Thursday, June 1, 2006
Bell - ‘friend to everyone’
Not long after my move to Marshall County five years ago, the name Osborne Bell came up in a conversation I was having with an elected official.
The words of praise went on and on and on.
It was then I regretted having never known this great man.
Saturday, I was honored to attend a ceremony commemorating the life and legacy of the fallen hero.
When I returned to the office, I immediately went to the old bound copies of The South Reporter and found the Thursday, May 15, 1986, edition, the first one published after Bell was shot and killed while making an arrest.
On the front page was an excellent editorial written by staff writer Edwina Carpenter, entitled “Sheriff Bell was a friend.”
The entire article follows.
Marshall County suffered the loss of a committed public servant last week when Sheriff Osborne Bell was killed.
He was a friend to everyone. And he was a friend of this newspaper.
The loss of the sheriff meant the passing of a peacemaker.
He was a compassionate lawman who always had time for everyone he met.
He exemplified the characteristics of courtesy and fairness for which many no longer make time.
He was honest and truthful in his actions, no matter what the situation.
Bell’s open and direct dealings with the media helped keep Marshall County informed.
He was a man who took the time out of his busy day to shake a hand and talk about the current issues.
Osborne Bell was a friend to all, accessible to anyone who needed his help. He was always available for an interview, a photograph or additional information regarding a story.
He will be remembered for many things – his friendliness, his courtesy, his concern.
But perhaps most of all, he will be remembered for the quality most needed in his position – fairness.
In the same edition, May 15, 1986, there was coverage of Bell’s memorial service at Rust College.
Mississippi Governor Bill Allain was on hand and declared it “Osborne Bell Day.” Approximately 3,000 were in attendance.
“I could stand here all day long and I could not say in words what this crowd assembled here today says so eloquently about their love for this man,” Governor Allain said.
More than 300 law enforcement officers from Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas attended in uniform to pay their respects to one of their rank who had “paid the supreme sacrifice.”
Other comments from dignitaries included:
“Sheriff Bell was a giant among giants, a courageous man who was not afraid to meet the challenges of Marshall County. But he knew every day that danger would be his constant companion but fear was not his concern. His unselfish desire was to make Marshall County a safe place to live.”
– Harold Ford, congressman from Tennessee.
“His dream was to be sheriff and to show the people that a black man could be the most popular man who ever came from Marshall County, Mississippi. He taught us all something. He could get along with anybody. He wore a smile regardless of where he might go.”
– J.M. “Flick” Ash, then serving as chancery clerk.
Sheriff Bell was buried at Cottrell Cemetery with full military honors and a 21-gun salute by the Mississippi Highway Patrol Honor Guard.
Ceremonies like the special one Saturday help keep the memories of Osborne Bell alive.
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