The William I. H. and Lula E. Pitts Foundation is an independent private foundation that underwrites educational and social service activities through institutions that are affiliated with the United Methodist Church in Georgia. In 2003 its assets totaled approximately $77 million, and it awarded nearly $4 million in grants.

The foundation was established in 1941 by William Irby Hudson Pitts, who resided in Waverly Hall, Georgia. His wife, Lula Cook Ellison, was from nearby Ellerslie. The couple had accumulated wealth through working in Pitts’s father’s mercantile business, which they built into a community general store. Pitts also invested early in Coca-Cola stock and carried out other business activities.

William I. H. Pitts
William I. H. Pitts

Courtesy of SunTrust Bank, Endowment and Foundation Services

By the time Pitts died in 1964, at the age of 102, he had already given away more than $1 million. His daughter, Margaret Adger Pitts, who had become a lifetime trustee at the initiation of the foundation, continued her father’s work and supported such institutions and organizations as Andrew College, Candler School of Theology, Epworth by the Sea, LaGrange College, Magnolia Manor (a retirement home in Americus), and Young Harris College.

The Pitts Foundation endowed the building of the Pitts Memorial Library at Andrew College in 1948, and donated funds for the construction of a new library in 1967. The original Pitts Library was designed to serve both the college and the larger Randolph County community, and its archives became a repository for local history.

In 1973 and 1974, the Pitts Foundation made significant gifts to the Candler School of Theology to endow its library, which was named the Pitts Theology Library. The foundation also underwrote Candler’s purchase of the 220,000-volume Hartford Seminary Foundation library, which made the Candler Library the second-largest theology library in the United States.

Pitts Theology Library
Pitts Theology Library

Courtesy of Emory University Photo

Margaret Pitts, who never married, died at the age of 104 in 1998. Her estate, which totaled $192 million, included the bequests of trusts for the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, South Georgia Methodist Home for Children, and Young Harris College as well as a fund for retired pastors in the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Though the death of Margaret Pitts meant the end of direct family involvement with the foundation, its trustees continue to follow the original foundation establishment guidelines, as well as what is known about the Pitts family’s philosophy, as they make granting decisions.

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Pitts Theology Library

Pitts Theology Library

With the aid of monetary donations from Margaret Adger Pitts, the Pitts Theology Library has grown to contain more than 520,000 volumes in several languages. The library, located at Emory University, also subscribes to more than 1,500 periodicals.

Courtesy of Emory University Photo

William I. H. Pitts

William I. H. Pitts

William Irby Hudson Pitts established the William I. H. and Lula E. Pitts Foundation, which funds various efforts of the United Methodist Church, in 1941. Large donations from the foundation have supported Andrew College, Candler School of Theology, Epworth by the Sea, LaGrange College, Magnolia Manor, and Young Harris College.

Courtesy of SunTrust Bank, Endowment and Foundation Services