The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin has acquired as a gift the professional and personal papers of Dominick Dunne, the acclaimed journalist and writer. Before his death in August 2009, Dunne directed that his papers should eventually be placed in the Briscoe Center’s News Media History collection, one of the most comprehensive journalism history archives in existence.
Dunne was widely known for his contributions to Vanity Fair magazine and for his work on Court TV in the 1980s, 1990s and the past decade. In addition to his coverage of society and celebrities, Dunne chronicled high-profile criminal trials and was an outspoken advocate for victims’ rights.
The Dominick Dunne papers span the entirety of his life and include manuscript and article drafts, correspondence, trial research, photographs, personal papers and journals. An exhibit of selections from the Dunne papers will open at the Briscoe Center in April 2012. The 109 linear feet of materials in the Dunne papers are accessible to researchers, but advance notice is required.
“We are honored to have the papers of such a notable news media commentator and writer,” said Don E. Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “In our discussions, which took place several months prior to his death, Dunne expressed his strong desire to have his papers take their place in our news media archive and that they be made available for teaching and research. I am delighted that Dunne’s wish has now been fulfilled. I am especially grateful to his son Griffin for the crucial support he provided to get his father’s papers into the Briscoe Center’s archive.”
Some of the most important materials in the Dunne papers include his detailed criminal trial research files, which cover cases involving such prominent defendants as the Menendez brothers, O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector, Claus von Bülow and Michael Skakel.
The papers also cover criminal cases in which Dunne was personally involved, including the trial of his daughter Dominique’s murderer. His firsthand experience of the criminal justice system inspired much of his subsequent writing.
“I had never attended a trial until the trial of the man who strangled my daughter,” Dunne later noted of the 1983 trial. “What I witnessed in that courtroom enraged and redirected me. I could write about it. I could become an advocate for victims.”
With encouragement from Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, Dunne wrote “Justice,” a candid and deeply personal article about the experience. Published in 1984, it launched Dunne’s career as a Vanity Fair correspondent.
Dunne’s voluminous correspondence files include letters, cards and invitations from political, literary and entertainment figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Reagan, Stephen Sondheim, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Tina Brown, Graydon Carter and Carly Simon.
Dunne’s professional papers also include manuscripts and drafts, publicity clippings, reader mail, drafts of unpublished book projects and photographs of Dunne’s family life, social gatherings, film sets and travels. The papers also include recordings of Dunne’s numerous television appearances, including his popular show on Court TV, “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice.”
The Briscoe Center is home to the personal papers of such media industry pioneers as Walter Cronkite, Robert Trout, Morley Safer, Harry Reasoner, Andy Rooney, Joseph and Shirley Wershba, and Dan Rather. The News Media History holdings also comprise Newsweek magazine’s research archives, the newspaper “morgues” of the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Journal American, and the archives of photojournalists Russell Lee, Eddie Adams, David Hume Kennerly, Wally McNamee, Flip Schulke, Dirck Halstead, P.F. Bentley and Diana Walker, among many others.
View an online slideshow of papers and photos from the Briscoe Center’s Dunne collection.