EDITOR’S NOTE: This profile first appeared as an Alumni Spotlight for the Auburn University College of Arts website at www.cla.auburn.edu/cla/
While trying to interview Auburn alumnus Dewey Destin at one of his three seafood restaurants in Destin, several patrons are clamoring for his attention because they want to get a photo with him. Destin (the man, not the city) happily obliges and you can tell he’s done this many times before.
In fact, he does it many more times while we are there talking with him.
We are at Dewey Destin’s Haborside Restaurant, and it is a gorgeous Friday afternoon in Destin. Perhaps it’s because most people don’t often get to meet the namesake of a popular city that people are so excited to snap a photo with Destin — in Destin.
Perhaps, too, it is very unusual to eat at that namesake’s restaurant and meet the namesake while in the namesake’s city… okay, this is getting very complex. It is probably necessary to take a step back for a moment and talk briefly about the history of Destin.
The website for Destin’s restaurant sums up the history nicely: “The Destin family and Destin, Florida, have been intertwined since Dewey’s great, great grandfather, Leonard Destin, founded the town in 1835. The adventure began a few years earlier when Leonard, his father George, and his brother William set out from New London, Conn., with three ships and ran into a hurricane near Cape Canaveral." Unfortunately two of the ships and Leonard's father and brother were lost at sea, but Leonard decided to continue on and look for the best fishing he could find. Leonard settled in the Destin area and pioneered the fishing industry that the city of Destin is still known for today.
As mentioned previously, Destin is also an alumnus of Auburn University (’76). He says a large group of friends from high school were going to attend Auburn and he decided to attend after visiting the campus. An assumption could be made that Destin attended Auburn to study fisheries or business, but he actually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
“I originally wanted to be a lawyer,” the former city councilman and school board member recalls. “But I decided that I didn’t want to be in school that long, and my father invited me back to go into the fishing business with him, which my family has been doing since the 1830s.”
Destin said that he liked the fishing business, and the idea of making some money at the time made it a very appealing offer.
“I operated a fishing boat in the company and just never went back to law school,” Destin said. “I had my degree hanging on my boat, and I used to joke and say, ‘Now that I have my degree from Auburn University, I don’t have to catch the fish, they are just going to give up and come to me.’ ”
Destin says the fishing business is one that has been heavily regulated, and that he has spent a lot of time over the years lobbying the Legislature to keep the business viable.
“The political science degree came in quite helpful then,” Destin said. “I’ve been an elected official in the county since 1985 so that also puts my degree to use in an off-handed way.”
Destin still gets back to Auburn from time-to-time to catch a football game and to spend time with his two daughters, who are currently attending the school. Destin’s wife, Becky, is also an Auburn grad and Destin says that his family loves Auburn. In fact, the Destins hosted a College of Liberal Arts tailgate party at their restaurant on Sept. 8, when Auburn played against Mississippi State.
When asked what advice he has for current Auburn students, Destin says he would encourage students to take their classes seriously and to experience the joys of being part of the Auburn experience.
“If you are going to a university like Auburn, you need to pay attention to the education,” Destin said. “Be involved in as many activities as you can so you can meet the friends you’ll have for the rest of your life. It goes incredibly fast — fastest four years of my life.”
Destin says he still holds Auburn and the memories he had here near and dear to his heart, and he is proud to be an Auburn graduate.
“Politics are a very important part of success in any business, and I have been very well served by my Auburn education.”
Vicky Santos is director of external affairs for the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University.