Anti-drug crusader Rev. Henry Wells dies in Philadelphia

NORTH PHILADELPHIA - September 11, 2013

On the streets of Philadelphia he was known as the Grandfather of Recovery, The Rev, the go-to man to clean up drug-ridden blocks.

"The Rev of the Streets, the Rev of the Crack Houses, the Rev of the Prisons," his son told Action News. "Wherever there a suffering person was, that was where Rev was, and that's where he wanted to be."

83-year-old Reverend Henry T. Wells trained at a seminary, but he was a Christian man who once used and abused drugs.

He said the love of his life forced him to get clean. That's his wife of 35 years, Margaret.

"Whatever he wanted to do, when it came to helping a person I always okay'd it because I felt like it would help him from using drugs and help other people," she said.

The North Philadelphia man used his organization, One Day at a Time or ODATT, to save a countless number of lives during Philadelphia's drug epidemic in the 80s and 90s.

The casket marches to scare drug addicts and the grassroots efforts to prevent violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS made national headlines.

"Rev became my father," said former drug addict Darrell Chapman. "He taught me . . . he taught me the value of life."

Melchezedek Wells was the little boy in that casket. He took over ODATT when his father became ill 13 years ago.

"My hope is that we continue to help our community to help the homeless and the poor - the suffering people – [and] for ODATT to never change from helping who we're supposed to be helping," he said.

Wells' legacy consists of shelters like the one at 25th and Lehigh, Thanksgiving dinners, toy drives, and ODATT programs around the world.

Reverend Wells died at his West York Street home Wednesday morning surrounded by family members who say he spent a lifetime preparing for this day.

"I don't believe he did it himself, I believe God did it through him," said Margaret Wells.

Wells' family will continue to honor him next Wednesday.

That's when a horse-drawn funeral carriage will carry his casket from his One Day at a Time shelter to Deliverance Church at 20th and Lehigh for an 11:00 a.m. service.

Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.