Judge Royce Rutledge Lewellen, whose Santa Barbara County career spanned from the courtroom to the vineyard, died on September 2. He was 89 years old.
Among other accolades, Lewellen founded Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards with his longtime friend and regional pioneer Louis Lucas in 1996, and is also the man for whom the Santa Maria courthouse is named.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Jefferson City, Lewellen graduated from the University of Missouri and U.C. Berkeley School of Law. Amid a storied legal career, Lewellen served as a dedicated philanthropist, giving his time and money to such organizations as Solvang Business Association, Solvang Chamber of Commerce, Solvang Rotary, Solvang School Board, Santa Ynez Presbyterian Church, Santa Maria Rotary, Santa Maria Valley YMCA, Allan Hancock College, Family Services of Santa Barbara County, and Community Bank of Santa Maria. Through the Solvang Business Association, he and others developed the Solvang Festival Theater in 1974.
He loved pack trips into the Sierra Nevada with his sons and grandsons, taking his last adventure in July 2019. His winemaking friend Louis Lucas remembers nothing but good times with Lewellen.
“We had 24 years of working together with never a major issue between us,” said Lucas. “We put excitement into the wine and grape business. We had all these ideas.”
The county’s arts community is also effusive about the judge’s contributions. “I have no doubt that, without Royce Lewellen as the catalyst, there would not be a PCPA Foundation working to ensure the future of PCPA,” said Judy Frost, the former managing direction of the Pacific Conservatory Theatre, which is the primary theatrical organization in northern Santa Barbara County.
His wife, Ann Foxworthy Lewellen, called Lewellen the “Energizer Bunny” as a leader for so many causes. “His true gift within that leadership was to be able to work alongside others who shared his passion and vision to spearhead efforts to improve the community,” she said. “His enthusiasm and his energy were truly remarkable.”