United Holding Co. Chairman Don Pitts has died at 80 after cancer battle

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 3,652 views 

Don Pitts, chairman of Springdale-based United Holding Co., the family owned entity that owns United Bank and United Built Homes (UBH), has died from cancer. He was 80.

Pitts died Monday (Sept. 9) at Regency Hospital-Springdale at Northwest Medical Center. Funeral arrangements are pending.

“Mr. Pitts was a humble icon in the Northwest Arkansas business community,” said Craig Young, United Holding Co. CEO and executive vice president and CFO of United Built Homes. “He was not only our owner, but a mentor, co-worker and dear friend. We will miss that infectious smile and positive daily outlook. The world needs more of that.”

Pitts started United Bank in 1978 after purchasing an Ashdown bank charter known as Little River Savings & Loan Association. The bank today has assets of about $195 million, with four locations in Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale (2).

UBH marked its 60th anniversary last year, and Pitts has been with the company almost from the beginning. He was hired in 1960 as a bird dog (finding sales leads) before starting an upward climb that eventually saw him become the homebuilding company’s controlling owner in 1988.

With dual headquarters in Shreveport, La. — where it was founded as a spin-off of a lumberyard — and Springdale, UBH builds economical custom homes for a niche of first-time homebuyers. With sales offices in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi, the company is regarded as one of the top regional homebuilders in the country. UBH totaled $82.05 million in housing revenue and 458 house closings last year, according to industry publication Professional Builder magazine.

In a June 2018 interview with the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, Pitts reflected on the company’s 60th anniversary.

“You just do it one day at a time is the way I guess we get there,” he said. “We started in 1958 and started out building fairly small homes, but over the years, they’ve gotten much larger. We started out in the beginning building in the rural areas. We build in town now, as well, but we have always tried to take care of the folks in the rural market because many times loan companies didn’t want to go out there and make the loans. But with that said, we have always built a quality product, and referral business is the thing that keeps us in business.”

Pitts worked full time until his cancer diagnosis in early 2019. Even with his 80th birthday approaching, Pitts told the Business Journal last summer that retirement was not on his mind.

“I enjoy what I do, and retirement has never entered my mind much,” he said. “I am probably not as productive as I should be, but I probably don’t plan on retiring anytime soon.”

The Business Journal noted an example of Pitts’ “old-school” management style in February 2006 after a winter weather event in the region.

“If you were driving through south Springdale on Feb. 20, you might’ve noticed a man shoveling leftover ice and sludge off the sidewalk and parking lot at United Bank’s main office,” noted a Business Journal item in the Whispers column. “If you looked closer, you might’ve noticed he had gray hair, and closer still you might’ve realized he was none other than Don Pitts, chairman of United Holding Co.

“We’re not sure how long Pitts manned the shovel, but from their unique vantage point, several Business Journal staffers watched him clear as much as 50 feet or more of pavement.”

Pitts was born in Goshen in Washington County and graduated from Fayetteville High School in 1955 when he was 16. He then tried to enroll at the University of Arkansas.

“They told me they thought it’d be good if I laid out a year or two,” Pitts recalled. “I had gone to a country school, and not that I was smart, but they moved me from grade to grade a little fast. So when I started [Fayetteville] high school, I was 12. I was a little young and immature. Certainly couldn’t have played sports because everybody was bigger than me. But, the man I talked to at the university said he thought I should lay out a year or two and get back with the class that I should have been with. I didn’t necessarily disagree, but I hadn’t gone back yet.”

Pitts is survived by his wife of 61 years, Patty. He is also survived by five adult children: Kellie Lavy, Lisa Pitts, Donnie Pitts, Darrin Pitts and Andrew Pitts.