420 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Joe was born in Kentucky in a family of strong Christian faith, a faith he has passed on to his own three children. His father was an Army chaplain during World War II, serving in the South Pacific. After the war, the elder Pitts returned to the Philippines with his wife and children to serve as a missionary in a war-ravaged country. It was there, where he saw the after-affects of war, that Joe developed a heart for human rights and commitment to a strong defense. General Douglas MacArthur, a warrior who humbled an empire and taught it to be a democracy, was a childhood hero.
After high school, Joe attended Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was there that he met the former Virginia Pratt, now his wife of some 50 years. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1961, Joe and Ginny both got jobs as teachers in Kentucky public schools. They also started a family. Their oldest daughter, Karen, was born at this time, followed in coming years by their second daughter Carol and son Daniel.
Joe taught math, science, English, and physical education, and well as coaching basketball. After Karen was born, Ginny wanted to stay home and be a full-time mother, but teachers in Kentucky didn’t make much in those days and Joe couldn’t support a growing family on his income. So in 1963, he walked into an Air Force recruiting office and signed up for Officer Training School.
Joe served five and a half years in the Air Force, with three tours in Vietnam. Initially commissioned as a second lieutenant, he was promoted to captain by the time he left the service. He graduated second in his class from Navigator School, after which he was trained as an Electronic Warfare officer. As an EWofficer, he served on B-52s out of Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, with payloads of nuclear bombs. When America committed itself to the Vietnam conflict, he rotated out of Guam, Okinawa, and Thailand. In all, he completed 116 combat missions and earned an Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters. Today he is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5467 in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. To hear Joe talk about his service, click here.
In 1969, Joe decided it was time he returned home to raise his family and left the Air Force. This time, he and Ginny settled down where she had grown up outside Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Joe and Ginny both got jobs as schoolteachers. Joe taught math and science at Great Valley High School in northeastern Chester County and once again coached basketball. Ginny taught at Upland Country Day School, where she continued teaching until 1996. On the side, Joe started a small landscape nursery business.
Once they had settled in Pennsylvania, Joe enlisted his entire family in a major task: building their own home from scratch. Joe and his father led the family in performing every task of construction that didn’t require heavy machinery or licensed labor. Joe and Ginny still live in that home; solidly built, it has served them well.
In 1972, Joe began his 24 year tenure as a Pennsylvania State Representative. Joe immediately established a reputation as an effective and honest legislator. Over the years, he became a leader in the causes of farmland and open space preservation, fiscal restraint, and traditional values. One of his first bills to become law was “Clean and Green”—legislation to allow farmers to pay their property taxes on the basis of use value rather than assessed value.
He was a key player behind the 1990 Abortion Control Act. Every time there was a tax cut, Joe was there fighting to make sure it happened. Joe soon became Chairman of the Committee on Labor Relations and was then elected by his colleagues as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, a very powerful post. At home, Joe worked tirelessly to help his neighbors, helping individuals with state applications and defending farmers and businessmen from what he likes to call “bureaucrats flying under the radar.”
During all his years as a state legislator, Joe reserved time for the family-run tree nursery. Joe’s trees still dot the landscape all over southern Chester County.
In 1997, Joe was sworn into Congress replacing Congressman Bob Walker.
When Joe took office in Washington for the first time in January of 1997, he brought with him the skills of a seasoned legislator, the discipline of an Air Force veteran, and the practical outlook of a small businessman. His new colleagues instantly recognized his abilities and he was awarded spots on the Budget Committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Small Business Committee. The Majority Whip, well aware of Joe’s leadership skills, appointed him an assistant whip.
The leaders of the House also soon realized that Joe had a special relationship with many pro-family groups and asked him to chair the Values Action Team, a new organization dedicated to building cooperation between traditional values oriented Members and similarly-minded citizen groups.
In his ninth term, Joe again serves as the Chairman of the Health Subcommittee. He is continuing to lead efforts to roll back and repeal the new health law and replace it with legislation that would reduce medical costs and make insurance easier to purchase and keep. He also is working to modernize and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid to preserve them for future generations.