William Pitt, CIA Operations Officer and Businessman, dies at age 95

William “Bill” Page Pitt, who fought on the front lines of the cold war in the 1950s, died on July 12th at his home in Leawood, KS.  He was 95.

Bill was born December 15, 1927, in Huntington, West Virginia to W. Page Pitt & Myrta Tucker. His father, Page, was a professor of journalism at what is now Marshall University.  Bill graduated from Huntington East High School and was drafted into military service at the tail end of World War II in 1945.  He served two years in the Navy as a signalman on the USS Amphion.  Upon discharge, Bill returned to Huntington and attended Marshall University majoring in accounting, however, his career as a businessman would wait.  With the advent of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947 as the nation’s civilian foreign intelligence service, the CIA began recruiting on college campuses for personnel.  During Bill’s senior year at Marshall, his name was made aware to CIA recruiters as a student who met a criteria list circulated to professors and administrators at Marshall.  Pitt joined the CIA upon graduation which led to assignments and missions across Asia from 1951-1959. His assignments included stations in Japan and Singapore. In 1958, Pitt was part of a paramilitary operation in Indonesia, led by legendary CIA officer Anthony “Tony Poe” Poshepny, which tried unsuccessfully to arrange a military uprising against Sukarno, the president of Indonesia, after his declaration of martial law in 1957.  On March 20, 1959, Pitt was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit by CIA Director Allen Dulles for his actions in Indonesia.  In 1959, Bill met the love of his life, Barbara Gilday, who was working in an administrative role at CIA headquarters in Washington D.C.  They were engaged within 8 weeks and married in September 1959 in Amesbury Massachusetts. He subsequently resigned from the CIA to start a family with Barbara, agreeing to return in the event of national emergency. This was tested three years later during the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, when Pitt was called into CIA headquarters for a briefing and contingency planning in the event the United States entered war with the Soviet Union.

Upon entering the private sector, Bill held a series of sales/management positions, with Continental Can Corporation in Buffalo, New York and Mead Corporation in Louisville Kentucky. In 1972, Bill went into business with his brother-in-law, Harold Wood, who owned and operated Dunhill Personnel of Wichita Kansas.  Bill and Barbara established Dunhill Personnel of Topeka, Kansas working side by side for 25 years.  They expanded the business to include offices in Lawrence,Kansas and Shawnee Kansas. Bill was a lifelong Episcopalian and active parishioner of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Topeka.  He was a member of the Downtown Optimist Club of Topeka and Topeka Sales & Marketing Executives.  On the weekend, Bill could be found indulging  his passion for golf as a member of Shawnee Country Club – Topeka.  

In 1997, Bill and Barbara sold Dunhill and retired to Bella Vista,Arkansas where they remained active in communityvolunteering and parishioners of St. Theodore’s Episcopal Church. Bill participated in Bella Vista Meals on Wheels and Crime Watchers, in addition to volunteering as an after-school math tutor for elementary school students.  However, Bill’s most important task during those years was serving as a caretaker and rock for Barbara, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and fought bravely for seventeen years.  She succumbed to the disease and died in September 2004 with Bill at her side. His devotion to Barbara for 45 years was legendary.  Bill remained in Bella Vista with a strong circle of friends and golf buddies.  He moved to Overland Park, Kansas in 2013 to be closer to family and his lasting friendships from Topeka.  

He is survived by two sons, William David Pitt (Sheila) of Leawood, Kansas; Derek Page Pitt of Orono, Minnesota and six grandchildren: Lauren Pitt, Jacob Pitt, Alexis Pitt, Bailee Pitt, Kayla Pitt and Andrew Pitt.

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