Rachel Cleo Newbern Pittman

January 4, 2009


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.

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Kay Byrd
15 years ago

Your mother was such a sweet person and I always thought she was so beautiful. I am thinking and praying for you and your family at this time. We love ya,


Melba Terry Phillips
15 years ago

I am so sad to hear about Mrs. Pittman’s death. She was just a beautiful lady inside and out. I had the pleasure of speaking with her several times when I lived in Ahoskie.I admired her so much for her poise and knowledge. I told her many times that she always reminded me of Jackie Kennedy. She was soft spoken, and a joy to be around. I know she will be missed.

Her daughter Betsy is so much like her. She will carry on her Mother’s legacy in so many ways. She too is beautiful inside and out. My sympathy and prayers go out to her family.

Mary Margret Daughtridge
15 years ago

Dear Woody, Besty and Margaret,

I was so sorry to learn of Rachel’s passing. She was a remarkable woman and a beloved cousin. The obituary mentioned her skill as a raconteur. I’m glad. I often think of her as I remember a story she told. She will be missed.

You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Your cousin,

Mary Margret Holloman Daughtridge

Jo Jenkins
15 years ago

Mrs. Overton and family,

I saw the obituary for your mother / grandmother in the News Herald recently. I wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you, and am sorry for your loss.

Mrs. Pittman was really something. I know she will be greatly missed by you and the community.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Andrea Eason
15 years ago

Rachel and I taught together at Chowan University in the School of Business. She was a wonderful person, as all know, and will be missed by friends and family. She was a very classy lady!

May you find comfort today in the shadow of our Almighty God.

Joanne Jenkins Honeycutt
15 years ago

To Amy and family,

My prayers are with you during this time, knowing that it is very difficult to say goodbye to your mother. She was such a beautiful, sweet person. I rejoice that she is with God, with no more pain or burdens. However, I realize your hearts are hurting in having to say goodbye. May your love for each other and God’s love fill your emptiness now and in the days to come.


Joanne Jenkins Honeycutt

Ridgecroft Class of 1976

Sylvia & Garry Purvis
15 years ago

Amy & Besty…we were so sorry to hear of the passing of your mother…our thoughts and continued prayers are with you and your families…Sincerely; Garry and Sylvia

Christine Chesson
15 years ago


I am so sorry to hear news of the recent passing of your dear mother. I was so impressed when I read of all of her accomplishments during her lifetime. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time of loss. I know that no words can ever express the sorrow felt. God’s Peace be with you..Love The Chessons

(The Rev.) Adele Dees Hatfield
15 years ago

Betsy, Larry, Wynne and Shields,

I just received word about your mother/grandmother’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. God’s peace and blessings, Adele+

Ann and Gerald Goodwin
15 years ago

Love and sympathy to you on the passing of Rachel. We are friends with Amy and Kenny Braswell…