Bridge’s namesake was ‘everybody’s friend’

0
21

“He was well thought of in Walton County. He was Walton County. He was everybody’s friend.”

DEBORAH WHEELER @WaltonSunDeb

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

As the second span of the new Clyde B. Wells Bridge on U.S. Highway 331 was dedicated last month, some might wonder just who was Clyde B. Wells?

“He was my father,” said Judge Kelvin Wells.

But he was more than that.

Clyde B. Wells was a native of Washington County, Florida, where he was born in 1931.

His family moved there in the 1800s. His grandfather worked for the railroad and taught him the work ethic that stayed with him the rest of his life.

Clyde B. Wells was also a veteran of the Korean War.

He graduated from Chipola Junior College, Florida State University and the University of Florida College of Law.

He established a private law practice in DeFuniak Springs and Chipley before becoming an assistant state attorney for the 1st Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. He was then elected to a circuit judge seat in 1972.

“He argued a case in front of the Supreme Court and there aren’t many who can say they have done that,” said Kelvin Wells. “And, he was never challenged as a circuit judge.”

Kelvin remembers his father having cows and crops. He was an avid hunter, a member of the First United Methodist Church and Lions Club in DeFuniak Springs where he and his wife resided for 27 years and raised their children. He was also head of the March of Dimes and a member of the Bull Club that met at the Bay Grove Restaurant.

“He loved the whole county, from top to bottom,” said Kelvin.

He served as circuit judge until his death in a light plane crash on Feb. 2, 1990, at the age of 57.

“He and a friend were on their way to a hunting trip,” said Kelvin.

The next year, the Florida Legislature named the 331 bridge the Clyde B. Wells Bridge.

“He was well thought of in Walton County,” said Kelvin. “He was Walton County. He was everybody’s friend.”

Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Kelvin to his dad’s old Circuit Judge seat in 2004.

“My dad taught me a strong work ethic to respect people from all walks of life,” Kelvin said. “I can’t tell you how many times he would go to the grocery store and see someone in need and he would help them. He wanted to give back. He knew he was blessed.”

Although Kelvin has followed in his father’s footsteps, that was not always the plan.

“When I graduated from law school I asked him, ‘Don’t you think there are too many lawyers already?,’ ” Kelvin remembered. “He answered, ‘There’s always room for another good one.’ “

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Kelvin said he never considered becoming a judge. The plan was for the two of them to open a private practice together when his father retired from the bench. But after his father’s death, many urged him to seek a judgeship.

Clyde B. Wells was also the man who gave now County Commissioner Sara Comander her first job in the county. She was his legal secretary.

“He was an exceptional man in a quiet way,” said Comander. “He was very intelligent and could turn on that country-boy charm that he called ‘setting the hook and reeling them in.’ Most people who go across that bridge and see the sign bearing his name, they wonder who he was. To me, he was my first boss, my mentor and my friend. I admired him very much.”

The University of Florida provides an Honorable Clyde B. Wells scholarship for Walton, Okaloosa, Holmes or Washington County high-school grads who demonstrate financial need and have average academic and economic backgrounds but are ineligible for a federal Pell Grant.

LEAVE A REPLY