Revered labor union head dies

Clarence Pittman, Jr: A man for all seasons

Miami Times staff report | 12/19/2013, 9 a.m.
Since the mid 1960s, Miami native Clarence Pittman, Jr., dedicated his life to his community in areas that included education, ...

Since the mid 1960s, Miami native Clarence Pittman, Jr., dedicated his life to his community in areas that included education, politics, religion and social, progressive organizations. But it was in the labor union movement that his star truly shined and his accomplishments may have been most evident. He first joined the Union in 1957.

Pittman, 80, who died last week from complications of heart disease, served as the president of the International Longshoreman’s Association [ILA], Local #1416 AFL-CIO for more than three decades. He was considered a catalyst for the Union and as their top official, he led them in their commitment to providing needed donations to their community. Pittman also served as vice president of the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast District, executive representative of the International Longshoremen’s Association AFL-CIO, was a member of the South Florida AFL-CIO and a member of the South Eastern Dock and Marine Council.

Described as a gentle, decisive leader, Pittman’s colleagues pointed to his professionalism and his ability to always come up with a resolution whenever he was confronted with problems.

“The ILA has lost one of its most valuable and truly legendary officers in Clarence Pittman, Jr.,” said Harold Daggett, ILA president in a released statement. “He was a champion to the rank and file of the ILA in South Florida whom he represented with honor and dignity for many years. And he was a personal inspiration to me due to his leadership qualities.”

When Pittman became president of the ILA in 1982, he took over as only the third president in the Union’s 77-year history. The ILA, both then and now, continues to provide thousands of job opportunities for local workers at PortMiami, loading and unloading cruise ships.

Mike Payne, who worked side by side with Pittman as vice president of the ILA Ports Council of Florida, referred to his mentor as the “grandfather” of the Black longshoremen workers.

His organizational affiliations and awards include: Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church, Greater Miami A. Phillip Randolph Chapter, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 5000 Role Model and Brownsville Progressive Masonic Lodge #510. He was a proud graduate of Booker T. Washington Senior High School, Class of 1952, and Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

Pittman is survived by his wife, Gwendolyn Willar Pittman, six children, 15 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He leaves a legacy of love and commitment for other to follow.

A fish fry was held in his honor last Tuesday at the union hall in Overtown [816 NW Second Ave.]. Viewing was scheduled for Wed., Dec. 18 from 5 - 10 p.m. at the Double Tree Miami Airport & Convention Center, 711 NW Seventh Street. Funeral services will be held at the same venue on Thurs., Dec. 19 at 11 a.m.