration of Reading.
He was recognized as a Jubilee History Maker by the Dallas Historical Society and was a recipient of the Preservation Award from the Preservation Park Cities. In 2017, Pierce was awarded Dallas Father of the Year, and in 2018, he and Allie Beth were honored with the Flora Award from the Texas Discovery Gardens.
Memorial services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, December 6, at the Highland Park United Methodist Church, with a reception following at the church.
In honor of Pierce, donations may be made to the S.M. Wright Foundation, Highland Park United Methodist Church, or the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.