Thursday, May 26, 2011
Osborne Bell remembered
By SUE WATSON
Twenty-five years ago on May 7, Marshall County Sheriff Osborne Bell was gunned down by 22-year-old Bart Mease on Highway 309. Also, this year, Mease was once again denied parole.
Bell’s life was celebrated once again this year on the courthouse lawn where a memorial is placed in his honor. Bell was the first African American sheriff of Marshall County.
His sister, Monet Autry, said the memory of her brother’s life and death does not fade with time.
“His memory becomes more alive as the years go by,” she said.
That’s partly because she serves as justice court clerk for Marshall County.
“It keeps it in the forefront because I work with law enforcement every day,” Autry said.
It had been five years since the last memorial service for Sheriff Bell was held on the court square. Autry said the family held a memorial every year for the first five years then spread the ceremonies out as the late sheriff’s children moved away.
Autry spearheaded the local effort to keep her brother’s killer in the state penitentiary, while Osborne Bell Jr. spearheaded the memorial part this year.
Bell’s mother, Ellen Bell, 95, is still living. Osborne Bell Sr. has two children living in DeSoto County. There are dozens of nieces and nephews, but by and large, the family has dispersed, Autry said. But the memorial service will be kept.
“We will continue to do this as long as we live,” Autry said.
Her father, Parker Bell, served as sheriff a short time, until a special election to fill the deceased sheriff’s position was held in November 1986. Bobby Joe Adkins was elected sheriff.
Autry said her parents have forgiven their son’s murderer.
“Bart Mease’s grandfather asked my parents to forgive their grandson for his crime and my parents said ‘yes.’ He’s been forgiven of his action, but we do not think it is a good idea for him to be released. He’s 47 and has been locked up most of his life.”
Autry said Mease killed a man in Florida at age 16 and was released at 20 from jail because he had been a juvenile. But at 22, Mease killed his second man – Sheriff Osborne Bell.
A memorial for Bell is established on Highway 309 but he is buried in Cottrell Memorial Garden in Holly Springs.
George Zinn spearheaded the 20th commemoration of Sheriff Bell’s death in 2006. Frenchie King, also a close family tie of the Bells, spoke at the courthouse this year. David Beckley, a deputy at the time of Bell’s death, and Daryl Whaley, Horn Lake chief of police, spoke at the May 7 ceremony.
Sen. Bill Stone read a Senate resolution signed by Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and the local delegation. And Zinn read a poem written by Tonja Scruggs entitled “Our Legendary Hero.”
The Olive Branch Police Honor Guard did a flag salute during the ceremony on the courthouse lawn.
“The Bell family thanks everyone who participated in this year’s program,” Autry said.
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