ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - The existence of James Frank Wells, who passed away recently, was sized up in the acts of service he provided his fellow man.
On Thursday, mourners at Wells' funeral at Rock Hill's Boyd Hill Baptist Church offered powerful memories of an individual who had a wide, but gentle reach. Reverend Joe Wilson underscored how Wells bared burdensome sacrifice to make Rock Hill a better community.
"Based on a life of service, based on a life of service for all of God's children," Wilson said from the pulpit.
Solicitor Kevin Brackett helped put the wheels in motion to have the charges vacated back in 2015 connected to town's Friendship 9.
After spending 30 days on a chain-gang in 1961 with eight of his schoolmates from Friendship College, and pioneering the "jail, no bail" movement for attempting to sit at a whites-only lunch counter, Wells would find a way to complete law school and give back to his city.
"I knew Jim Wells the lawyer years before I ever knew he was involved with Friendship 9," Brackett told WBTV. "I knew Jim the Lawyer and years later, I met Jim the Civil Rights activist. So I got to see both sides of him independent of each other."
David Scoop Williamson was among the young men who did jail time and hard labor with Wells.
"He may not say much, but when he did talk everybody did listen to him," Williamson recalled, "because he did have something wide and understanding to say in 1958."
Notoriety did find the men later in life. That was due, in part, to Dr. Kimberly P. Johnson's book showcasing the Friendship 9.
"You could tell that he was very thorough and he thought about what happened. I loved listening to him and I loved being in the same space with him," Dr. Johnson said.
Wells passed away at his home in Rock Hill over the weekend. He was 77 years old.