ANNYE RAYE PITTS
On Friday, December 1, 2018 God dispatched his angels to escort his servant Annye Raye Pitts to her eternal home. She passed peacefully from earth to glory, surrounded by her loving family. She was born February 12, 1933, in Montgomery, AL, the second oldest child of the late Mann and Annie Lue Smith Thomas.
She moved to Rhode Island in 1963 to build a better life for her children. She worked as a domestic and a teaching assistant before being employed by the Rhode Island Department of Mental Health from which she retired. In Rhode Island she united with Allen A.M.E. Church during the pastorate of Rev. Alexander Shack.
Later she united with Bethel A.M.E. Church during the pastorate of Rev. Everette M. Chandler. From North Star Baptist Church to Bethel A.M.E. Church, she has stated that the only positions she has not held in church is Stewardess and Musician. Some of the boards she served on at Bethel A.M.E. Church, are Director of the Adult and Youth Choirs, The Board of Trustees, Sunday School Teacher, President of the Lillie Hines Usher Board, and she was one of the founding members of the Gwendolyn Toliver Scholarship, as well as one of the founding members and choir Director of the Donald Edgar Smith “DES” Youth Gospel Choir.
As a child of six, she was converted and baptized in the North Star Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL by the late Rev. E.L. Newton. The Pastor and members of the Church were so moved by the overwhelming thirst for knowledge she possessed that they, with the help of God provided for all of her religious and academic needs. An honor student, she was educated in the public school systems of Montgomery, AL and Miami, FL. She received her religious training and education in Montgomery and Selma, AL, where she excelled as a student of Church Administration, Religious Education, Black History, English and Mathematics. She attended the University of Rhode Island Extension, where she studied Social Services, and she also attended Johnson and Wales University where she studied Accounting and Typing. She was elected the youngest Superintendent of Sunday School and director of B.T.U.
She was given the distinction of being the first Black person to sing in the historic White, First Baptist Church on Perry Avenue in Montgomery, AL. She was also the youngest Black radio announcer for gospel music; and a member of the first Black Girl Scout Troop, under the direction of Viola Webb. Their photograph hangs today in the capitol in Montgomery, AL.
Learning came easy for Ms. Pitts, as her natural God given talent was recognized and applauded by professionals such as the famed Jazz Musician and Educator, Louis Smith and other greats of that era.
As a young girl, because of the gift of song that God gave to her, she was humbled and honored to be the opening soloist for the great Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward and numerous other gospel greats.
With her gift of singing, Ms. Pitts has been blessed to travel throughout the country ministering with her gift of song, and educating both young and old with her knowledge and love of Black History and the stories that came from the struggles and victories Blacks had to endure.
On June 10, 1995, Annye Raye Pitts was appointed by Pastor Raymond Allen Hill to serve as the first known historiographer of Bethel A.M.E. Church. Ms. Pitts believed that all African American children should learn all they can about their history, heritage and most of all serve their God, family and community with all their hearts and souls, using all the talents and gifts God has given them, expecting no pay, because without God you would be nothing. Known for being a fanatic for history and her excellent oratorical skills, she was sought after by the religious and community groups throughout the country. In keeping with her love of Black History, each February she is asked to teach Black History at a small religious school in Providence, RI. Ms. Pitts humanitarian nature has led her to sponsor many charitable events, such as the first Gospel Extravaganza to aid the Project AIDS Victim Fund; participated on the Providence Dropout Prevention Collaborative, the Desegregation Focus Group; the Superintendent’s Parents Advisory Council ,Corresponding Secretary and Member-at-Large; and a volunteer for Dawn For Children and the list goes on and on. When it came to her service to God and true friends, the word NO did not exist in her vocabulary. She had a special affection for Mixed Magic Theatre and its Exult Choir which was formed to honor and preserve the traditional music which she was so devoted to. Ms. Pitts worked tirelessly on causes she believed in. Her hobbies were teaching and educating African American Youth; singing; speaking, sewing, cooking. shopping, traveling, caring and helping the elderly and youth. She was amazing, because she was the Mother of the greeting cards - she NEVER forgot . She had a card file for every occasion and when birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions for those she knew came around, you can believe they received a card from Ms. Pitts.
Throughout the years, Ms. Pitts has been bestowed with many awards and recognitions for her untiring dedication, commitment and courage for standing up for the underdog and for righteousness, even if she had to stand alone, as noted in 2017 when she was honored with the “Living Legends Award” and in 2018 a huge life size portrait of her was installed on the wall of the Mercantile Building in downtown Providence. She was an ambassador, a warrior, a freedom fighter, a seed planter who cultivated young minds and encouraged them to not be afraid, to always stand for what is right and always put God first.
She was a woman of strong convictions, who has left a foundational legacy for her family and friends to strive for and that is truly worthy of the lyrics of “May the Works I’ve Done Speak for Me”. To know her was to love her, even though she was stern and tough, no nonsense, take no prisoners kind of woman who carried a big stick, but whose heart was softened by God. She was affectionately called Ms. Pitts or Ma Pitts. “Don’t Mess With any of Her Children”.
She was preceded in death by four of her children ; Donald A. Pitts, Thyra M.T. Pitts , Winnifred G. Braxton and Kevin A. Pitts; her sisters Mattie E. Thomas, Gloria D. Burton and Thurdelle Stephens.
She was a devoted mother and leaves to cherish her memory and to carry on, her children: Bernadet V. Pitts-Wiley ( Ricardo) of Rhode Island , LaFrendrick K. Pitts ( Kyong) of Washington, Alcuyn A. Pitts of California and Christansen E. Beatty (Donna ) of Providence, RI.;
7 grandchildren - Ricardo J.A. Pitts-Wiley, Jonathan T.M. Pitts-Wiley, Robert L. Pitts, Danielle Olson, Tameka Braxton, Curtis Braxton and Carley Pitts; 16 great grandchildren - Ms. Pitts raised her great-granddaughter Dominique Braxton ; a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, god children and friends.
Her Motto is: “I Trust In God” and her favorite scripture is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
She has fought the good fight, finished her earthly course, may she rest in peace.
Gwendolyn Toliver Scholarship at Bethel A.M.E. Church
30 Rochambeau Ave, Providence RI 02906
Equal Justice Initiative
122 Commerce Street, Montomgery AL 36104
PO Box 93207, Long Beach CA 90809-3207
American Veterans Honor Fund
5680 King Centre Dr #600, Alexandria VA 22315
Narragansett Bay Commission
1 Service Road, Providence RI 02905
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
4805 Mt. Hope Drive, Baltimore MD 21215
Providence Public Library
150 Empire Street, Providence RI 02903