Iconic activist Ineva May-Pittman’s death in a house fire rips the hearts of many – The shocking news flood the airways and social media

Pittman (left) and the late Gil Sturgis (right) at the Victory Party of the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba in 2013. PHOTOS BY JAY JOHNSON
By Gail H.M. Brown, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer ,


News early Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, that Jackson resident and lifelong civil rights activist and educator Ineva May-Pittman died in a house fire at her home sent shock waves around the community and state.

According to WLBT, Pittman, 88, “was found in her home by firefighters, who discovered her in a part of the house that was not burned.”

Tweets, Facebook posts, text messages, etc. went viral with reactions and condolences at the news of her death. Public officials, private citizens, and most certainly, her students, shared heart-felt comments and fond memories of her life, legacy and love for championing human and civil rights.

The Mississippi Link Publisher Jackie Hampton said she was heart-broken at the news. “She was a teacher when I was at Isable Elementary School,” said Hampton. “She was Ms. May then. I always enjoyed how she never referred to me as Ms. Hampton. She would always call me by my maiden name, ‘Miss Hayes,’ which she never forgot. She was a great educator and activist. Oh, to hear of her death in such an awful manner is so devastating.”

Retired Lanier High School music teacher and alumnae Rose Ella Magee shared with The Mississippi Link her post which was on their Lanier Alumni Facebook Page:

“My 2nd grade teacher! She instilled the joy of reading in me and took me on my 1st train ride. She always knew who I was as an adult and would always give me words of encouragement. God rest her soul and give her family peace, strength and comfort in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Jackson State University President Thomas Hudson, J.D. tweeted: “If you’re from Jackson or live in Jackson, you knew Ms. Pittman. A longtime educator, activist and all-around bright light to the City. She will be sorely missed.”

Noted Sports Personality Rob Jay replied with: “I’m so sorry this happened to Ms. Pittman. She did not deserve this ending. Bless her soul.”

Sheriff Tyree Jones tweeted: “Saddened to hear the news regarding the passing of Mrs. Ineva May-Pittman due to a house fire last night. She was the epitome of a leader in civil and human rights throughout our community, state and country. May God be with her family and the many lives she touched.”

Speaking of lives she touched, one of them is Hinds County Tax Collector Eddie Fair. “Mrs. Pittman meant the world to so many people,” Fair told The Mississippi Link.

Fair stated she was always willing to help fight for good causes like renaming the airport for Medgar Wiley Evers, the downtown U.S. Post Office for Medgar Wiley Evers, the passing of school bond issues for Jackson Public Schools, etc. “She always stood by me. I’m going to miss her more than words can ever say,” he said.  

Pittman was a native of Jayess, Miss. She began her early education in Jayess and later in Jackson. She attended both CM&I and Lanier High Schools of Jackson. She graduated from Lanier and went on to earn her Elementary Education degree in 1956 from the-then Jackson State College and a Master’s in Education and Supervision from JSU in 1973. She is reported as having done further study at the University of Alabama, Southern University and the Mississippi Baptist Seminary. She also studied a myriad of Christian Education courses.

Pittman is also known for advocating for voting rights with Medgar Evers. A past Jackson Branch NAACP President, she has earned numerous awards and accolades for her education and community activism. Some of them are Jackson Public School Distinguished Service (1986), The Black Women’s Political Action – Exceptional Achievement Award (1987), Jackson Branch NAACP – John W. Dixon Outstanding Community Service Award (1977), and the list goes on.

Pittman was known for holding political leaders accountable for the office which they served. If it was a school district issue, she voiced her concerns at the school board meetings. If it was a city of Jackson issue, one could expect to see her at the microphone unapologetically voicing her concerns or protests if an action or actions were not in the best interest of the people.

In 2019, Pittman was honored during Black History Month by the City of Jackson.

Upon hearing of her death Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba released this statement: “Mrs. May-Pittman was a lifelong advocate for human rights and an active member of numerous civic, religious, civil rights and professional organizations. I consider her a mentor and a true friend. Over the years, she also kept a close eye on city business and politics to ensure leaders remain grounded, fair and committed to the needs of our residents. In honor of her lifelong service, Mrs. May-Pittman is part of a mural that sits outside my office. I pass it every day.”

In 2017, Poindexter Park was renamed in honor of Pittman for her many contributions to improving the quality of life for the people of Jackson and Mississippi.

Pittman is preceded in death by her husband Joe Pittman and is survived by her son Albert and one grandson.

Arrangements for her service were not known as of press time. 

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