William Scahill Purdom, 62, of Wilmington, N.C., passed away Thursday, June 30, 2016, at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
He was born October 27, 1953 in Charleston, W.W., the son of the late John Lucian Purdom and Jeanne Britt Purdom.
Bill grew up in Wyoming, Ohio, attending Wyoming High School and then Auburn University, where he studied visual design. The next 19 years were spent working and living in New York City. His work at the Whistl`n Dixie Studio for Bloomingdale’s gained him international acclaim. This notoriety allowed him to be self-employed. Used by every major advertising agency in New York, Bill also illustrated billboards, movie posters, album covers and worked on national campaigns for Mercedes Benz, Nikon, Panasonic, American Express and the three major television networks. He was the first artist allowed by Steven Spielberg to paint “E.T.” (in a national campaign for McDonald’s).
While living in New York, he was a major contributor to The New York Times, and his work appeared in many national magazines, including Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, Fortune, Time, Esquire, Sport and National Lampoon. In New York Bill was on the board of directors of the American Museum of Illustration and the Society of Illustrators.
After 12 years of award-winning advertising and editorial illustration, Bill switched his focus to fine arts. Since 1989 he painted 121 great moments in baseball, including 10 first-pitch paintings of the new Major League Baseball ballparks. His baseball lithographs have been seen on the hit television shows “Seinfeld,” “Arliss,” “Eight Simple Rules,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and in the Oscar-nominated movie “Moneyball.” His originals hang in private collections worldwide and 102 lithos of his paintings are in the permanent collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Bill did lithographs for the NBA, NFL, NHL, NCAA and of thoroughbreds for the Saratoga Raceway.
Bill is the most prolific artist in the history of the Topps baseball company. He painted 340 baseball, football and basketball cards. He was the only artist licensed by Dale Earnhardt, Inc., to commemorate the racing legend. On QVC, when presented on air, his 80-card set telling the life story of Dale Earnhardt sold 18,000 units in 15 minutes. His stein celebrating the life of Dale Earnhardt completely sold out, as did his framed lithograph of the great driver, which sold 54,000 units in 24 hours.
Due to Bill’s uncanny ability to capture likenesses, his portraits are highly prized and in great demand. He was a technical advisor for Billy Crystal’s movie “61*” and the documentary “Hano.” On the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut, MLB handed out 250,000 copies of Bill’s painting of that special moment to lucky fans in Major League ballparks across America. When they won their first World Championship in 86 years, the Boston Red Sox selected Bill to paint and market a limited edition lithograph that is the definitive visual statement of their miraculous season. Similar projects ensued with the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Colts 1958 World Champions 50th Reunion. In 2006 the Cincinnati Reds and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum both chose Bill to create ongoing fine art litho programs celebrating their respective classic moments. The families of Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson picked Bill to paint their legendary ancestors. Next came Purdom paintings to celebrate the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Reds Hall of Fame and the San Francisco Giants. In 2008 every Reds ticket featured a painting by Bill, the first time in history that every game day ticket had utilized fine art. In 2009, Bill was chosen to officially paint the last pitch at the old Yankee Stadium and the first pitch at the new Yankee Stadium.
Bill is the latest artist to be chosen by the U.S. Department of State to have his work hung in American embassies around the world. When the Dallas Cowboys built their new stadium they asked Bill to do two paintings of it. Immediately after that the National Baseball Hall of Fame asked Bill to paint the definitive 1912 Fenway Park image to celebrate the storied ballpark’s 100th anniversary. Arnold Palmer chose Bill to create a series of paintings/lithos to celebrate the great moments in the golfing legend’s career. This year, the L.A. Dodgers became the latest team to start collecting Bill’s originals (including four 4’x6’ murals) for their stadium luxury suites. The baseball Hall of Fame chose Bill to create the “Official Painting” celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Bill was an avid reader who loved history, antiques, art and sports. He was a member of St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church, the Civil War Round Table in New York and The Surf Club, and a former member of the Civitan Club.
Surviving are his wife, Lisa G. Purdom; son, William S. Purdom Jr. of the U.S. Naval Academy; brother, John L. Purdom Jr.; sister-in-law, Debbie G. Purdom; niece, Gibson Purdom Arling; and nephew, John L. Purdom III.
The family would like to extend appreciation and gratitude to the doctors and nurses at NHRMC Cardiac Services.
A memorial service was held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 6, 2016, at St. Andrews-Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Memorials may be made to St. Andrews Covenant-Presbyterian Church or to the charity of one’s choice.