Obituary: Alton Gwynn Pitts (1926-2022) and finding the right words to comfort a friend on the passing of his father

Posted By on November 3, 2022

Although it was not unexpected, my long time friend Jeff‘s father passed away last week. It was the way we all would want to die … "peacefully in our sleep at home." 

My memories of Alton Pitts are few since he lived in Florida, but the few I have are of kindness. I first met him when I was in college with Jeff and a bunch of us guys heading to Florida over our Christmas break (our annual "thing"). We were invited to spend a couple nights with Jeff at his dad’s St John’s River condo rather than our usual camping. Very nice and far more comfortable. While the other guys headed off to Bush Gardens for the day, Jeff and I went fishing with a guide on the river … courtesy of Mr. Pitts. I thoroughly enjoyed our morning "learning" what big Florida bass fishing was all about and spent the afternoon buzzing around in his dad’s boat on the river … even rescuing a dog and cutting my wrist (there is a story and a scar in that).

Years later, when Jeff was established in Ohio, Mr. Pitts stopped by our house for a visit and I could tell he was glad to see his son successful and with friends. For Jeff’s part, he could not have been a better son. Taking trips with his dad, loving to dad’s wife Thelma and always willing to visit for weekends. No regrets.

My deepest condolences to Neal, Conrad and my best friend Jeff.

On Monday, October 24, 2022, Alton G. Pitts, loving husband and father of three children, passed away peacefully in his sleep in his home having consumed a last meal of his favorite chocolate ice cream, just 20 days shy of his 96th birthday. On November 13, 1926 Alton was born to Henry C. and Mamie Powell Pitts, two school teachers who had met at North Florida Teacher’s College in Madison, Florida. Alton had three brothers, Henry C., Louis Martel, and Robert Allen, and two sisters, Mary Sue and Margy. On June 30, 1951, he married Helen Clever and they had three sons, Conrad, Neal, and Jeff. Alton is survived by his wife, Thelma Owen, three sons, six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

In 1930, Alton’s family moved to Live Oak, Florida where they took up farming. In 1935, the family moved again to a farm in Santa Rosa County, Florida. After graduating high school from Munson Consolidated Agriculture School in Santa Rosa County, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944, and after having contracted a disabling illness, he was honorably discharged in 1945 and returned home to Santa Rosa County, Florida. After two years of recovering from his illness, he then enrolled at the University Of Florida, under a special VA program for veterans with service connected disabilities, and completed the necessary undergraduate schooling which allowed him to enroll in its law school. Alton obtained a law degree in February, 1951. In those days, a graduate of one of the three law schools in Florida, UF, Miami, and Stetson, was not required to sit for a bar examination but could begin practicing law with only a law degree.

Alton began his career in 1951 as an adjuster for Crawford & Company in its Atlanta and then Brunswick, Georgia office. In March, 1953, he took a pay cut and moved to Orlando to become an associate attorney with the Maguire, Voorhis & Wells law firm where he trained as a civil trial lawyer. He became a partner in 1957 and in 1968 he left to found the law firm of Pitts, Eubanks & Ross. Ultimately, his practice of civil trial law spanned almost six decades retiring from the law practice at age 85.

Alton passion for the law, especially trial work, was equaled by few of his peers. Alton’s courtroom skills were legendary as was his insistence upon professionalism, candor, cordiality, and a spirit of mutual respect. He was a teacher, mentor, confidant, encourager, and friend to many trial lawyers over the years. Alton’s professional accolades were numerous but the one of which he was most proud was as a fellow in the American College Of Trial Lawyers. He remained active in this organization up until shortly before he passed away.

Alton was a true renaissance scholar and thinker, whose interests ranged from archeology, art, history, music, philosophy, politics, religion, and business. The books in his library on all of these subjects and many others number in the hundreds with more arriving daily. Alton could converse intelligently on most any subject. His memory of dates, people, and random events was astonishing. He will be remembered for a life well lived for those who were blessed to know and work with him. Many called him friend, mentor, or Mr. Pitts, but to us, we called him "dad."

A funeral service will be held on Thursday, November 3, 2022 at the Pleasant Home Baptist Church in Holt, Florida at 10:00 a.m. A memorial service will be held at Carey Hand Colonial at 2811 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, FL 32806 on Saturday, November 19, 2022 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Flowers may be sent to Lewis Funeral Home, Milton, Florida, or to Carey Hand.

Published by Orlando Sentinel from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, 2022.


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.