Biography / Administrative History
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Pitts (Robert B.) Papers
Collection number: MS 116
6.5 linear feet
(11 boxes + 1 oversized box)
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
Abstract: Robert B. Pitts (1909-1982) was the first regional administrator of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
and an advocate for housing and urban development.The Robert B. Pitts papers consist of speeches, housing reports, articles,
correspondence, programs, photographs, and newspaper clippings documenting the Pitts' life and career.
Languages represented in the collection:
No access restrictions. Collection is open to the public.
Materials are for use in-library only, non-circulating.
Permission to publish from the Robert B. Pitts Papers must be obtained from the African American Museum & Library at Oakland.
Pitts (Robert B.) Papers, MS 116, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Processed by Sean Heyliger, 01/31/2014. Updated by Sean Heyliger to incorporate Accession #2015-044 on 06/09/2015.
Biography / Administrative History
Robert B. Pitts (1909-1982) was the first regional administrator of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
and an advocate for housing and urban development. Born on August 25, 1909 in Macon, Georgia, he earned a B.A. in mathematics
from Howard University in 1938 and his M.A. in Economics from the University of Washington in 1941. After graduation, he
was an instructor in economics at Lemoyne College in Memphis, Tennessee for one year before he was drafted into the U.S. military
during World War II. During the war (1942-1946), he served as a master gunner overseas in Italy, the Philippines, and Japan.
Following World War II, Pitts worked for a short time as a statistician at the Washington State Department of Health before
joining the Public Housing Administration first as an assistant regional economist in 1947. A year later he was hired as the
racial relations officer in the San Francisco office of the Public Housing Administration, where he wrote reports and provided
analysis and outreach to low-income and minority communities in the department’s western district. Pitts served as racial
relations officer until 1957, when he subsequently served as a market analyst (1957-1961), assistant to the regional administrator,
Housing & Home Finance Agency (1961-1962), and deputy regional administer (1962-1964). In 1964, he was promoted to regional
administrator, Housing & Home Finance Agency (1964-1966), where he coordinated the agency’s housing programs in eleven Western
states. He was also assigned by the first secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Robert A. Weaver, to coordinate the
organization of the department, serving as the chair of the task force for regional offices in 1966.
In 1966, Pitts was appointed as the first regional administrator of the newly created U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department,
a position he would hold until his retirement in 1970. As regional administrator, he advocated for federal funds to support
urban development projects, and he was instrumental in the rebuilding of Watts following the 1965 riots. He encouraged and
approved the rebuilding of the 103rd St. corridor which included the Neighborhood Development Center, Economic Resources Industrial
Park, Multipurpose Child Development Center, and over 2,000 housing units. He also served as the chairman of the San Francisco
Federal Executive Board and oversaw the two volume report
An analysis of federal decision-making and impact: the federal government in Oakland.
After his retirement in 1970, he formed a private consulting firm, Urban Consultants, Inc., which advised local governments
in housing and urban development policy. He also lectured in the School of Business Administration at the University of California
Berkeley and was a founder of the Bay Area Black United Fund. Following his death in 1982, the Robert B. Pitts Westminster
Neighbor Center in Los Angeles, California and the Robert B. Pitts Plaza in San Francisco, California were renamed in his
Scope and Content of Collection
The Robert B. Pitts papers consist of speeches, housing reports, articles, correspondence, programs, photographs, and newspaper
clippings documenting the life and career of Western Regional Administrator of the United States Dept. of Housing and Urban
Development, Robert B. Pitts. The papers document Pitts’ long career working for the Federal Housing Administration and the
Department of Housing and Urban Development as a racial relations officer, housing analyst, regional director, and as a private
consultant. The collection is organized into six series: I. Biographical, II. United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development,
III. Writings, IV. Consultations, V. Photographs, VI. Assorted printed material.
Biographical material includes Robert B. Pitts’ resumes, biographical sketches, a college scrapbook, obituary, funeral program,
awards, and assorted documentation related to the renaming of the Robert B. Pitts Westminster Neighborhood Center in Los Angeles,
California and Robert B. Pitts Plaza in San Francisco, California. The United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
series mostly consists of conference programs, correspondence, and transcripts of speeches delivered by Pitts on housing issues
related to African Americans while he was Western Regional Administrator of the department from 1966-1970. The speeches, some
of which were given as early as the mid-1940s, focus on the housing crisis and discrimination faced by African Americans emigrating
to California during World War II and in the post-war decades. The series also includes reports written by Pitts when he was
racial relations officer and a housing analyst for the Federal Housing Administration in the 1950s. The reports analyze the
demographics of the non-white population on the West Coast and the challenge of providing housing to ethnic groups. The series
also includes programs, transcripts of remarks, and farewell letters for two retirement events for Pitts held at the Kabuki
Theatre in San Francisco, California and at the Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, California in February 1970.
The writings series consists of five student papers on various topics in economics, Pitt’s master’s thesis “Organized labor
and the Negro in Seattle,” and six articles on housing and African Americans. The consultations series includes reports, correspondence,
and contract files related to Pitts’ work as a housing and urban development consultant. The reports include an analysis of
community development for Lemoyne College in Memphis, Tennessee where Pitts was serving as an instructor in economics between
1941-1942. Also included is the two volume report of the San Francisco Federal Executive Board Oakland Task Force analyzing
the impact of the federal government in Oakland. Pitts’ consulting firm, Urban Consultants, Inc., was contracted to provide
analysis on a number of projects including the Rancho Visitacion housing development, Marin City development, and a review
of the Bay Area Association of Governments.
Photographs in the collection mostly document Pitts’ career at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Photographs
include images of Pitts working in his office with co-workers, delivering speeches at conferences, on-site at unidentified
project locations, and Pitts retirement ceremonies in Los Angeles and San Francisco. There are also a number of photographs
taken of students and student organizations at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama during the 1920s. Assorted printed
material includes demographic, transportation and housing reports in the Bay Area and Trinidad and Tobago, newsletters and
newspaper clippings that document Pitt’s career, programs of assorted events, 1895 pamphlet of Booker T. Washington’s Cotton
Exposition speech, and index cards with handwritten notes on Booker T. Washington kept by Pitts for reference.
Series I. Biographical
Series II. U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
Series III. Writings
Series IV. Consultations
Series V. Photographs
Series VI. Assorted printed material
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Pitts, Robert B.
United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development--Officials and employees.
United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development. San Francisco Area Office.
Discrimination in housing--California.