Obituaries » Clyde Stokes Wells
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May 18, 1934 - December 27, 2021
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Clyde Stokes Wells, 87, of Martinez, Georgia, passed away December 27, 2021, at his home. Clyde was born on May 18, 1934, in Polk County, Florida, to the late Claude H. and Minnie S. Wells. Raised in Miller County, Georgia and Tampa, Florida, he graduated from Plant High School in Tampa in 1952 and afterwards, moved to Augusta with his parents. He is survived by his wife, Cornelia McGahee Wells; daughters, Anita Wells of Cumming, GA, Kay (Michael) Koerner of Cumming, GA and Debbie (Jay) Drew of Dawsonville, GA; grandchildren, Emily (Ralph) Corser, Joshua Drew and Claudia Koerner; great-grandchild, Rylee Debra Corser. Clyde is also survived by his brother, Hinton (Ginger) Wells of N. Augusta, SC.
Born with spina bifida, a spinal defect, Clyde’s parents were told he would not live. When he lived they said he would never walk. They were wrong. He was a talented athlete. He was allowed to play high school baseball by ‘stalling’ his coach for two years on presenting a doctor’s certificate. (This was the era before trial lawyers and the commerce clause entered our daily lives.) In his senior year, he was elected captain and a major league scout for the Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn) Dodgers told his coach after a game that Clyde was one of the best high school catchers he had ever seen but that he could never play professional baseball. He was slowed in later years following two successful spinal operations in Boston, where spina bifida treatment and care are a specialty, and open-heart surgery in Augusta. Though rarely expressing it openly to anyone, he was thankful for each and every day he had been given on this earth. Clyde was a member of the Lutheran Church.
He attended the University of Florida for two years, and later, after acquiring a wife, three young children and a mortgage in Columbia, SC, attended night classes at the University of South Carolina for several years, falling a few hours short of attaining his degree.
Clyde moved to Atlanta in 1967 and tried his hand at real estate and selling cars for several years, not really successful at either. In between he also worked at a McDonalds with the idea of acquiring a franchise in the nascent fast food business. One day during his car sales phase, it occurred to him, (more like a startling revelation!), that he had been given a gift and not using it in some fashion was a sin. From the first grade it was known that he could sketch and draw cartoons but he had never had much interest in pursuing it even as a hobby. He kept his day job and in his free time starting drawing gag and editorial cartoons and sports drawings and presenting and mailing them to magazines and newspapers. (The late, renowned Atlanta Journal sports editor Furman Bisher liked his work but his recommendation to management was vetoed). About this time The Augusta Chronicle-Herald editorial page editor Louis Harris became aware of his work and talked publisher W.S. Morris lll into hiring him on a temporary 90-day basis to aid in passing an impending city-county consolidation bill referendum. He was hired on March 31, 1971. Clyde retired from the Chronicle on January 3, 1998.
During his nearly 27 years with the Chronicle he was recognized for several international, national and local awards but the one that meant the most to him was the first awarding of the first Louis Harris Journalist of the Year Award in 1979.
During this time he spoke before and made hundreds of presentations to colleges, schools, church and civic groups. In addition, he rarely if ever refused the many requests from charitable and civic groups to draw cartoons and drawings to be used in promotions or fund-raising. Upon the occasion of the memorial service held later in Houston for the astronauts who perished in the Challenger shuttle disaster on January 28, 1986, NASA asked for and received permission from Clyde to use his cartoon of the tragedy depicting Challenger flying into the hands of God for the cover of the service program. A singular honor in that every editorial cartoonist in the country and many throughout the world based a cartoon on the tragedy.
His work was nationally syndicated to over 400 newspapers and publications worldwide, often appearing in publications such as Time, Newsweek and Playboy magazines and the New York Times and Washington Post. This exposure brought inquiries about employment from newspapers from Miami (Herald), San Diego (Union-Tribune), Los Angeles (The Daily News), Washington (Times) and Providence, RI (Journal-Bulletin) but he chose to remain in Augusta. Originals of his work have hung in presidential libraries and collegiate and institutional museums and in private collections of former public officials.
During his career, the Chronicle published three books of Clyde’s cartoons and works of art, selling over 11,500 books. A remarkable achievement in Augusta’s relatively small market and a tribute to the fact the he always emphasized local and state cartoons to the more prestigious and remunerative national cartoons. President Jimmy Carter wrote the foreword in his first book, The Net Effect, 1979, in spite of the fact that Clyde routinely skewered him in his cartoons throughout his term of Governor of Georgia and as President. A tribute to the fact that a Wells cartoon was rarely mean-spirited but rather a jab at a public figure whose decisions or actions he disagreed with. (It was also a tribute to the sincerity of Carter’s widely-known Christian beliefs of charity and forgiveness.)
Clyde was a past member of the board of the Augusta Optimist Club and a former member of West Lake Country Club. He served for many years on the boards of the Georgia Easter Seals Society and the United Cerebral Palsy of Augusta. After retirement, (between rounds of golf) he was selected to serve on the Columbia County Republican Executive Committee. He resigned in short order from this post when he realized his talents were in the observation and commentary of politics rather than participation.
A graveside service will be held at Hillcrest Memorial Park on Wednesday, December 29, 2021 at 2:00PM with the Judge Daniel J. Craig officiating. There will be no formal visitation or reception. Arrangements are being handled by Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors in Augusta. The family would like to thank Jeremy Carnes and his entire family for their compassionate care and support over these past six months.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the favorite charity of your choice. Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Rd., Augusta, GA 30907 (706) 364-8484. Please sign the guestbook at www.thomaspoteet.com