Sewell named Natchez Democrat Citizen of the Year

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

Logan Sewell will talk about his role in recruiting major industry to Vidalia. He’ll mention his decade of work with Concordia Bank. And he’ll allude to 12 years of service at Trinity Episcopal Church.

But he doesn’t really want to talk about those things.

He wants to talk about guns and knives, ducks and does, Jim Bowie and the sandbar.

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Sewell’s hobbies and collections have become his life now. They are obviously his passion, and they’ll likely become his biggest legacy.

But it’s the things Sewell doesn’t like to talk about that make him The Natchez Democrat’s 2008 Citizen of the Year.

His contributions to Vidalia, Natchez, his friends and his family make his collections look small.

When Sidney Murray Jr. was mayor of Vidalia, Sewell volunteered to help with economic development. Sewell became an assistant to Murray, he said, and later became the permanent chair of the economic development committee.

“That’s when business really perked up,” Sewell said. “We started seeking imported businesses, but we didn’t have any land to put them on.”

So Sewell led a push for the creation of the town’s first industrial park. Soon after, in 1983, Alcoa — now BASF — was built.

In the 1990s Fruit of the Loom joined the mix, and both industries can be attributed to Sewell’s work, current Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

“He was instrumental in a lot of our major projects,” Copeland said. “(Sewell and Murray) were the ones who worked the hardest in creating the industrial park.”

Sewell received the 2001 Vidalian of the Year Award from the Vidalia Chamber of Commerce for his work recruiting industry.

Sewell, who came to Vidalia to work in oil for Callon Petroleum in 1958, joined the Concordia Bank board in 1959. He became board chairman in 1984 and led the board for 12 years, until 1996.

During that time, the Historic Natchez Foundation asked Sewell to lead the way on a new endeavor they had in mind. Sewell became the first chairman of the foundation’s licensing program, working with furniture companies to reproduce the furniture found in antebellum houses in Natchez to sell.

The furniture line — still active today — makes thousands of dollars for the Historic Natchez Foundation and the local garden clubs. Furniture with the foundation’s name is sold around the world.

Foundation Director Ron Miller said only someone like Sewell would have been able to make things happen with the furniture line.

“As a banker, he made sure we could borrow the $100,000 we had to have to start up,” Miller said. “And it’s since brought in millions of dollars.

“He established a personal relationship with the furniture company’s upper management. He really knew how to pay attention to those executives.”

In fact, Sewell treated them like only an outdoors-loving Louisiana boy would — he shipped one executive a Catahoula hound dog, Miller said.

Sewell received the 2007 Historic Natchez Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for his work with the furniture line.

But Sewell, who was surely surprised by today’s Citizen of the Year title, is most proud of his latest project.

In 2004 Sewell and his friend Mike Worley started the Jim Bowie Knife Show in Natchez. The show runs in conjunction with the Bowie Festival, and brings approximately 70 knife collectors to town.

Sewell’s interest in knives and Jim Bowie spawns from the events of Sept. 19, 1827.

“Vidalia is interesting to me because of the sandbar duel,” Sewell said. “My great, great uncle was in it. The newspapers picked it up. The story got publicity.”

Sewell’s uncle, Samuel Levy Wells, brought his friend Jim Bowie to the duel with a rival. Bowie’s name was the one that garnered national attention. And today, Sewell collects all types of Bowie memorabilia.

It’s Sewell’s interest in the history of Vidalia that makes him stand apart in the minds of friends, former Concordia Sentinel owner Percy Rountree said.

But most of all, it is Sewell’s personality, demeanor and caring heart that make him worthy of the title Citizen of the Year.

“Logan and his family have been most interested in hunting, and he’s always anxious to help other people who were interested in hunting and those kind of things,” Rountree said. “He is a good friend and if he told you he would help you along certain lines, you could count on it.”

In everything he’s done — be in it in the woods or in the boardroom — Sewell has led by example, his friends said.

For Concordia Bank president Pat Biglane, it was Sewell who taught him banking ethics and community relations.

“One thing about Mr. Sewell I’ve got to say, he’s a man of integrity and a man of his word. He’s a great asset to those who know him.”

The man who brought industry to Vidalia, the chairman of the bank board and the avid collector is so down to earth he puts everyone at ease, Miller said.

When Sewell was enticing furniture executives, he and his wife Renza — neither of who like to fly — loaded up the RV, drove for hours and camped out in the parking lot of a major furniture executive’s office, Miller said.

Simply put, Sewell is just fun to be around.

“It’s always fun and funny when you are working with Logan,” Miller said.