Lee Pitts, Host and Executive Producer, Lee Pitts Live
Smooth, intelligent, prepared, and honest are just a few of the ways viewers have described the on-air style of Lee Pitts, the award winning host and executive producer of the T.V. talk show Lee Pitts Live. These descriptions stem from the sharp and witty ease he displays when interviewing guests. He explores a wide-variety of topics in an almost effortless manner. “He appears to be as comfortable interviewing the mayor of a city as he is a teenage rapper. The way he has been consistently great at his job is amazing. Pitts sets the standard for other hosts to emulate,” states Charlotte Carter, Editor, CSN Magazine, which in 2006 selected Lee “The Best of the Best Talk Show Host” and featured him on its cover.
“Lee Pitts is a pioneer, leader and stellar talk show host”
February 6, 2006
The 2014 season marks the 22nd year he has sat at the controls of the popular south Florida based show. In the beginning, the show was a local Lee County market show produced in Fort Myers, Florida, but much has changed since those early days. Now the show is produced at the Lee Pitts Live studios located at WRXY the Vision in Fort Myers and broadcasts on FOX 4 covering the entire southwest Florida region. It has clearly become the place to be seen on television. “ Lee Pitts Live is a show that has made our community very proud. It has always been a show of high integrity and respect. We are blessed to have a gentleman like Lee sitting on that set every Sunday morning. I try not to miss any shows," says Johnny Streets, Fort Myers City Councilman.
When it comes to the “big” interviews in the area, Lee is the person with whom you want to talk. His reputation as a prepared, fair and friendly host has landed him such guests as Reverend Jessie Jackson, civil rights activist, Dr.Nancy Graham, superintendent, School District of Lee County, Randy Henderson, mayor, City of Fort Myers, Dr. Wilson Bradshaw, president, Florida Gulf Coast University, Deion Sanders, NFL Hall of Famer, Veronica Shoemaker, City Councilwoman of Fort Myers; Jim Nathan, CEO, Lee Memorial Health System, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Nicole Henry, internationally renown jazz singer.
Lee, who is in high demand on the speaking circuit, is a unique success story in his own right. He is an internationally renowned swim instructor and a bank vice president. “One special aspect about Lee is when you are around him, you would never know he is that famous. He is able to blend right in. He is such an ordinary guy that you realize he had a special upbringing. When you see all the attention he gets when he walks into a crowded room, it’s amazing how regular he stays,” states John Gibbons, a longtime friend of Lee's.
Surprisingly, Lee’s start in television was not by design. In the late 80’s ,as a result of his swimming fame, he was often requested to appear on radio and TV talk shows as an expert on swimming and water safety. In 1992, he appeared on a TV talk show on WBR-TV, a local Fort Myers station, to discuss his inner-city youth swim program. The show was so well received that when the show’s host went on vacation, Lee was asked to fill in as a guest host. With absolutely no experience as a TV host and an already busy schedule, he hesitated, but eventually agreed to sit-in for two shows. What happened next was magic. Lee’s on-air style and personality immediately connected with his viewers and the ratings rocketed. “I recall the buzz around the station when Lee came in for the two shows. We were all surprised at how natural he was on camera and that smile was simply disarming. It was clear he had a bright future in television, if he wanted it. What seemed to puzzle our production staff was how this guy, who essentially walked in off the streets, could do this job effortlessly like a seasoned TV host, and with no teleprompter. This just doesn’t happen in this arena,” recalls Brad Cooper, the show’s director at the time.
Two weeks later, Hugh Boyd, General Manager of WBR-TV, offered Lee an opportunity to start his own show at the station. Over a two month period, Lee declined the gig three times indicating he had no interest in a television career. “I knew television was where Lee needed to be, and he had the goods. So I figured I would take another approach toward recruiting him. I invited him to a proposed one hour lunch, of which he had no interest in attending. Therefore, I knew this would be my final shot. It ended up being a three hour lunch. I was able to convince him that he could change the face of television in the area. You see, to this point, no African-American male had ever hosted a TV show in this area. I explained this to Lee and told him he was my first and only choice to take on this groundbreaking job,” explains Boyd. Lee finally agreed and just like that, Upclose with Lee Pitts was born. Five years later, the name was changed to Lee Pitts Live.
In 2001, Lee Pitts Live became the longest running local TV talk show in the region. “It’s hard to imagine the success of the show. Here it is 22 years later and I have interviewed over 4,700 people, made many lasting friendships, hopefully changed the face of local television and filled a critical niche. Now we look forward to our 25 th year anniversary. All I can say is, 'thanks you',” Lee says, bearing his trademark smile, “The way the community embraced and applauded this show, a show that some critics thought would not last a full season, epitomizes the show’s motto: ‘Those who say it can’t be done, are usually interrupted by those who are doing it.’ ”
Lee is a native of Birmingham Alabama. He was raised in the low income Collegeville Public Housing projects where his mother, Johnnie, raised seven children. He’s a graduate of Carver High, where he was student body president his senior year and a standout swimmer. He received his Bachelors Degree in Business from Talladega College and a Masters in Economics from Clark Atlanta University. In 1994, he was selected to Who’s Who in African- American History. Ebony magazine named him one of America’s most outstanding bachelors. He has received the NAACP Image Awards and Southwest Florida Peoples Choice Awards. He is a member of the Boys& Girls Club of America National Alumni Hame of Fame, National Association of Black Scuba, and 100 Black Men.