City, county pioneer passes away
Monticello and Drew County have lost a pioneer. One of the first African-Americans to serve both entities, Edward Eugene Wells, passed away Sunday. He was 88.
Wells, who retired after nearly 38 years of service on the Drew County Public Facilities Board in August 2013, was born April 15, 1929, in Drew County and served his country as a member of the U.S. Army both domestically and during the Korean Conflict as a member of the Quartermaster Corps, Artillery, Signal Corps and from a cadre unit.
He was a charter member of the Facilities Board, having been appointed by then County Judge Vernon Roberts in December 1975, and was a longtime member of the Drew Memorial Hospital Board, vice-president of the Homeless Shelter in Warren under the leadership of Father Dan Dorsey and the late Everett Atteberry, helped with Little League Baseball and was an assistant coach for the University of Arkansas at Monticello baseball program.
Also, former President Bill Clinton appointed Wells to the Veterans Affairs Board during the Clinton Administration, where he served as president. In addition to his career in public service, Wells also played semi-pro baseball and scouted for the Kansas City Royals organization.
After his tour of military duty, Wells called Omaha, Neb., and Chicago home. In 1970, he moved his family back home to Monticello. After returning to the city, Wells and his brother, Andrew, went into the gravel and pulpwood contracting businesses together.
During his time in Monticello, he also worked for Willis and Bitty Jones, R.D. Jones and L.D. Long Trucking. At the time of his retirement from the Facilities Board, Wells was the owner of Wells Trucking.
The Drew County Public Facilities Board was established to help people who, for one reason or another, did not have the means to provide themselves and their family with a suitable place to live.
In addition to running the Section 8 program, the board had 19 units at the time of Wells’ retirement that were enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, administered the county’s Homeowner’s program, managed five apartments for the Monticello Housing Authority, and owned and administered 10 units for handicapped citizens.
“One of the biggest hurdles we faced,” Wells said in 2013, “was the fact that so many people in the community were unaware of what we did. Often our dealings with people were very sensitive.”
Wells said that while the program was funded through state monies, Drew County was always fortunate to have the support of both the County Judge and the Quorum Court.
“Fortunately, every county judge that I had the privilege to work with provided us with a great level of cooperation,” he added at the time.
In addition to his longtime tenure on the Facilities Board, Wells had a distinguishing career in service to Drew County and left a positive stamp on many of the people he served.
Survivors include his wife of more than 60 years, Ruby L. Wells; three children, Janice Wells, Keith Wells Sr. and Mary Wells; three grandchildren, Shabrae Polite, Anthony Wells and Keith Wells Jr.; and a great-granddaughter, Kaydence Burks. Another grandson, Corey Adkins, preceded him in death.
He was an active member of Pilgrim Rest African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he served in various capacities. Wells’ funeral service is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Pilgrim Rest, 522 North Bailey Street, and interment will follow at Oakland Cemetery. Visitation is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. Friday at Stephenson-Dearman Funeral Home.