Rachel Cleo Newbern Pittman
November 26, 1924 – January 4, 2009
Rachel N. Pittman departed in peace early in the morning on January 4, 2009, at Wynnewood farm outside Ahoskie, NC. She was preceded in death by her parents, Mary Victoria Wynne and George Judson Newbern, Sr., her sister, Margaret Jane Newbern Ballentine, and her brother, George Judson Newbern, Jr. She is survived by her husband of 60 years, Dr. O. W. Pittman (Woody).
Born into a family of strong women and the heritage of First Baptist Church, Mrs. Pittman was a lifelong resident of Ahoskie and the family farm she loved so much. During high school she was organist at the Methodist Church, secretary of First Baptist, and, at age 16, class valedictorian at Ahoskie High School. She graduated from Women’s College in Greensboro with degrees in Economics and Political Science after being elected to Phi Beta Kappa her junior year. She was then awarded the Weil Scholarship to pursue a Master of Arts in Economics under the direction of Arthur Burns at Columbia University in New York. She remembered fondly that Winston Churchill addressed the graduates and received an honorary degree. Mrs. Pittman then earned a post-graduate fellowship to continue studies at Smith College in Massachusetts.
After returning to her southern roots, Mrs. Pittman taught at Wake Forest College before going home to Ahoskie to marry Woody, the new optometrist (and swing musician) in town whom she had met some years previously when he was a student at Wake Forest and came to Ahoskie for a weekend house-party with her older brother George. Mrs. Pittman taught at Chowan College and later worked for Alliance for Progress before beginning her most creative business adventure’Rawel bears and the world of G. Washington Bear’which derived from both a tale she told to entertain her granddaughter Wynne and her natural wish to provide clothing for an undressed toy bear. This little amazing bear, according to her two published books, befriended George Washington, accompanied him on many adventures, and assisted mightily in the defeat of the redcoats, no less! Dr. and Mrs. Pittman traveled far and wide spreading the legend of G. Washington and Martha C. Bear. Mrs. Pittman never wavered in her admiration of General Washington.
As it happened, while at Women’s College, Mrs. Pittman roomed with Mary Glenn Sanford, the sister of former governor Terry Sanford. Compelled by her political science studies, Mrs. Pittman began a life-long fascination with politics. She was a ghost writer of speeches for several local politicians and was one of the instigators of the Lady Bird Express, when Mrs. Johnson journeyed to Ahoskie by train in 1964. Dr. and Mrs. Pittman attended the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Mrs. Pittman was involved in various civic and religious activities. She was a charter member and early president of the Ahoskie Garden Club and also served a term as state historian. She was appointed to several terms on the Murfreesboro Historic Commission. She belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, XVII century, and the Jamestown Society. She wrote a chapter in the bicentennial publication, Hertford County: the First Two Hundred Years. She led Mission Studies at various area Baptist Churches, and in the spirit of ecumenism, she later taught Sunday school classes at the Methodist and Episcopal Churches. She was a member of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, though in most recent years she had accompanied her husband as long as she could to the Ahoskie United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Pittman was at all times an amateur genealogist, scholar, story-teller, historian, antiquarian, and most of all a great inspiration to her beloved grandchildren and a role model to her daughters, grandsons, and granddaughter. She taught them that to exclaim, ‘Garden seed’ when something went amiss was acceptable in all company instead of a naughty alternative that a child might try out for effect.
In 1988 she was honored as ‘Hertford County Woman of the Century’ by the Hertford County Council on the Status of Women ‘for outstanding leadership and generous dedication of time and talents toward the enrichment of Hertford County. In 1993 she was nominated for the North Carolina Council for Women’s ‘Distinguished Women Award’.
Surviving Mrs. Pittman are her husband, Woody, and her two daughters, Margaret Amy Pittman Braswell of Fayetteville, NC, and Elizabeth (Betsy) Wynne Pittman Overton of Ahoskie and Winston-Salem. Her two sons-in law are Kenneth Russell Braswell and Larry Shields Overton plus four grandchildren: Russell Anderson Braswell and wife Joanna of Falls Church, Virginia, and Woodrow Chason Braswell of Fayetteville, NC, Rachel Wynne Overton of Winston-Salem, William Shields Tyndall Overton and his wife Maria of Kill Devil Hills.
A memorial service will be Tuesday, January 6, at 11:00 AM at Ahoskie United Methodist Church. Garrett Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.