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Marshall Pittman, West Baltimore deacon who aided veterans at Maryland Department of Labor, dies

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Marshall Pittman was remembered as the “mayor” of the Merritt Clubs Downtown Athletic Club.

Marshall Pittman, a deacon at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in West Baltimore and longtime coordinator of veterans services for the state, died April 24 at the Baltimore VA Medical Center. The West Arlington resident was 75. A cause of death was not available.

Friends and family remembered Mr. Pittman as “the great connector,” a “lover of life” who would bring people together. An avid storyteller, he was known for his deep knowledge of Black history, his own family’s history and serving as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War.

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The second youngest of 13 children, Mr. Pittman was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Leroy Pittman Sr., who worked for the Royal Typewriter Co., and Mary Harris Pittman, a homemaker. His family moved to nearby Bloomfield, where he attended Bloomfield Public Schools, graduating from Bloomfield High School in 1966.

Mr. Pittman enlisted in the Marines in 1968 and served in the Vietnam War until being honorably discharged in 1970. After returning from the service, he moved to Baltimore for a “change of pace,” said Diane Hickman, a daughter.

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Living in West Baltimore, Mr. Pittman attended Coppin State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1979, later obtaining a master’s degree from the institution. He proceeded to a longtime job with the Maryland Department of Labor, helping veterans get jobs. After retiring, he continued working as a substitute teacher in the Baltimore City Public Schools system

He maintained his commitment to fellow soldiers throughout his life, welcoming home fallen soldiers who were identified decades after the conflict in Vietnam.

Mr. Pittman joined the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity in 1981 and remained an active member throughout his life.

He moved into his longtime home in the West Arlington neighborhood in 1989 with his wife, the late former Frances Lorraine Anderson. Mrs. Pittman, a Federal Express employee, shared her husband’s passion for amateur genealogy, researching her family’s roots to their time in slavery in Southern Maryland. She died in 2003 after struggling with lung inflammation.

Marshall Pittman was a storyteller known for his command of his family's history and Black history.

Mr. Pittman received an early Christian education at the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Hartford. In Baltimore, he joined Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Liberty Square, where he became a deacon, participating in church services and religious education classes.

Active in West Baltimore politics, Mr. Pittman was a member of the Democratic State Central Committee and served as an ombudsman for state Senator Clarence Blount. Mr. Pittman placed fourth in the 1998 Democratic primary race for the three 41st district House of Delegates seats.

He was an avid gymgoer, remembered as the “mayor” of the Merritt Clubs Downtown Athletic Club because he knew everyone, said Nancy Himmelreich, an instructor at the gym.

Mr. Pittman regularly attended Mrs. Himmelreich’s class on Friday mornings, and was always eager to learn more about the songs he enjoyed during a session. Mrs. Himmelreich is planning a special class session in honor of Mr. Pittman, featuring a playlist of his favorite songs.

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Dorothy Adamson-Holley, a fellow gymgoer, said Mr. Pittman was “the great connector” at the gym.

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“I knew everyone at the gym because of him,” she said. She described Mr. Pittman as the “older brother I never had,” always sharing knowledge, gifting books and attending her events. He would regularly keep her up to date with the news through calls and texts, where he was “famous for his emojis.”

In addition to his plethora of friendships with fellow gymgoers, Mrs. Himmelreich noted her student was also the best-dressed fitness enthusiast every morning.

“He was retired, but he would always walk in with a suit and a hat,” said Mrs. Himmelreich.

Mrs. Adamson-Holley said Mr. Pittman had “exquisite taste,” and would regularly go on shopping trips to New York City, where the staff at Saks Fifth Avenue knew him by name.

“He was a lover of life, and he spared no expense,” she said. “He taught me that life is to be lived.”

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Mr. Pittman was preceded in death by six brothers, Alfred, Leroy, Marvin, Norman, Louis and Leonard Pittman; three sisters, Edith Blount, Shirley Pittman and Jean P. Jenkins; as well as his daughter, Leila Pittman, and granddaughter, Catherine Pittman.

In addition to his daughter, Diane Hickman of Bowie, Mr. Pittman is survived by his son, Rodney Jenifer Sr., of Baltimore; brother Calvin Pittman, of Bloomfield; sisters Joan and Gail Pittman, of Bloomfield; as well as four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.


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