BELIZE CITY, Tues. Dec. 29, 2015–Bernard Quentin Augustus Pitts suffered a stroke and consequent heart attack and was hospitalized at Belize City’s Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, where according to his son, Dr. Michael Pitts, the retired Director of Health Services, “he received excellent care.” BQ, as he was affectionately known by his close friends, passed away on Monday, December 28.
Although he originated from humble beginnings in rural Belize District, Bernard Quentin, the fifth son of Roderick Augustus Pitts, was a Belizean nationalist and Garveyite whose phenomenal rise to positions of influence and power in the service of his beloved Belize earned him the title of CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s 2012 New Year’s honors.
After he graduated from Wesley College, BQ Pitts, as he is popularly known, began working in the British Honduras colonial civil service, beginning as a clerk, and worked his way up the ranks to become a traveling magistrate by 1964 and District Officer, explained Dr. Pitts.
“He went to law school at the age of 35, with six kids in October 1970,” Dr. Pitts said. He did not get a scholarship, said Dr. Pitts, who related that since George Price refused to grant BQ Pitts a scholarship, he took vacation leave from his job and went to study law on his own.
In 1975, Pitts returned to Belize as a trained attorney and worked in the government service briefly at the Director of Public Prosecutions office (DPP) and the Belize City Magistracy.
After working in the government service for two years, BQ began his own private law practice along with another attorney, Edwin Flowers. Their law office was located on Dean Street, Dr. Pitts recalled. “He was practicing up to the time of his death,” said Dr. Pitts.
“Over a period of time he became a senior counsel and over a period of time he saw four of my siblings become lawyers. All of us did what he wanted us to do, to become independent thinkers,” Dr. Pitts said. “Two of his children are now practicing law at Pitts and Elrington, the law firm that my father established along with Wilfred Elrington”, Dr. Pitts noted.
BQ was also generous with his time, and taught Advanced Level Law in the evenings at the University of the West Indies Extra Mural Department, which was located at the Bliss Institute.
Amandala asked Dr. Pitts what would be his best memory of his father.
Dr. Pitts replied, “His integrity, his love for the common people, real people. His best friends were people at the fish market, Allan on Cemetery Road, Rabbi Dead, Cuppi D. His best Chinese friend was Brads. Most of his children’s friends became his friends. To remember him was just the fun that he had being around people.”
BQ Pitts served as the speaker of the House of Representatives from 1993 to 1998.
After the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow amended the Constitution to allow for Cabinet appointments to be made outside of the senate, BQ Pitts served as Attorney General from 2010 to 2012 and was the first non-elected person to be appointed to a cabinet post under the amended Constitution.
Dr. Pitts explained that his father had been at odds with the United Democratic Party (UDP) over his principled position with the Maritime Areas Act and was expelled from the UDP along with Philip Goldson whose coalition National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) had helped formed the UDP government.
“People want to remember my father as an attorney, but I think you have to understand where he came from,” Dr. Pitts offered.
“His family was really from Mullings River and Flowers Bank. He loved farming; he loved the sea; in fact he was a boat captain. At the age of 17, he was a certified boat captain. He used to sail up and down from Mullings River to Belize City, he and his cousin Collet Maheia. He was always involved in pit-pan races in the 1970s. He was a member of the then famous Ethnic Steam which had dominated pit-pan races,” Dr. Pitts said.
Dr. Pitts said that his father, apart from his politics, was an avid musician who played trombone and piano and was best on his baritone. “He was always fair with what they said about him with baritone. In 1960 they wrote in the Daily Clarion that he was the best baritone player in Belize, and he corrected them by telling them that his cousin Lenox Pike was the best. He had formed his own dance band, the Latin Lovers. The singer Pete Matthews was a member of his band that he led. He was also a founding member of the first steel band in Belize along with Dr. Colville Young and Eddie Laing. In terms of his work, he was a carpenter also. He built his own house on Zericote Street. He was a father, he was a brother, he was a friend, he was a neighbor and he loved life and humanity, and he despised thieves and liars”, Dr. Pitts said.
BQ was one of the early pioneers in Lake Independence and had petitioned that electric lights be placed in Lake Independence. “This was when the Lake was just bush, there was not even London Bridges during that time”, Dr. Pitts explained.
BQ married the love of his life, Valda, in 1955, and their union produced six children. He is predeceased by his son, Allan Pitts, who died suddenly in 1985. He is survived by his wife and children and a number of grandchildren.
If you were to write an epitaph for your father, what would that be, Amandala asked Dr. Pitts.
“Well done, soldier,” Dr. Pitts replied, “He was a soldier for humanity.”