Hoyt Purvis (1939–2023)

Hoyt Hughes Purvis was a longtime professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Prior to going into teaching, he served as press secretary and aide to Senator J. William Fulbright as well as an advisor to Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. In addition, he was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

Hoyt Purvis was born on November 7, 1939, in Jonesboro (Craighead County) to Hoyt Somervell Purvis and Jane Hughes Purvis. After growing up in Arkansas, he received his undergraduate degree in 1961 from the University of Texas (UT) in Austin, where the budding journalist served as editor and sports editor for the Daily Texan; he also earned a master’s degree in journalism at UT in 1963. After his graduation from UT, he studied in France on a Rodney Fellowship. Returning to the United States, he began graduate studies at Vanderbilt University and also worked from 1963 to 1964 as a researcher and writer for the Southern Education Reporting Service, reporting on school desegregation in the region.

He then became a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, a job he left in 1967 to accept an offer to become press secretary for Senator J. William Fulbright. Purvis served as press secretary and special assistant to Fulbright for six years before leaving to become the director of publications and a lecturer at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at UT, a post he held from 1974 until 1976, when he joined Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign.

After Carter’s victory, while Purvis was considering joining the administration, incoming Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia offered Purvis a job serving as a foreign and defense policy advisor to the senator as well as deputy director of the Senate Policy Committee. He was also a consultant on foreign and defense policy to Byrd and the U.S. Senate Democratic Conference. In that role, Purvis flew all over the world with Byrd, who had long been viewed primarily as a legislative tactician, but who, with Purvis at his side, established himself as knowledgeable about foreign policy and defense.

After four years with Byrd, Purvis left Washington DC to return to UT, although he continued to consult with the senator and help with various projects in the years that followed. Purvis was working at UT as a senior research fellow at the Johnson School, as well as doing some projects for Byrd, when he began his teaching career at the University of Arkansas in 1982. During his thirty-four-year tenure at UA, he distinguished himself as an inspiring and innovative teacher. A professor of journalism and political science, he also served as director and professor at the University’s Fulbright Institute of International Relations. One of his great loves had always been sports, and he developed a new course in sports journalism—one that he taught for twenty-five years. In 2013, he published Voices of the Razorbacks, which he co-wrote with former student Stanley Sharp.

Purvis was active outside the classroom as well. He was a regular panelist on Arkansas Week on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), as well as a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for twenty years. In addition, he served as an on-air political analyst for KHBS-KHOG, KNWA, and Fox 24 TV. Purvis was a member of the advisory council for the Arkansas General Assembly’s Science Information Liaison Office from 1984 to 1996, chairman of the Fayetteville City Cable Board from 1991 to 1993, and a member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board from 1994 to 2003, serving as vice chair in 1995 and chairman from 1996 to 1999. He was longtime secretary of the Washington County Historical Society, as well as the society’s president from 2011 to 2013. He was also a member of the International Studies Association, the American Political Science Association, and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

In 1997, Purvis married Marion Matkin; they had two daughters. Purvis retired from UA in 2016.

Purvis died on May 26, 2023.

For additional information:
Bowden, Bill. “Former Professor Hoyt Purvis Dies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 27, 2023, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/may/27/ua-professor-purvis-dies/ (accessed May 30, 2023).

“Hoyt Purvis.” Honors College, University of Arkansas. https://honorscollege.uark.edu/faculty/faculty-awards/hoyt-purvis.php (accessed May 30, 2023).

Zepeda, Andrea. “Professor Retires, Leaves Behind Long Legacy.” Arkansas Traveler, April 6, 2016. http://www.uatrav.com/the_companion/article_5b84bce8-fb9c-11e5-950f-2b017c31928f.html (accessed May 30, 2023).

William H. Pruden III
Ravenscroft School


    It was an honor to be asked to perform the bagpipes for today’s memorial service for Mr. Purvis at Old Main, University of Arkansas. He was obviously a great man, professor, and leader at the University of Arkansas and around the world.

    Jon Lehman Rogers, AR