Pitman was born in Newport, Rhode Island on March 16, 1825, the son of Benjamin and Mary Ann (Carter) Pitman. He was educated at the public schools of Bedford, at the Friends Academy, and at Wesleyan University, where he became a member of the Mystical Seven, graduating in 1845. He studied law and taught briefly at Centenary College in Louisiana in 1846 or 1847.
Pitman was admitted to the bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1848. He practiced law until 1869, and was at different times a partner with Thomas D. Eliot and Alanson Borden. In 1858, he was appointed a judge of the Police Court. He was a state representative in 1858 and a state senator in 1864-65 and 1868–69; and in the last year he was President of the Senate. In 1869, he was appointed an Associate Justice of the Superior Court of Massachusetts, and remained on the bench until his death. That same year, he received a Doctor of Laws degree from Wesleyan University.
Pitman became active in the temperance movement, and in 1873 he became president of the , and wrote and extensively on the societal effects of alcohol. Pitman was also the author of Alcohol and the State: A Discussion of the Problem of Law in 1877, a comprehensive 400 page tome. This book has recently had a new life by being reissued on a CDrom set. He was married in New Bedford on August 15, 1855 to Frances R., daughter of Rev. M. G. Thomas, and died at Newton on March 5, 1891.
- Davis, William Thomas, Bench and Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in New England, The Boston History Company, 1895.
- Nicolson, F. W., Orange Judd, eds. (1883). Alumni Record of Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn. Middletown, Connecticut: Press of Avery Rand.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- NCBartender: Alcohol Prohibition vs Bible Debate - Many Books on CDrom