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.
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.
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.