Wiggins dies, legacy one of leadership

Published 12:48 am Monday, December 1, 2003

By By JOHN DILMORE JR. Publisher
Longtime community leader and businessman Judge Devon Wiggins passed away earlier this week at the age of 73, leaving behind a legacy of leadership and tireless advocacy on behalf of Brewton and Escambia County.
Since Wiggins' death in a Mobile hospital on Tuesday, he has been remembered throughout the communities he lived in and served for a broad range of qualities reflective of the life he led and the work he did.
Wiggins, who owned and operated the Brewton Western Auto for many years, was remembered as a successful businessman, a family man and a respected political leader.
Wiggins served as chairman of the Escambia County Commission and Judge of Probate for a number of years, and always had the best interests of the people he served in mind, according to those who knew him.
Patty Mitchell of Brewton was a longtime friend, getting to know Wiggins through church, as well as through the Brewton Lions Club, in which Wiggins was an active member known for often taking a leadership role in the organization's activities.
Of his life in the political arena, Mitchell said of Wiggins, a lifelong Democrat, "He was loved and respected by everyone -- even the Republicans."
Wiggins was elected to the Escambia County Commission in 1976.
Under Wiggins' leadership as chair of the county commission, Escambia County went from being over $400,000 in debt to being debt-free.
Other accomplishments the commission logged under Wiggins' leadership included establishment of the oil severance tax, setting up satellite offices in Atmore, and placing the veterans memorial in front of the courthouse.
Wiggins served as chair of the commission for 12 years before running for and being elected Judge of Probate. He held that position until 2000, when left because of a state law setting the maximum age of judges at 70.
He said at the time, "I won't say there are no politics in my future…I never say there is a zero chance of anything."
Wiggins is remembered for more than just service to the community. He was also known as a skilled vocalist who got his start singing as a child, when his mother, who loved music, taught him to sing. His ability to sing, and his love of singing, was something that stayed with him throughout his life.
Generosity and caring are other traits Wiggins' friends brought up when remembering him this week.
Judge Rachael Agerton worked with Wiggins for 12 years, as his chief clerk in the probate office. She said of Wiggins, "I got to know him as the kind-hearted and humble person that he really was. I have never known anyone who loved people more than he did. He genuinely cared, about his friends, his community and everyone around him. He always had a handshake and a smile for everyone he met."
Billy Carter of Brewton was Wiggins barber for some 30 years. He remembered Wiggins last week as "always down to earth."
Wiggins was a veteran of the Korean War, having served with the U.S. Army.
He was a member of the V.F.W., a past president of the Alabama Association of County Commissioners and a member of the President's Advisory Council at Jefferson Davis Community College.
He is survived by his wife, Nell Wiggins of Brewton; one son and daughter-in-law, Maxwell Devon and Virginia Wiggins of Boise, Idaho; three daughters and sons-in-law, Dawn Wiggins Hare and Nicholas Hare Jr. of Monroeville, Dr. Donna Wiggins Schlager and Dr. Dan Schlager of San Francisco and Daphne Wiggins Martin and Boyd Martin of Destin, Fla. and six grandchildren, Nicholas and Eli Hare, Noah, Sam and Emma Schlager and Finlay Fowler Martin.
Funeral services were held Saturday, Nov. 29, at 1 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Brewton with Rev. Gary Daniel and Dr. Ullysses McBride officiating.
Burial followed at Union Cemetery with Craver's Funeral Home directing. Pallbearers were Tony Sanks, Gregory Wiggins, Raymond Wiggins, Richard Wiggins, Tommy Fields, Kenneth Taylor, Rayford Lowery and Billy Earl Cook. Honorary pallbearers were members of the Brewton Lions Club, Howard Shell, Ted Jennings, E.C. Spinks, Buddy Herrington, Lee Otts, Broox Garrett, Grover Smith, Dr. William Whittle, Fred Mitchell and Billy Carter.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Judge Devon Wiggins Memorial Scholarship at Jefferson Davis Community College Foundation, P.O. Box 958, Brewton, AL, 36427.

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