Friends remember Bell as educator, community leader

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 31, 2001

NATCHEZ – Josephine Bell touched many facets of Adams County life – education, politics, nonprofits, to name a few – and left her community better for it, friends said Sunday.

Bell, 92, died Friday at Adams County Nursing Home after an extended illness. Funeral arrangements were incomplete at George F. West Funeral Home Sunday evening.

In the Natchez-Adams County School District, she taught for 29 years and then substituted for eight years more.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;I remember her as one of the great elementary teachers at Thompson and Northside elementaries,&uot; said retired principal Freddie Johnson, who called Bell &uot;Mama Jo.&uot; &uot;She was one of the great supporters of the school system. She was just a leader.&uot;

&uot;Now people she taught are schoolteachers themselves, so that says something,&uot; said Audrey Seale, who worked with Bell more than 30 years in the Democratic Party.

Bell served as an officer of the State Democratic Women organization as well as president of Adams County Democratic Women. She was instrumental in securing the right for the party to hold its own primary elections, Seale said.

&uot;Before that, the Election Commission ran them,&uot; Seale said. &uot;She was a leading Democrat and a remarkable woman. She taught me everything I know.&uot;

Bell was also active in the American Association of Retired Persons, the National Council of Negro Women, Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

She was one of the first volunteers of RSVP when it was established in 1974. She served on its advisory board and took an active role in organizing an adult literacy program in 1977, said former RSVP Director Barbara Byrne.

&uot;She was just a remarkable person,&uot; Byrne said. &uot;You could always depend on her to do what she said she would do. She really was an advisor she had good ideas.&uot;

&uot;I learned from her&uot; about volunteering and about local politics, said former RSVP Director Frances Trosclair. &uot;I always respected and admired her for always standing firm in her beliefs.&uot;

Bell was preceded in death by her husband, Norman Bell. Survivors include two sons: Norman Bell Jr. of Hartford, Mich., and Wade Graves of Jackson. They also include one daughter, Rhetaugh G. Dumas of Michigan.