Fallen Heroes: Officer R. Q. Wells

Nelson Zoch

JUNE 30, 1927

Early in the morning hours of Saturday, July 30, 1927, Short Call Officers R.Q. Wells and M. A. Gresham were summoned to a call at the home of a W. A. Stallings, who had been found dead at his home from a gunshot wound.

With Officer Wells driving, the officers approached the intersection of LaBranch and Elgin. There, they were met by an ice truck driven by R. W. Alexander of 4505 Brady.  According to Gresham, Wells was running hot with red lights and siren operating. Wells tried to pass in front of the truck, but then swerved to pass behind it. The right front wheel of the police car struck the right rear wheel of the ice truck, causing the police car to overturn.

An ambulance rushed Officer Wells to Jeff Davis Hospital, where X-rays revealed broken ribs and internal injuries after he was crushed behind the steering wheel of the police car.  He died in the hospital at 8:30 a.m. He was fifty years old. Justice of the Peace Campbell Overstreet ruled Wells’ death due to an unavoidable accident. Officer Gresham received minor injuries and was able to remain on duty after the accident.

Officer R. Q. Wells was born in Kentucky on October 29, 1876 to John David and Emily Caroline Powell Wells. He had been a member of the Houston Police Department since May 24, 1920, having joined the department at the age of forty-three with a wife and two sons. Prior to joining the department, he was employed as a convict guard and as an electrician for a streetcar company.

One of his first assignments as an officer was to direct traffic before and after school at the McKinney Elementary School. He was well liked by the children he worked hard to protect.  In the years prior to his death, Wells worked at a downtown teenager dance hall establishment. It is unknown if this was on- or off-duty. During this work a group of young boys jumped on him, forcing him to hit one of the teenagers with his pistol, causing a minor scalp wound.

Officer Wells, who lived at 1602 Crockett, was survived by his wife, Bessie Wells, and two sons, Alvin Curtis Wells and David Leroy Wells. Also mourning his death was his twin brother, John Walter Wells of Houston, and one sister, Mrs. Frank (Fannie Lee) Osburn of Huntsville.

Funeral services were held on Monday, August 1, 1927, under the direction of the Fogle West Undertaking Company. The Missouri Pacific Railroad took the body to New Waverly, where a second service was held at 1 p.m., with burial in the East Sandy Cemetery. This cemetery was located on Farm Road 1374, approximately five miles west of what is now Interstate 45 in Walker County, Texas. Officer Wells’ grave marker reads:

 

QUINN WELLS

OCT 29, 1877

JULY 30, 1927

 

THOU ARE GONE,

BUT NOT FORGOTTEN.

 

Officer Wells’ wife, Bessie Carolyn Morgan Wells, was buried next to him. She was born on November 5, 1885 and passed away on May 5, 1960. Officer Wells’ parents are also interred in this cemetery. They were John D. Wells (1843-1902) and Emily C. Wells (1843-1908).

The East Sandy Cemetery Association gave approval to place a 100 Club LINE OF DUTY grave marker to honor this man. Originally, the only information available on Officer Wells was the initials RQ. Research found him to be Rodney Quinn Wells. Information surfaced that he registered for the military draft in 1918 at the age of forty-one and was at the time employed as a ship carpenter for a Houston ship-building company. It is probable that industry layoffs led him to become a Houston police officer at an older age than usual.

In April 2006, the 100 Club marker was placed at the East Sandy Cemetery gravesite of Officer Rodney Quinn Wells.