History of helping people leads Clay Bilyeu to magistrate race
By Jim Turner

Posted on May 5, 2014 11:26 PM

Third in a series of features on candidates who have advertised on The Logan Journal

Wherever and whenever a worthy cause is being promoted in Logan County, chances are that Clay Bilyeu will be there, playing music, singing, making the evening more fun and helping raise funds for organizations which are dedicated to the public good.

Now the Russellville businessman wants to add to his public service by serving as Sixth District magistrate on Logan Fiscal Court, subject to the May 20 primary election. “This is just a branch of finding ways to help the community,” he says.

Rarely does one listen to the Community Calendar on WRUS without hearing of some event which includes music by Clay Bilyeu. It seems that he’s never there for his own good but for the benefit  of another organization needing help.

Among the causes he has helped are Relay for Life, Multiple Sclerosis, fire departments, Search & Rescue, the Josh Moore Memorial Ride, schools’ family nights, the Schochoh Christmas Parade, the Adairville Strawberry Festival, the Lewisburg Purple Martin Festival and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

He organizes events himself, such as the Thunder on the Square car and bike show during the Logan County Tobacco & Heritage Festival. The fourth one last year raised over $12,000 for juvenile diabetes.

He is especially known for putting together the monthly Summer Nights Cruise-Ins, which have been going on for four years. They are usually held on Carrico Park Square, but are currently being held at the TSC parking lot, since sidewalk improvements have been expected downtown for a while. At the April Summer Nights session starting the 2014 season, almost 100 vehicles and hundreds of people gathered, giving Logan Countians “something to do” and bringing in many out-of-county guests to help the local economy.

Always by his side in planning and carrying out the activities is Clay’s wife Debbie, who enjoys being a part of special activities for special groups almost as much as does. “Debbie has been with me in everything I’ve done in the eight years we’ve been together. She’s never missed a single gig or ride,” he says with pride. Debbie Bilyeu works at the office of County Clerk Scottie Harper.

Clay Bilyeu has been involved in making music since he started playing drums at Lewisburg School in the fifth grade. He stayed in band throughout high school under the direction of Wayne Gist and Freddie Borders. 

Meanwhile in his high school days he took classes at Russellville Area Vocational School where he was taught auto mechanics by Jim Netherland and Kenneth Bond. 
For a while he worked for Daniel Construction Company in building what was to become Logan Aluminum, but car repair beckoned to him. He worked for Harold Robertson at Robertson Used Cars doing repairs and body work. He also worked for Bud and Jeff Lawson at Western Kentucky Auto Brokers before buying the former Wood’s Body Shop on West Second Street s across from the railroad depot. Clay’s Auto Body has been in operation there ever since. His son, Thomas Bilyeu, works with him.

His primary work is doing collision repairs for vehicles that have been in accidents, but his fame comes from the paint jobs he has done on a variety of vehicles, especially bicycles. He has won two major prizes at one of the nation’s biggest events, the Easy Riders Show in Lousville. A customer once really liked what Bilyeu had done in customizing his ‘bike’ but said one thing was missing. “I want you to put ‘Paint by Clay’ on the back. People really like to know you did the painting,” the man said matter-of-factly.

Making life better for others seems to please Bilyeu as much as creating the perfect paint job or singing for four hours or so. He says this comes from three primary forces: 1) the influence of his late grandfather, Arthur O’Brien, during his youth; 2) his Christian commitment; and 3) the untimely death of his brother Timmy because of cancer three years ago. 

“My grandfather always wanted to help people, and he helped me shape my life as a young man,” Bilyeu says. “Then when I saw how many people tried to help Timmy and his family during that time, I realized we need to do everything we can to help those in need.” 

He says he considered running for magistrate four years ago but didn’t feel the timing was right. In 2014 he believes the time has come.


Paid for by Clay Bilyeu

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