Ask residents of Fort Worth about Viola Pitts and you will likely hear about her tireless efforts to use voting to effect change. Ask people in west Fort Worth’s former resort community of Como who she was, and you will hear a more nuanced and personal description for the passionate activist known affectionately as “the unofficial mayor” of Como.
Ms. Pitts moved to Fort Worth from the small northeast Texas town of Winnsboro at the tender age of 27 and did not become civically active until over 20 years later. However, once the spark was lit for Pitts, she quickly became the voice for many in her majority African American community. A quick drive through the very streets that she helped keep paved and we are acutely aware of the respect and admiration everyone has for this legend. Pitts advocacy helped Como residents receive better funding for the community center, elementary school and streets in the surrounding area. Beyond these accomplishments, many remember her simply as a “visionary.”
Glenda Thompson is a Fort Worth native and one who uses this term to describe Ms. Pitts. Thompson recalls becoming acquainted with the political dynamo when she worked in marketing for Trinity Metro.
“Ms. Viola was so well respected that Trinity Metro didn’t make any changes that would impact the residents of Como before talking with her. At that time, we sought her advice before making any route changes in the area.”
Ms. Thompson’s family is no stranger to community activism, they are from the Stop Six neighborhood and owned and operated the well-known restaurant Skinner’s Barbecue for 40 years until is closing in 1994.
In 2000, Pitts was honored when an outlying hospital clinic was renamed the Viola Pitts/Como Health Center. She was truly a catalyst for change and not enough can be said about the amount of work she put into Como. Glenda Thompson also thought it important to note that Ms. Pitts often diversified her social actions to advocating for a lengthy list of causes that, upon first glance, did not appear to fit with location specific causes she was best known for. Her desire to make Fort Worth a livable city for all my have started with Como but certainly expanded beyond that reach.
For example, although she had no children, she served on boards for both Planned Parenthood and the Fort Worth Zoo. Upon her death she received a letter of honorable tribute from President Bill Clinton and a commendation on the house floor from congressman Martin Frost who served 26 years as a Congressman from the 24th District of Texas (Dallas-Ft. Worth) from 1979 to 2005 and thought highly of “the unofficial mayor of Como."