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Who is Addison Hewlett?

Ben Steelman

Addison “Add” Hewlett was the name of two individuals, father and son, who were part of one of New Hanover County’s more potent political dynasties.

Addison Hewlett (1876-1954) was a New Hanover County Commissioner from 1918 until 1952 and chairman of the county board from 1920 until 1952. He was born in the Masonboro Township, the son of Elijah and Almira Hewlett. His father, a Republican, served as New Hanover County sheriff for 25 years.

Addison Hewlett won his first public office at the age of 21, when he was elected to the county school committee, a forerunner of the Board of Education. As a county commissioner, he cast his lot with the Democrats. Highlights of Hewlett’s tenure on the county board included the development of Bluethenthal Airfield (forerunner of Wilmington International Airport), the construction of Community Hospital (one of the few medical facilities for blacks in North Carolina under segregation) and the building of the first Cape Fear River bridges.

A farmer, Addison Hewlett was one of the region’s first lettuce growers, at a time when truck farming was an important part of the Southeastern North Carolina economy. In 1901, he married Ethel Herring, who died in 1936; then, in 1938, he married Carrie Newcomb, who survived him.

His son, Addison Hewlett Jr., was born May 4, 1912. He attended Masonboro Elementary School and New Hanover High School before attending Wake Forest College. In 1934, he graduated from Wake Forest Law School, the same year he was admitted to the bar and entered legal practice in Wilmington.

On June 19, 1939, he married Alice Crockett Williams (1910-1990).

The younger Hewlett joined the U.S. Army as a private in 1942 and served in the Army Air Force, ending World War II as a captain. An intelligence officer with the Fifth Air Force, he flew on 22 bomber missions in the Pacific Theater and received the Air Medal.

Returning to Wilmington after the war, he returned to the law and in 1948 was elected president of the New Hanover County Bar Association. The association later created its Addison Hewlett Jr. Award, honoring outstanding pro bono legal service to indigents, in his memory.

A Democrat like his father, Hewlett represented New Hanover County in the state House of Representatives, 1951-1961. In 1959, he was elected speaker of the state House.

In early 1960, Hewlett was considered a major potential contender for governor. He chose, however, to run for the U.S. Senate instead, losing in the Democratic primary to incumbent B. Everett Jordan.

A supporter of education, Hewlett served on the N.C. State Board of Education and in 1968 became first chairman of the Marine Science Council. A trustee of Wilmington College, he was instrumental in the political maneuvers to have it transformed into the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He served as a UNCW trustee from 1973 to 1985 and was chairman of the trustees, 1975-1979. In 1971, he received UNCW’s first honorary doctor of laws degree. Hewlett Dormitory on the UNCW campus is named for him.

Hewlett also served as chairman of board of trustees of Wake Forest College and Campbell College. He was town attorney for Carolina Beach, 1951-1976.

Hewlett died Feb. 5, 1989. His wife, Crockette W. Hewlett, was active in civic clubs and wrote a number of books on local history, including “Between the Creeks” (1970; reissued and expanded 1985), a chronicle of the Masonboro Sound region, “Two Centuries of Art in New Hanover County,” “U.S. Judges of North Carolina” and “Lawyers of New Hanover County.”

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