Kelly Reynolds for many years brought Henry Bradley Plant to life on the stage and he managed to convey the excitement of Plant's life in the book Henry Plant: Pioneer Empire Builder.
Although he was raised on the east coast and attended Eaglebrook School at Deerfield, Massachusetts, Kelly Reynolds moved to Hudson in 1949 when his parents bought the Nathan P. Seymour House on Prospect Street, the house that has been owned by Western Reserve Academy since 1994. His father, Clarence Reynolds, was a DuPont executive, while his mother, Juanita Walker Reynolds, was a native of Mississippi, related to President James Knox Polk, and had an interest in the arts which she seems to have passed along to her son, Kelly. There were also two daughters in the family, one of whom attended Laurel School.
While at Western Reserve Academy, Kelly was described as “one of Reserve’s colorful characters” and regularly appeared in various Christmas plays and dramas, such as they were in the 1950’s. He played young Abe Lincoln in “A Story Told in Indiana” in 1954, a play directed by Mrs. Hallowell (wife of the Headmaster) and featuring Andrew C. Ford ‘55 as Johnny Appleseed. The summer before his senior year Kelly went on a hitch-hiking tour of the west, had an appendectomy in El Paso, and had to be sent home on a train. He ignored the school regulations and took a car full of fellow students to a game at University School in Shaker Heights, and got into deep trouble with the administration, an episode recorded in his essay, “Confessions of a Day Boy” in Without Reserve, the book published in 2005.
Kelly went on to Stanford where he studied drama, but earned his B.A. at San Francisco State where he majored in English literature which he later taught in Florida. After spending about six years as a social worker in New York City (where his widowed father lived), he went to Florida in 1970 with his wife, Reda, and their young son to live in Bradenton where he spent the rest of his life. He taught at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School and later at the University of South Florida. He became interested in the life of Henry Plant, a pioneer railroad builder, who opened the west coast of Florida to development. Kelly had already portrayed Sen. Claude Pepper from the FDR era, and in the late 1990’s brought Henry Plant to life as a character and traveled around the state portraying the Gilded Age millionaire empire builder.
His show was a popular attraction from Key West to Hilton Head (and all the places in between) and he even brought a shortened version to WRA one year for Reunion. A book followed, published by the Florida Historical Society, and can be found in the John D. Ong Library. In later years, Kelly and Reda raised whippet dogs for racing on their six-acre farm near Bradenton. Kelly died in late 2018 at age 83.
Reynolds was familiar to Manatee’s Snead Island since he frequently appeared in the persona of the legendary millionaire, complete with cutaway coat, cane and gloves.