Raymond Pitts served from 1941-1944 in the Naval Reserves. After his service, he attended Cornell University and then Kansas University to obtain his master’s. (Patrick Taylor/ Special to The Collegian)

By Austen Holloway
Staff reporter

Raymond Pitts has seen the world’s major changes through the last century. He witnessed the modern world grow, as well as the country we all call home.

Pitts was a sailor in the United States Navy and through the military branch, saw the U.S. and many locations across the vast and diverse globe.

Pitts is from Waverly, a small community 40 odd miles south of Topeka where he grew up in a humble environment. He said one of the greatest influences in his life was his grandfather, who owned a local grocery store in Topeka. He’d worked there during summer to make some money. His grandfather put him to work during his youthful years, keeping him busy in the family owned business.

Pitts volunteered for service from 1941-1944 in the Naval Reserves. In his years of service, he reached the rank of junior officer. World War II was happening during his tour. One of his greatest memories was of his friend, John T. Hayward, the man who dropped the bomb on Nagasaki in Japan to end the war. Pitts explained how proud he was to be able to serve with such great men, to see such great accomplishments in history. His brother was the only survivor on the U.S.S. Omaha when it got hit, said Pitts. Being the only survivor, his brother was promoted from petty officer to lieutenant because of the situation and the major loss of men on the ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Pitts said the biggest thing he took away from his time in the service was learning how to get along with everyone from different types of backgrounds and races. He said, “One thing that bothered me was the fact they wouldn’t allow soldiers of color to carry a firearm. I don’t think that was right at all.”

Pitts had seen his grandfather could be friends with a black man, so in turn he said, “I didn’t see what was so wrong with it. My grandfather was friends with Dan Madden, and Dan owned the black grocery store in Garden Parks, the black side of town.”

Pitts also explained around the time he was in high school, he witnessed ethnic inequality. They forced the blacks from the Garden Parks district and told them they’d have to find new homes and basically start over.

Pitt’s life didn’t revolve around the military. In his experience, once they got out of the military, everyone around him either used the skills they took from the military to find a job or they did what he did and then went to college. “Cornell in Iowa, that’s where I went. Then after I finished up there I went to Kansas University to get my master’s degree.”

Pitts said he’d lived a full life. He was married four times and had one son. He said he’s outlived all his wives. That was that. He left it there. He said he’d seen all the places he needed to see and done all the things he needed to do.

What does Veterans Day mean to him? He said, “I don’t know what it means to me. But I think they should fly our flag at the V.A. at its highest point 24/7. That would make me happy.”

Pitt’s life story is one to be honored. Pitts has accomplished a lot in his time and has known important people. He has made his mark on society as a veteran of our countries military.

Austen Holloway is a sophomore majoring in communication. You may e-mail him at austen.holloway@sckans.edu.