Dayton City Councilman Dwight Pruitt died suddenly Thursday night, Feb. 23. He was 61. A lifetime resident of Dayton, Pruitt also served as pastor of St. Miles Baptist Church in Ames and associate minister for Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Dayton. He retired from the Liberty County Central Appraisal District after 20 years of service.
Last year, Pruitt underwent triple heart bypass surgery and appeared to be in good health. His oldest brother, Haywood “Frosty” Pruitt, spoke to him by phone yesterday and was told he had been diagnosed with flu. Frosty said he told Dwight to go home and get some rest, and he would talk to him soon.
His sudden passing comes as a shock to Pruitt family, his church family, his peers at the City of Dayton, and a whole host of friends throughout and beyond Liberty County.
“Everybody counted on and went to Dwight when they needed help with something. It didn’t matter if it was city related, property related or family related, he was the go-to guy. He was a mediator and had a way of communicating where things would always come out okay,” said Frosty.
Dwight Pruitt was the second-born of four children of Eural and Lois Pruitt. Frosty was the eldest, followed by Dwight, then sister Jamie, and Barry. The Pruitt family lived in the Low Wood community of Dayton, where many family members still live today.
Eural Pruitt was a construction worker for Brown and Root and Lois was an educator for Dayton and Cleveland school districts.
According to Frosty, their parents instilled the principle of community service, which led to all three sons serving on local city and school governments boards.
“Our mom was always involved in things in the community. That was the norm for us. We wanted to be part of things going on in the community,” Frosty said. While their father was not as involved, he supported his wife and children in all in their endeavors.
Dwight Pruitt served on Dayton City Council from 2012 to 2017, and then was reelected in 2022.
Dayton Mayor Caroline Wadzeck told Bluebonnet News she is saddened by Pruitt’s passing.
“Dwight was one of the first kids I ever taught in Dayton. He grew up as part of a group of kids that are very special to me,” she said. “It has been a delight to work with him on the council. We are going to miss him very much.”
Dayton City Manager Kimberly Judge credits Pruitt with encouraging her to return to Liberty County several years ago to apply for a job as planning director for the City of Dayton.
“When I retired from the City of Sealy, I learned there was a position in Dayton for planning director. I called my Uncle Henry Lloyd Dugat and talked to him about it. I wanted to be closer to my mother in Liberty County. He encouraged me to talk to Dwight. I knew of him at the time, but not personally,” she said. “Being the person that he was, he asked me a hundred questions. He wanted to know my background and experience, my goals and who were my people. He told me that Dayton would welcome me. I felt comfortable with our conversation, so I applied for the director position.”
Judge held that position for eight years before being selected as city manager on Jan. 12, 2023. At that meeting, Pruitt stood to his feet to make the motion to select Judge.
“He was always an encouragement to me, even in my current position. One of the things I want people to remember about him is that he was always there for his community. He will always be remembered and loved,” she said. “The staff were here at city hall this morning, talking about him. He genuinely was concerned about every employee and cared about what was going on in their lives. He would come around and ask everyone if they were okay or needed anything. That was just him.”
County Judge Jay Knight said he is going to miss Pruitt’s friendship and wise counsel.
“When Dayton schools integrated in the late 60s, Dwight and Frosty, and I began attending school together. We have been friends since then. We would often talk about Dayton and Liberty County, and the growth we are experiencing, and how we have to all work together for the greater good of the citizens of Liberty County. That’s just how he was. He had the ability to see all the impacts of something we were discussing. Sometimes the preacher would come out in him and he would start preaching to me,” Knight said with a chuckle. “He was always fun to bounce things off of. You knew you were going to get the truth from him whether or not you liked it. I just talked to him last Friday. We always ended our calls with, ‘Love you, brother, talk to you soon.’ I had always imagined we would grow old together.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Pct. 4 Commissioner Leon Wilson, who spoke to Pruitt on Tuesday. As both had recently undergone health scares, they were united in their concerns for each other.
“He called to check on me Tuesday as I was awaiting results on cancer tests. We stayed in touch quite frequently. I respected his views and he respected mine. I especially respected his love of this community and its residents,” Wilson said. “He was an asset for Liberty County, the City of Dayton and everyone who lives here. His passing is a great loss.”
Dayton Municipal Court Judge Alan Conner was the chief appraiser for the Liberty County Central Appraisal District at the time Pruitt worked there. Conner said Pruitt had a unique ability to bring a sense of calm to every situation.
“Dwight’s main positive attribute as an employee is that he was good at solving problems,” Conner said, which made him an invaluable asset in dealing with property owners who were upset about their taxes.
“He could talk to anybody, no matter how angry they were, and he would figure out a way to negotiate a resolution for them. He was a very positive person. At least once a week, I would send him to the Cleveland area to talk to city and school officials, and to meet with residents who were having issues. He was so good with people,” Conner said. “He has been a good friend to me. I will miss him a lot. His wife, Liz, also worked with me and she is one of the nicest people I know. I feel sorry for her and the Pruitt family. I hope God blesses the family.”
Pruitt leaves behind his wife, Liz, and their children. Funeral arrangements are pending. Bluebonnet News will post the service information as soon as it becomes available.