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William Sidney Pittman - Glen Oaks Cemetery - Dallas, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member QuarrellaDeVil
N 32° 45.302 W 096° 44.829
14S E 711053 N 3626376
Quick Description: William Sidney Pittman, a pioneer black architect whose work is only now being appreciated, is buried in Glen Oaks Cemetery, Dallas, TX.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 2/28/2015 2:20:37 PM
Waymark Code: WMNEKE
Views: 4

Long Description:
Glen Oaks Cemetery is located near the intersection of Carson St and Vannerson Dr, northeast of of Lincoln High School, and adjacent to historic L. Butler Nelson Cemetery. There are no signs marking it as such. This area of Dallas can be a little rough, so be aware of what's going on around you.

Pittman was eccentric and known to be difficult, and he died in poverty. Lee Gresham Pinkston, notable in his own right as a surgeon, publisher, and activist, provided a plot for Pittman, and Glen Oaks is occasionally referred to as Pinkston Cemetery: Pinkston and his family are buried across the cemetery from Pittman. The grave site was the subject of a search in recent years, as the cemetery had been neglected, and his original headstone (placed some time after his death) was located:

William Sidney

Apr. 21, 1875
Mar. 14, 1958
I am here for the right thing
and not for the wrong

It is now accompanied by a modern stone, which has already been toppled:

William Sidney

Born * April 21, 1875
Died * March 14, 1958

First Black Architect of Texas

Moved to Texas 1913

Built 12 Known Structures
Across Texas

The Handbook of Texas Online has an excellent biography: (visit link)

William Sidney Pittman, black architect, was born in Alabama on April 21, 1875. He attended Tuskegee Institute, where he completed programs in woodwork and architectural-mechanical drawing in 1897. He then entered Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, where he completed the architecture and mechanical drawing program in 1900. From late 1900 to 1905 Pittman worked at Tuskegee Institute as head of the department of architectural drawing. He was responsible for overseeing all campus construction. In late 1903 he left Tuskegee to establish a private practice in Washington, D.C. Between 1905 and 1909 he designed public schools, college facilities, and hotels and gained recognition as one the most accomplished black architects in America. During this period he was commissioned to prepare design and construction documents for the Negro Building at the Jamestown Exposition, the world's fair held in Virginia in 1907. Pittman was also involved in community development in Fairmont Heights, Maryland, where he lived. He organized and was elected president of the Fairmont Heights Improvement Company, an investment organization geared toward fostering an alternative to the inner-city ghetto. He was president of the Heights Citizens Committee and the Washington chapter of the Negro Business League, for which he edited the Negro Business League Herald.

In 1907 Pittman married Portia Washington, daughter of Booker T. Washington, founder and principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1913 the Pittmans moved to Dallas, Texas, where they raised two sons and a daughter. Between 1911 and 1927 they resided at three different addresses; at each, Pittman operated his architectural practice from his home. He was the first practicing black architect in Texas. During his sixteen-year practice in Dallas, he designed at least seven major projects in the city, as well as projects in Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Waxahachie. Five of his known structures still stood in 1990. The Colored Carnegie Library of Houston (1913) was torn down in 1962 to yield to a freeway. The Allen Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church (1914) still stands in Fort Worth. The United Brothers of Friendship Hall of San Antonio (1915) was also demolished in the path of an expressway. Joshua Chapel AME Church was dedicated in 1917 and is extant in Waxahachie. The Grand Temple (1915) of the State Grand Lodge, Knights of Pythias, still stands in Dallas, though the five-story structure is no longer owned by the Pythians. The St. James AME Church (1919) still stands in Dallas within view of the old Knights of Pythias headquarters; the building was sold and remodeled as office space in 1984. In Houston, the five-story Grand United Order of Oddfellows (Negro) lodge building was constructed from Pittman's plans in 1924. It was razed in 1982 to make way for parking and annex space for the Alley Theatre. The Wesley Chapel AME Church was built in 1926. The original building still stands southeast of downtown Houston. The Colored Carnegie Library of Houston and the Knights of Pythias Temple of Dallas were acclaimed across the United States in newspapers and magazines. The library was the first one for blacks in Houston. The Pythian Temple was almost totally financed by the black citizens of Dallas. Both structures were presented as examples for other African Americans to emulate. They were benchmarks for Texas and the United States.

In 1925 Pittman became president of the Brotherhood of Negro Building Mechanics in Texas. In 1928 he and his wife separated, and he ceased to practice as an architect. She returned to Tuskegee and worked as a teacher. During the 1930s and 1940s Pittman earned a living as a carpenter and published a weekly newspaper, The Brotherhood Eyes. He used the paper to vent his criticisms of the black community. A firm believer in supporting black businesses, Pittman charged the black middle class with hypocrisy for patronizing white businesses instead of black ones. He also criticized black ministers for their lax morals. As a result of his publications Pittman was charged with libel in 1936, but acquitted. He died in Dallas on March 14, 1958, and was buried in the Glen Oaks Cemetery in south Dallas. Because he practiced in Texas longer than in any other state, the state should have more examples of his work than any other region of the United States. The majority of his structures have not been identified, however, and may never be identified because public records of them are lacking and Pittman's personal records have not been located.
A Texas Historical Marker stands in front of one of his creations, the former St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church at 624 Good-Latimer, Dallas, TX. It says: Pioneer African American architect William Sidney Pittman was born in Montgomery, Alabama on April 21, 1875. Pittman attended segregated public schools in Montgomery and Birmingham before enrolling at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1892 at the age of 17. In 1897, Pittman entered the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry and graduated in 1900 with a focus on architecture and mechanical drawing. For a short time, Pittman worked at the Tuskegee Institute and then moved to Washington, D.C. to open a private architectural practice. During this time, he designed numerous public buildings and gained recognition as one of the most accomplished black architects in America. In 1907, he married Portia Washington, daughter of Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, and in 1913, they moved to Dallas where Pittman operated an office from their home. While in Dallas, Pittman designed many buildings, including the 1916 Pythian Temple, built to serve as the state headquarters for the black fraternal organization, the Knights of Pythias. The building was financed by the black citizens of Dallas and served as the social gathering place for the community. Pittman also designed St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dallas, Joshua Chapel A.M.E. Church in Waxahachie and Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Fort Worth, along with other buildings. Pittman designed dozens of buildings in the U.S., including 14 known works in Texas. He also published the newspaper Brotherhood Eyes. He died in 1958 and was buried at Glen Oaks (later Pinkston) cemetery. Pittman is remembered as the first practicing African American Architect in Texas and still serves as an inspiration to future generations.

Date of birth: 4/21/1875

Date of death: 3/14/1958

Area of notoriety: Art

Marker Type: Headstone

Setting: Outdoor

Visiting Hours/Restrictions: Daylight hours

Fee required?: No

Web site: [Web Link]

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