Making a “Byron Pitts”-Stop with the 60 Minute Correspondent
Byron Pitts was born on October 21, 1960 in Baltimore, Maryland where he was raised by a single-mom who saved to send him to Catholic school on a modest seamstress’ salary, despite the fact that they were churchgoing Baptists. Although he would eventually embark on an enviable career on TV as a well-respected news journalist, Byron had to overcome illiteracy and a host of other seemingly-insurmountable childhood challenges en route to turning himself into a great success story. That admirable endeavor was intimately recounted in his revealing memoir “Step Out on Nothing,” a best seller which earned the #2 spot on my annual Top Ten Black Books list.
Earlier this year, he became the heir apparent to Ed Bradley’s coveted spot on 60 Minutes when CBS named him a contributing correspondent to the long-running, television newsmagazine. Byron lives in New Jersey with his wife, Lyne, and their 6 children, and recently sat down to speak with me about his new job, his autobiography, his faith and his family.
Kam Williams: Hi Byron, thanks for the time.
Byron Pitts: Absolutely! My pleasure.
KW: I’m going to start of with a question from children’s book author Irene Smalls. She says in many ways yours is a true rags-to-riches story. What guidance can you offer young people today?
BP: I think there’s real value in remaining optimistic and in having a plan for your life. I was raised to believe that strength only comes through struggle, and in seeing obstacles as stepping-stones, as teachable moments. By asking, what can I learn to improve myself from this experience? That’s a sphere of optimism I got from my mother.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman notes that you had some learning disabilities as a child. She was wondering, whether your path to success would have been easier if you’d been ready to read before the first grade? She also asks, if you support efforts to invest in early care and education, especially in areas such as East New York, Harlem and Baltimore where there are high concentrations of young African-American males?
BP: Definitely, that would make all the difference in the world for a number of young people. Yeah, it would make a tremendous difference, because the earlier we can teach children to read, the more productive citizens they’ll be, and the fuller lives they’ll live. Would it have made my life easier? I don’t know. Could I have achieved more? I’d like to believe that.
KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks, how has your faith shaped your life?
BP: It’s the foundation. Every good choice I’ve made in my life has come as a result of prayer and faith, and every poor choice has come when I’ve deviated from that. It certainly sustained me as a child, and sustains me today.
KW: Reverend Thompson also asks, what is your favorite and most profound quote from scripture?
BP: Isaiah 40:31, which is also my grandmother’s favorite inscription, which reads, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; so that you can run and not be weary; and walk and not faint,” which speaks to that same “Step Out on Nothing” spirit.
KW: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
BP: My mother.
KW: Also from the good Reverend: How did you overcome the obstacle of illiteracy? What did you do to rebuild your self-esteem?