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2015-02-12

Community honors Billy Clyde Wright

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

It was standing room only Wednesday, Feb. 4, as the community gathered to give a final farewell to Billy Clyde Wright. Friends and family came together at the Longhorn Saloon for a sometimes tearful, often joyful time of remembrance of Bandera's iconic "newspaper boy."
As one speaker said, "It's been said that if you have one friend when you die, you are rich. If that's true, looking out at this crowd today, Billy Clyde was wealthy indeed!"
William "Billy" Clyde Wright died on Jan. 31, 2015. He grew up and spent his entire life in Bandera, a town whose history and people he loved.
Despite a life filled with difficulties and challenges, Billy Clyde was incapable of carrying a grudge. Although he never had much, he was always more than willing to share whatever he had.
If I were to make a list of things that I believed Billy Clyde valued, I would start with family, add loyalty, then Bandera history, and finally a gentlemanly sense of good manners.
Descended from some of Bandera County's earliest settlers and leaders, Billy Clyde was related to a lot of local residents. But you didn't have to be blood kin to be considered family. He just adopted everyone and assumed everyone in his "family" knew everyone else. So, when he ran into you, he'd soon update you on what Aunt So-&-So was doing, and where cousin Whichever was working.
His love of family, both blood and extended, exemplified his sense of loyalty. In addition to his loyalty to his family, he felt a deep loyalty to his work. He had spent time working for the city of Bandera years ago, but in the early 1990s Bandera Bulletin editor Nick Johnson talked him into peddling the newspaper around town. For 24 years, he walked from one end of town to the other, making sure his customers got their copy. In all those years, he rarely missed a day, and then only when he was hospitalized. During those brief absences, he always made arrangements for someone to get those papers delivered.
No one knows how many pairs of shoes Billy Clyde wore out, or how many wheels and carts had to be replaced over the years, but there were many. Courier owner/publisher Gail Joiner once drove Billy's route and discovered he walked 13 miles!
The people that Billy Clyde worked with became a part of his family and we were expected to remember his birthday, Sept. 1. If we threw a little party, he preferred "a nice fresh salad" to a cake any day. He was probably Bandera's biggest fan of brussels sprouts, enjoyed a good pot of pinto beans, and would munch down on a sweet onion the way the rest of us eat an apple!
Billy Clyde had a fine sense of good manners. He always treated women with total respect. In fact, as related at Wednesday's celebration, Billy Clyde exhibited a very rare flash of physical violence when he observed a bar customer using foul language in front of a lady. He told the man his language was inappropriate, which earned him a slap in the face. Without hesitation, Billy Clyde hauled off and punched the man square in the nose!
His good manners, generosity and love of fresh veggies became a part of how he treated his female customers. He'd roll up with his cart and say, "I've got something for you in a bag in the bottom of my cart." His whole demeanor was like he was offering to sell a baggie of drugs. "Go check it out," he'd say, quietly. And the customer would find a brown paper bag of fresh tomatoes from which she could choose a couple. If the vegetable stand wasn't open, a customer might get a piece of candy to enjoy while reading the news.
Cathy Clamon, who is blind, said Billy Clyde always came down to the Riverfront Motel to sell her a paper. "Even after I lost my sight, he still came. And he'd take the time to read the headlines so I would know what the news was."
Local entertainer Gary Wright said the two of them always tried to be the first to say, "Hello, Mr. Wright," so that the other could reply, "Hello, Mr. Wright."
Billy Clyde had, as they say, a little trouble with the drink, so he often needed a ride home. When asked how many people had ever given him a ride, about half the crowd raised their hands. He often made it home on his own two feet late at night, or he fell asleep behind a convenient building. But as there was no harm in him, most of the town cut him a break.
"I remember a time when he got a PI charge," said Gary Wright. "and everybody in town was angry at the cops. Why didn't they just give him a ride home?"
Many noted Billy Clyde's knowledge of local history. He seemed to know everyone and their connections to everyone else and every thing that ever happened. He certainly knew everything there was to know about the tragic Flood of 1978.
In 2009, a motorcycle rider ran over Billy Clyde as he was making his way home. He suffered multiple serious injuries including a punctured lung, broken arm and ribs, a shattered elbow and hip, and facial and eye injuries. It resulted in what was probably his longest absence as the town's newspaper vendor, but as soon as he was able, he took up his route once again.
In addition to the Bandera Bulletin, Billy Clyde peddled the Bandera County Review and began delivering the Courier in January 2012.
Joining his friends at the celebration were Billy Clyde's immediate family, brother Pat, and sisters Lee and Debbie. A clutch of balloons sailed skyward and everyone joined in a Lone Star salute to say a fond farewell to a true gentleman.
This time the headline is about you, Billy Clyde.