“Johnny Pitts knows everybody in the cotton business, or so it seems,” is how one colleague describes the effervescent, long-time field director for the Cotton Board.

Pitts, who has played a role in bringing 2,000-3,000 cotton farmers to Raleigh to tour Cotton Incorporated's World Headquarters & Research Center, is leaving after nearly 17 years on the job. He began his new career with T.J. Beall and Company on March 1

For his last hurrah, Pitts was instrumental in bringing a recent ‘mega-tour’ of nearly 200 cotton farmers to Raleigh to tour the Cotton Incorporated facility.

He was officially recognized for his efforts by administrators at the Cotton Board and Cotton Incorporated, but more importantly, by dozens of growers who had heard via the ‘fiber vine’ that he was leaving.

In recognizing Pitts' contributions to the Cotton Board , Chairman and CEO Drayton Mayers says Pitts was a pivotal figure in helping develop the relationship among the Cotton Board, Cotton Incorporated and cotton growers throughout the United States.

Berrye Worsham, president and CEO of Cotton Incorporated says Pitts was tireless and relentless in bringing growers to the company that they in fact own. Cotton Incorporated, he says, owes a big debt to Johnny Pitts for his role in bringing so many growers to the Cary, N.C. facility. Many of these growers, Worsham says, went on to be grower-elected leaders on the boards of Cotton Incorporated and the Cotton Board.

Pitts has been in the cotton business since he was 15 years old, when he went to work for E.W. Bowden Cotton Company in his home town of Ruleville, Miss. “I started out in the sample room putting together and wrapping cotton samples to send to buyers in Memphis. I worked there during summers in college and later on I made warehouse runs and just got to know a few people in the business end of cotton,” Pitts recalls.

Thinking his career was in baseball, Pitts played at the college level at Mississippi Delta Community College before graduating from Delta State University. After graduating from college, he began working as a field representative in the Mid-South Region for the Cotton Board.

“After about five years, I felt like I knew a few people. I could go to a Beltwide meeting or other cotton meeting, and it was a good feeling that I actually knew people there. Over the years those friendships have been the most rewarding part of my job with the Cotton Board,” he says.

In early 2008, Pitts accepted a job with T.J. Beall and Company in West Point, Ga. He will remain in Mississippi, where he will oversee the company's main warehouse and seek to extend business into the Southwest.

T.J. Beall and company is a family owned business that was started in 1936. The company buys cotton gin motes and loose or damaged cotton that goes into a multitude of products that are sold throughout the Southeast and to a limited degree internationally.

“I got to know the Beall Family a number of years back, and when the opportunity to work with them came along, I felt like it was a good opportunity for me and my family. In a way, I guess I'm going back to my roots,” he says.