Best-selling Author Jane Wolfe Writes Biography on Successful Marshall Alum

Tyler Spence, Executive Editor

Jane Wolfe, a best-selling biographer from Columbus, Ohio dove into the career of one of Marshall’s school of journalism and mass communications most successful graduates. 

Burl Osborne, a native of eastern Kentucky and a member of Marshall University’s class of 1960, rose from a small coal town to being one of the top executives at the Associated Press and worked as the editor and publisher of the Dallas Morning News. He got his start with the Daily Independent in Ashland and worked as an AP correspondent in southern West Virginia. 

At age 12, Osborne was diagnosed with kidney disease. Doctors told him he would not live past his teenage years. Wolfe believes it was that mindset that made Osborne the dedicated worker he was. 

“He bought a Corvette, I think when he was either 17 or 18 when he couldn’t even afford a car at all. And of course, he did that because he thought I could die any day,” Wolfe said. 

Osborne was committed to the work of being a great journalist and would push himself as hard as he could for as long as possible. He was quickly promoted through the ranks of the Associated Press, and against the advice of his peers took a job with the Dallas Morning News. 

When Osborne took over at the Dallas Morning News, the paper was in a war for supremacy with the Dallas Times Herald, a war in which Wolfe was personally involved as she worked as a reporter on the Morning News’ city desk. 

“He came in and made a lot of changes,” Wolfe said. 

Her biography “Burl” is the definitive story of the transformative leader Osborne was. 

Osborne lived into his seventies after a live kidney replacement, still an unproven and high-risk operation at the time, which was far longer than what doctors expected. 

Despite his success in journalism, Wolfe believes his Appalachian roots are what kept him grounded. 

“He never really forgot where he came from… He would go to this really expensive and beautiful restaurant called the Mansion on Turtle Creek and the chef there was from Ashland… he and the chef used to laugh that they had made it in life but still liked to talk about Ashland,” Wolfe said. 

Osborne was inducted into the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications hall of fame in the inaugural class of 1985 and passed away in 2012. 

Jane Wolfe is the author of two previous best-selling biographies, “The Murchisons: The Rise and Fall of a Texas Dynasty” (St. Martin’s Press) and “Blood Rich: When Oil Billions, High Fashion, and Royal Intimacies Are Not Enough” (Little, Brown & Co.). She is also a freelance writer for several publications, including the New York Times and Town & Country magazine.