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From the Archives: He's refusing nearly $20,000? And he's homeless? Yes and yes

From the Archives: He's refusing nearly $20,000? And he's homeless? Yes and yes
Nov. 19, 1970: Clint Wescott, 54, a homeless man, has again refused nearly $20,000 due to him. (John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

Clint Wescott, who more than once refused nearly $20,000 that was due to him, was not interested in the messages except those that occasionally contained a dollar bill or two — enough to buy him some wine.

In the Jan. 28, 1968, edition of the Los Angeles Times, columnist Charles Hillinger wrote a profile about the homeless man living near Bunker Hill:

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Clint Wescott has lived in the heart of Los Angeles at the same place the last 10 years and not once received any mail.

"Ain't got no address, that's why,' the bearded, flop-hatted, 51-year-old explains.

No address, but his "estate" two blocks from the county courthouse in the hub of the nation's third-largest city is known coast to coast.

Wescott's home has no walls, no floors, no ceiling, no roof.

"It's just the way I like it. I couldn't stand starin' at four walls every day. I require fresh air, space. Can't stand to be hemmed in. That's why I live here," he says.

Every day thousands pass Wescott's place — but few have ever seen it.

"We're out of sight here. I don't bother nobody. Nobody bothers me or the boys who drop in to stay a while," says Wescott.

His home since 1957 has been a broken-down chair with an outcropping of stuffing, a discarded office chair, an old mattress, a camp fire and a dozen large rocks for guests to sit on.

The "Old Man" as Wescott is affectionately called by his friends, lives at the base of a Bunker Hill cliff on the east side of Flower Street, north of the 4th Street bridge.

He's like scores of skid row habitues who sleep on slopes of undeveloped weed-covered hills in downtown Los Angeles, under bridges, in bushes.

Except he has established something of a record of occupancy — 10 years in the same spot. ...

Feb. 11, 1968: Homeless man Clint Wescott, right, refuses a letter from Los Angeles Times reporter Charles Hillinger telling him about his $19,219.68. Wescott had 44 cents in his pocket at the time. This photo was published in the Feb. 12, 1968, edition of The Times.
Feb. 11, 1968: Homeless man Clint Wescott, right, refuses a letter from Los Angeles Times reporter Charles Hillinger telling him about his $19,219.68. Wescott had 44 cents in his pocket at the time. This photo was published in the Feb. 12, 1968, edition of The Times. (Richard L. Oliver / Los Angeles Times)

Hillinger's column, reprinted in a Schenectady, N.Y., newspaper, caught the attention of Burnt Hills, N.Y., attorney John P. Brown. With Hillinger's help, Brown contacted and informed Wescott: Guess what, there's nearly $20,000 in two New York bank accounts that belongs to you.

"I don't need the money," Wescott was said to have replied. "I'm getting along fine."

Two years later, in 1970, unrelated business brought Brown to Los Angeles. Brown contacted Wescott; again, no thanks, the homeless man said. The money stayed in those New York bank accounts.

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In 1953, Wescott had abandoned a gas station he owned and hit the road. The station was purchased in 1961, and proceeds from the sale were placed in two bank accounts in his name.

Hillinger wrote in a Feb. 13, 1968, follow-up piece:

The world of Clint Wescott has been shattered and will never be the same.

Wescott, a 51-year-old man who has avoided people for 15 years, now finds them chasing him — and the $19,219.68 he suddenly found waiting for him in Burnt Hills, N.Y. …

Wescott found himself surrounded by friends and strangers more than happy to help him spend his loot. But the publicity led to one change — when Times staff photographer John Malmin found Wescott in 1970, he was receiving tons of mail.

According to an Only in L.A. column written in 2000 by Steve Harvey, Wescott died in 1992 with the money still sitting in those banks.

This post was originally published on Sept. 20, 2010. On Dec. 26, 2014, this post was updated with four additional photos.

Feb. 11, 1968: Homeless man Clint Wescott lights a cigarette after refusing nearly $20,000. This photo appeared in the Feb. 12, 1968, edition of The Times.
Feb. 11, 1968: Homeless man Clint Wescott lights a cigarette after refusing nearly $20,000. This photo appeared in the Feb. 12, 1968, edition of The Times. (Richard L. Oliver / Los Angeles Times)
1968: After rejecting nearly $20,000, because he said it would present him with too many problems, Clint Wescott cheers upon receiving $2 in a fan letter.
1968: After rejecting nearly $20,000, because he said it would present him with too many problems, Clint Wescott cheers upon receiving $2 in a fan letter. (Richard L. Oliver / Los Angeles Timed)
Nov. 10, 1970: Attorney John P. Brown, left, visits Clint Wescott to again offer him nearly $20,000 due to him. This photo was published in the Nov. 11, 1970, edition of The Times.
Nov. 10, 1970: Attorney John P. Brown, left, visits Clint Wescott to again offer him nearly $20,000 due to him. This photo was published in the Nov. 11, 1970, edition of The Times. (Cal Montney / Los Angeles Times)
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