Paul Howard Pittman, longtime editor and publisher of the Tylertown Times, was a prominent journalist, radio station manager, and political commentator during Mississippi’s civil rights era. The son of Patrick Howard Pittman and Hattie Dean Pittman, he was born in Tylertown, in South Mississippi, on 13 March 1931 and grew up there, attending public schools. While in high school he worked as sports editor for the Tylertown Times, the local weekly newspaper. He attended Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Wesson for a year before transferring to the University of Mississippi, where he was elected editor of the student newspaper, the Mississippian, and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1952.
Pittman served in the US Navy during and after the Korean War. On 17 April 1955 he married Elizabeth Ann MacDonald of Memphis, with whom he went on to have three children. After leaving active military duty in 1957, Pittman purchased his hometown Tylertown Times and served for more than a quarter century as its editor-publisher.
Pittman produced what many considered one of the nation’s best small-town newspapers. Serving a dairy community he called the Cream Pitcher of Mississippi, the Times won the Mississippi Press Association General Excellence Award for weekly newspapers for ten consecutive years. Pittman was frequently asked to cover national political events and interview national political leaders. He enjoyed telling individuals that he was with “the Times” and then watching their surprise at learning that he meant the Tylertown Times, not the New York Times. During the civil rights era his editorials advocated mutual tolerance, and he stressed the need for improvements to public education in the state.
In 1963 he began a weekly syndicated column, “Mississippi Outlook,” which ultimately was picked up by more than forty-five newspapers across the state. Beginning in 1978, he also published the monthly Paul Pittman Newsletter, sharing his analysis and reflections on various political issues, contests, and leaders. He wrote an insightful essay, “Change in Mississippi and the Media,” that was included in Sense of Place: Mississippi (1979) and that contained his reflections on the evolution of Mississippi’s media during the civil rights period. Pittman also taught journalism classes at the University of Southern Mississippi. In 1969 Pittman established WTYL, Tylertown and Walthall County’s first radio station.
Pittman loved both writing about and participating in politics. He was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Young Democrats and served as the group’s president in 1958, becoming an early supporter of John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. He also served as publicist for Gov. J. P. Coleman’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1963 and worked on William Winter’s unsuccessful 1967 gubernatorial campaign.
In 1972 Pittman sought the Democratic nomination for Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District. His bid failed, and the seat was ultimately won by Republican Thad Cochran. Pittman subsequently confined himself to observing and writing about political activities. In this capacity, he often provided Election Night commentaries and other political analyses on Jackson television stations.
On 2 September 1983 Pittman died suddenly at his residence in Tylertown of an apparent heart attack. The Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame included him among its inaugural group of inductees in 1986, and the following year Walthall County officials renamed the county airport, located three miles northwest of Tylertown, in his memory.
- Paul Pittman, in Sense of Place: Mississippi, ed. Peggy W. Prenshaw and Jesse O. McKee (1979)
- Paul Howard Pittman Manuscript Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Paul Pittman Newsletter, April 1978–August 1983
- Eric Stringfellow, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (4 September 1983)
- Tylertown Times (8 September 1983)