Pitts was born in Le Mars on July 11, 1929. The son of Chauncey Wells and Hester Carter Pitts, he lived in Alton until he was 5. His family then moved to Le Mars. In high school, he became an Eagle Scout and also began his newspaper career by taking a job as a "printer's devil." Two years later, in 1947, he graduated from Le Mars High School. He attended Grinnell College, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics.
He then served in the U.S. Army for two years, working military intelligence during the Korean War while stationed in Germany. Following his honorable discharge, he earned a masters degree in community journalism from the University of Iowa in 1955. His training focused on local news rather than national or international news. This emphasis guided Pitts' decisions in the newspaper world, and ultimately led to his earning state and national recognition.
After graduating, Pitts joined his brother, Chauncey "Chan" Pitts as a partner of the Le Mars Daily Sentinel. Carter married Maxine Opperud on July 27, 1957. In 1958, the Pitts brothers converted to daily publication, and the Sentinel became the first new daily newspaper in Iowa in 25 years. When Chan died in 1965, Carter became sole owner and publisher. Under his leadership, the Sentinel received the first "Newspaper of the Year" award from the Iowa Newspaper Association in 1969. Carter and his wife, Maxine, ran the Sentinel until selling it in December 1986. He subsequently was named publisher emeritus.
In 1975 he received the Iowa Newspaper Association's highest award given to a publisher -- "Master Editor-Publisher." He served as president of the INA and of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation, which he helped to create in 1983. He served as the first fundraiser for the foundation, which offers seminars and training for practicing journalists and provides scholarships for journalism students in Iowa. By the time he retired as fundraiser, 98 percent of Iowa's newspapers had contributed to the foundation. A scholarship has been established in his name.
Pitts also was a leader in the Le Mars community and was proud to be one of its strongest supporters. He served as president of the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce and was a founding member of the Chamber Ambassadors. He served on the Le Mars City Council. He was a longtime member of the Le Mars Lions Club. He was a charter board member of the Plymouth County Historical Museum. He also served on the board of the Plymouth County Work Activity Center and was a Westmar College trustee. He served as a director on the Le Mars Development Corp. for more than 40 years. He was an elder in the Presbyterian United Church of Christ. The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce named him Citizen of the Year. Main Street Iowa named him the state's outstanding volunteer for his work in fundraising for the Paul and Patricia Olson Cultural Events Center in Le Mars.
Survivors include his wife, Maxine, of Le Mars; four daughters, Carol Pitts of Atlanta, Ga., Pamela Wilhelm of Seattle, Wash., Susan Reel of Bradenton, Fla., and Kathy Hayes of Cedar Rapids; eight grandchildren, Joel, Nicholas, Katrina, and Lucas Wilhelm, Erin Pitts, Jasmine Reel, and Andrea and Carolyn Hayes; and a sister, Hester Newton of Muskegon, Mich.; and several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Chan, and a sister, Carol.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Friday, April 9 at the Presbyterian United Church of Christ in Le Mars. The Rev. G. Dean Goebel will officiate. Burial will follow at Memorial Cemetery in Le Mars with military honors provided by Wasmer Post241 of the American Legion. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the Presbyterian United Church of Christ. The family will be present from 12:30 p.m. until service time.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Iowa Newspaper Foundation's Carter Pitts Scholarship Fund, or to the Presbyterian United Church of Christ.