Longtime Indianapolis businessman Payton R. Wells died on May 9th.
Wells owned several car dealerships across town. He began his car dealership career in the 1960s as the only black salesman in town – one of the few in the United States.
When a Ford dealership became available in Indianapolis in the late 1970s, Wells took the opportunity to own his first dealership. The auto market shifted and he stepped down from Ford to take responsibility for more dealerships across Indiana.
He owned the Payton Wells Automotive Group, which started out as a retailer and grew to 12 franchises in 20 years. Wells owned Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Lincoln, Jeep, Kia, and Nissan dealerships in Indianapolis, Anderson, and Louisville, Kentucky.
As a black man, he knew what blacks had to go through to buy a car and made it easier for blacks to get approved for car loans after banks discriminated against them.
Wells was a huge influence on many across the Indianapolis area, including Fred Medley. Medley’s father died during his senior year of high school, and Wells became a father figure.
“He was there during the birth of my first son,” said Medley. “He stood as my father at my wedding and attended every vacation that followed.”
Kevin Kimbrough, who was mentored by Wells, followed in his footsteps and learned the ins and outs of the dealership industry. He became the manager of many Wells dealers.
“He grew up at a time when he wasn’t always given opportunities,” said Kimbrough.
In addition to being a car dealer, Wells cared about the community and believed in taking action to help others. If you needed food, shelter or clothing, he would provide it for you. Wells didn’t think anyone should be homeless in America, Medley said.
Wells friends want him to be remembered for his tenacious spirit, perseverance, and willingness to go above and beyond for you.
“Payton has been kind and has never seen a stranger,” said Kimbrough. “He had that twinkle in his eye when he talked to you.”
Wells attended Crispus Attucks High School and later took courses at Butler University and Purdue University. Before Wells owned car dealerships, he owned Payton’s Place, a downtown restaurant.
Wells is survived by his lifelong companion, Joan Johnson, brother Joe Wells, and other family members and friends.
Contact intern Terrence Lambert at 317-924-5243. Follow him on Twitter @TerrenceL.
Services for Payton R. Wells
The visit to Payton Wells will take place on May 21 between 4pm and 8pm at Stuart Mortuary Chapel, 2201 N. Illinois St.. The funeral will take place on May 22nd at 11am at the Eastside Baptist Church.
2845 Baltimore Ave.