Thursday, June 1, 2006
Ceremony helps keep Bell’s legacy alive
By BARRY BURLESON
Words like fair, friendly, great and loving were used more than once Saturday to commemorate the life of the late Sheriff Osborne Bell.
“We’re here to celebrate the life of your friend and my father,” said Bell’s daughter Toni Bell. “We still miss him, and his legacy still lives in the lives of those he inspired.”
The special memorial service began at the monument outside the Marshall County Courthouse which honors Bell.
Words inscribed on the monument itself say Osborne Bell will be “remembered for his friendliness and fairness to all.”
A motorcade followed to the memorial site on Highway 309 near the intersection of Highway 4 West, where the program continued. It was there Bell was shot and killed 20 years ago, May 7, 1986, in the line of duty.
Bell was the first black sheriff of Marshall County, serving from 1980 to 1986. He had also served as coroner.
“Osborne Bell changed Marshall County,” said transportation commissioner Bill Minor. “He was always fair – fair to all of us. We should always remember Osborne Bell for the changes he made.”
George Zinn, District 4 supervisor for Marshall County, presided.
“Osborne Bell was a true pioneer,” Zinn said in opening remarks. “He laid down his life for what he believed in.”
Bell’s sister, Monet Autry, said her brother “was a great person.”
“He loved everybody,” she said.
She said his legacy reaches far beyond Marshall County.
Kelvin Buck, state representative, agreed. He said Bell’s legacy also stretched beyond the political arena.
“It reached to the level of community,” Buck said, “and how communities as a whole should come together.
“Community was so important to Osborne Bell.
“I stand, as many of you, on the shoulder of Osborne Bell.”
Andre’ DeBerry, mayor of Holly Springs, said Bell should be remembered for his character.
“This man had greatness thrust upon him,” DeBerry said. “He had a mission. We should remember this great man for the character he possessed.”
Others participating in the courthouse portion of the program included Rev. R. Troy Wilkins, Rev. Willie Jeffries, Patricia Waldrop and members of the Holly Springs High School Choir.
Gail Bell Fleming, daughter of Osborne Bell, and Mozell A. Kelley, coordinator for the program committee, laid a wreath at the monument. Franchia King, a member of the Osborne Bell Foundation, followed with words of appreciation.
At the memorial site on Highway 309, prayer was led by George Woodson, with remarks by Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson and a solo by Wilkins, prior to the laying of a wreath.
Dickerson, an investigator with the Mississippi Highway Patrol when Bell was killed, was one of several quoted in the May 15, 1986, edition of The South Reporter, all expressing their love for the fallen sheriff.
“I can’t count the hundreds of cases we’ve worked on together and I can’t recall one time where Sheriff Bell and I ever had a cross word or disagreement,” Dickerson said in that interview. “He was a dedicated man.”
The board of supervisors, in May 1986, issued a resolution praising Bell’s outstanding service.
“Let us never forget this one man who did make a difference to all of us,” the resolution said. “Let us remember his character, his courage and his calling.”
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