By Trisha Powell Crain | firstname.lastname@example.org
Alabama state school board member Ella Bell died Sunday, November 3, after an illness, a state board of education official confirmed.
“I’ll be in prayer for the family of State Board of Education member, Ella Bell,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “We shared a passion for the children of our state. She was an ardent champion of her district and will be missed. May the Lord be with her family and friends during this time.”
Felicia Lucky, President of the Black Belt Community Foundation says,”We mourn the loss of Ella Bell. She was a tireless warrior and advocate for children and the education they deserve during her many years of service on the Alabama Board of Education. Representing District 5, she became a champion of the Alabama Black Belt.
“For many years, Ms. Bell provided invaluable service and leadership in her role as a member of the BBCF Board of Directors. We are deeply grateful for all her contributions and we will m iss her wit, pluck and tireless dedication to the cause of fair and equitable accdess to quality education, especially for those in the Alabama Black Belt.”
The Black Belt Community Foundation family mourns the lBell represented District 5, which covers west and southwestern areas of Alabama, including most of the Black Belt counties. Bell, a Democrat, was first elected in 2000 and was serving her fifth term as a member of the Alabama Board of Education. The Montgomery Advertiser reported Bell ran for mayor of Montgomery in 2015. “The driving force behind my run for mayor is that I’ve lived here,” Bell said of her reason for running, the newspaper reported.
Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey confirmed Bell died Sunday morning. “The Alabama State Department of Education is shocked and saddened by the passing of an education icon,” Mackey said in a statement. “Mrs. Ella Bell dedicated her life to the betterment of the students of Alabama. Her tenacity and steadfast resolve in fighting for equity for all students will be her legacy always. Her presence on the Alabama State Board of Education will be sorely missed.”
Bell was known for her provocative statements at the board table, often pointing out racial disparities in student outcomes, unequal access to educational opportunities based on wealth, and asking for help and resources for students in her district.
Board member Stephanie Bell was first elected in 1995 and served with Ella Bell the entire time Bell was on the board. “Ella referred to us as “The Bell Sisters,” something I will always treasure. Heaven has gained an angel who sincerely cared about those she served,” Stephanie Bell said Sunday.
“I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to serve on the state Board of Education with my dear friend and sister in Christ, Ella Bell,” Stephanie Bell said. “Our conversations always included updates on family members before focusing on the latest concerns regarding children, parents, and educators in her beloved District 5. Ella was extremely close to her sister and immensely proud of her son, daughter, and grandson. She often shared special stories about her precious Mother.”
State school board member Dr. Cynthia McCarty, R-Jacksonville, said Ella Bell’s heart “was always for children and especially for those who had the least advantages. She stood up for those less able to take care and fight for themselves. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, and I will miss her.”
Ella Bell was in attendance at the Oct. 10 state board meeting, where she dressed in red alongside advocates and fellow board members in celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month.
Bell completed her Master’s degree as Alabama State University in 1974 and her Bachelor’s degree at Tuskegee University in 1969. She completed coursework toward a doctorate in education leadership at the University of Alabama.