Sunday, August 14, 2005

Ford Helps Honor Insurance Innovator Pitts

Rep. Harold Ford Jr. made a surprise guest appearance at John Pitts's induction into the Tennessee Insurance Hall of Fame at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville.

He presented Pitts with a Congressional Record and said, "This honor is well deserved by Mr. Pitts for his success and influence in the insurance industry, his outstanding contributions to the Memphis community, and his exemplary life."

Pitts, 78, said the key to a successful business is finding the right partner. Over 50 years ago, Pitts and Mat Lipscomb Jr. founded Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, the largest locally owned independent insurance agency in Tennessee. Their sons now own the agency, and both founders remain on staff as consultants.

After Army service, Pitts decided to pursue a college degree.

In 1950, his economics professor at Memphis State University asked the class to write a term paper on "ways to make money." Pitts determined that there are three ways to make money -- sell yourself, invest capital or sell something for more than you paid for it. He decided to sell insurance because he did not have to pay for it before the sale.

Besides founding an insurance agency, Pitts served on many company advisory boards and was elected Tennessee Insuror of the Year twice. He served as president of the Insurors of Tennessee, the Insurors of Memphis, and the Professional Insurance Agents of Tennessee. He has improved the insurance world nationally by serving as the State National Director of the Independent Insurance Brokers of America.

"Our business provides a wonderful chance for young people looking for an opportunity. I recommend to work not only hard, but smart. Look for a mentor even if you do not know them. Ask questions. Educate yourself and learn from mistakes," said Pitts in his closing remarks.

While Pitts has been successful in business, he understands the importance of family and community. One of his great loves is to take his grandchildren on trips that expose them to new places and experiences. His excursions include ranch experiences in Colorado, tours of Europe and Asia, and National Geographic expeditions to Africa, the Amazon and Australia.

Pitts is also active in his community. He is involved in the Northeast Memphis Optimist Club, which he helped found in 1955. Pitts is an Eagle Scout and has received many honors through the Boy Scouts of America. Currently, he serves as chairman of the Eagle Board of Review. His son and grandson are Eagle Scouts. Pitts has also been involved at Faith Christian Church his entire life.

When asked what he has found most gratifying during his insurance career, without hesitation he says having the chance to see people develop and grow and having a positive impact on the lives of the people who work at Lipscomb & Pitts.

Ford said, "It was a delight and honor for me to have had the chance to say a few words on the program in front of so many important business leaders from across the state. More importantly, it was special being there with the Pitts family."

Pitts accepts the privilege to be in the Hall of Fame with much pride. He says, "This honor is special because I have been in the insurance business for over 50 years. I enjoy serving my community and meeting new people."

From: The Memphis Commercial Appeal