Bob W. Pittman, 88, of Jackson died Sunday, August 2, 2020, at Beau Ridge Memory Care in Ridgeland.
A private interment was held on Wednesday, August 6, 2020, at Parkway Memorial Cemetery in Ridgeland followed by a celebration of life on Thursday, August 6, 2020, in the sanctuary at First Baptist Church in Jackson. Rev. Tom Washburn, Senior Adult Pastor at First Baptist Church of Jackson, officiated the service with music provided by James Arrington Goff, Eva Hart, and Zach Joyner. Special tributes were presented by Jim Coll and Joanna Holbert.
One of the leading voices for conservative government in the State of Mississippi, Pittman served as President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) for 32 years. He was a leader who dedicated his life’s work to strengthening the education system, improving county government, and developing legislation to create a robust business climate. As a young 33-year-old, Pittman was hand-selected by M.B. Swayze, founder of MEC, as his successor as President and CEO to carry on the mission of the of the organization.
He believed that leadership should be nurtured in others and it was his vision to train leaders throughout the state that led him to create the J.C. and Annie Redd Leadership Mississippi program, the second oldest leadership program in the nation. Leadership Mississippi was developed to connect emerging leaders in and around the state and has done so for over four decades. In 2012 MEC honored Pittman for his years of service with the creation of the Bob W. Pittman Leadership Mississippi Media Scholarship.
While at MEC he founded the STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) program. Through this program, thousands of Mississippi graduates and their teachers have been recognized for outstanding achievement.
Pittman’s love of economic development began as a young journalist traveling the state for the State Times and later the Jackson Daily News.
He was born April 25, 1932, to Mr. and Mrs. James C. Pittman of Hattiesburg. He attended Camp School and went on to Hattiesburg High School where he sharpened his talent on first base for the Hattiesburg Tigers. As the time came for him to enter his senior year of high school, his parents had made the decision to move the family to the small town of Greenwood in the Mississippi Delta.
A new student in a new school, he was quickly recognized for his friendly demeanor, strong leadership, and overall kind spirit. Those qualities are what prompted the students at Greenwood High School to elect their new friend as president of the senior class.
He graduated from Mississippi College with a B.S. degree in education and he, along with his siblings, Jimmy, Jean, and Mippy, in 2000 received the Order of the Golden Arrow alumna award – the first time the award was presented to an entire family.
After college he entered the United States Army in 1954 where he served for two years as editor of the Post Newspaper at Fort Lee, Virginia.
Pittman graduated from Jackson School of Law (Mississippi College School of Law) in. He traveled across the state reporting political.
His travels as a newspaper reporter led him back to Greenwood where he served as Director of the Greenwood Leflore Industrial Board. In this role he was instrumental in bringing businesses such as Baldwin Piano, National Picture Frame Company, and others to the Mississippi Delta. He was named “Leflore County Outstanding Young Man of the Year” for his work in economic development.
Throughout his life he always returned to the pen. He authored numerous books, primarily biographies of community leaders such as businessman J.C. Redd (founder of Redd Pest Control); Dr. Frank Pollard (former pastor of First Baptist Church of Jackson); Bobby Chain (founder of Chain Electric Company in Hattiesburg); Dr. Dick Field (a rural Mississippi physician); and Col. George Hall (Hattiesburg resident and former Prisoner of War). His first book, At Home in America, was the story of the Col. Nguyen family who fled communist Vietnam and with Pittman’s assistance began a new life in Jackson.
Pittman was a member of First Baptist Church of Jackson where he was a lifetime deacon and served in many leadership roles in the church. He faithfully taught the Chapel Bible Class at First Baptist Jackson for over 30 years ministering to its members with wife Joanne at his side.
His sweet spirit and gentle heart stayed with him throughout the years he lived with dementia. Recognizing that, the staff at Beau Ridge Memory Care selected him as “Mr. Beau Ridge” in February 2018.
He was preceded in death by his parents Mr. and Mrs. James C. Pittman; his wife of 58 years Joanne Barrett Pittman; a daughter Emily Suzanne Pittman; a son Bob W. Pittman, Jr.; a brother James C. Pittman, Jr.; a granddaughter Holly Dianne Holbert; and a sister-in-law Nancy Pittman.
Survivors include his daughter Dianne Pittman Holbert and husband John of Madison; three granddaughters Joanna Holbert of Brandon, Sydney Margaret Holbert of Brandon, and Elizabeth Holbert Jonson and husband Adam of Alexandria, LA; grandson Bob Pittman, III; three great-grandchildren Holly Elizabeth Jonson, Anne Margaret Jonson, and William Calhoun Jonson all of Alexandria, LA; two sisters, Jean Pittman Williams and husband Kelley of Jackson and Charlotte Pittman Bledsoe and husband Randy of Clinton; one brother Milton Pittman of Arlington, TX; a sister-in-law Lillian Pittman of Dallas, TX (formerly of Hattiesburg); and a number of nieces and nephews.
The family of Bob W. Pittman would like to thank the staff of Beau Ridge Memory Care in Ridgeland for the love and special care of our father and grandfather.
Memorials may be made to Mississippi Economic Council’s M.B. Swayze Foundation/Bob W. Pittman Scholarship P.O. Box 23276 Jackson, MS 39215