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Roy Lee Bell

1931 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Roy Lee Bell Obituary
ODESSA - On Monday, November 26, 2018, Roy Lee Bell, Jr., concluded his magnificent 87-year adventure. Tempestuous, compelling, exemplary and purposeful, the life of Roy Lee Bell, Jr., was lived in large enough proportions to match even the vast West Texas horizon where he fought the good fight in many arenas and in many ways.

For a brief moment on that Monday afternoon, the silence following his final breath drowned out even the booming noise of the Great Permian Basin. One of its finest had gone to rest.

In the hours and days that have passed, his name has been uttered by many who experienced the warmth of his splendid humor and the generosity of his loving heart. Through hot tears and warm laughter, his life has been celebrated by all those whose lives he enriched and whose spirits he helped renew. For most of all, Roy Bell's life was a tale about the power of renewal.

He was the great defender of second chances.

He came from humble origins and he came with flaws. But drawing on the values born of those humble origins, he re-shaped those flaws into the tools that would serve his proud journey. He would seek, always, second chances.

Roy Bell was a hunter, a horseman and an officer of the court. He slew deer from the mesas of Crockett County to the wide vistas of Sierra Blanco. He could shoot as well as many and better than most. On the Bell Ranch in May, Texas, he castrated his own bull calves with an unfolded pocket knife, an operation he could figuratively but skillfully perform in the courtroom. His life, even as he lived it, was legendary. In memory, his life will become mythic.

He embraced excess with enthusiasm, yet he brought balance to the most volatile of moments. He was the fiercest competitor, yet he taught others to render their defeats useful, to forge their failures into opportunity. He consorted with rogues and rascals and patrons and saints.

He was a legendary drunkard and yet the majority of his life was a living symbol of sobriety. His impetuous behavior tested the forbearance of all of his family and most of his friends, and yet his 51-year sojourn in Alcoholics Anonymous brought peace, hope and victory to so many locked in the most dire struggles of their lives.

He possessed a keen and roving eye for women, but he discovered the love of his life in Towana Jo Stanley, his second wife and a devoted companion, who settled him into a life of exclusive happiness. Both she and daughter, Danielle Bell Hinesly, were at his side when he breathed his last.

Born August 1, 1931, in Slayton, Texas, to Roy Bell, Sr., and Alice Bell, Roy Lee was the youngest of their five children. He enjoyed a lifetime of love and support from two sisters, Lurline and Mary, and two brothers, Howard and Bobby. Only Bobby Bell survives.

As a child, he moved with his family to Rankin, Texas, where his father served as the station agent for the Santa Fe Railroad and did his duty as a deacon for the First Baptist Church. As consistent as the train schedules he lived by, with an unending patience, Roy Bell, Sr., forged the character of his children. He emphasized the importance of family, community, reliability, a solid work ethic, and he taught that all these virtues were absolute and absolutely expected. Roy Lee's mother, Alice, provided for the family herself and maintained home and hearth. She was stern, slow to compromise, but she filled her home with love. Roy Lee's siblings were certain he was their mother's favorite, the subject of a lifelong family joke. Roy Lee argued otherwise, but anyone who knew him and his brothers and sisters might call the debate either way.

Ranging Upton County, young Roy Lee honed his life skills. He excelled in the classrooms and on the fields of competition. He would play in the state's Six-Man All-Star game and graduate as a valedictorian. Those feats led to a scholarship at Schreiner Institute in Kerrville. There, he met and later married Millie Rae Alexander. Together they produced two sons, Thomas Lee Bell and John William Bell.

Roy Bell completed law school at his beloved University of Texas, dividing his time between classrooms and a few roadhouses and bars, and he devoted no small time to following the fate of his Longhorns on any playing field.

Graduating law school in 1953, he took the state bar exam. On November 12, 1953, he sent a Western Union telegram to his father stating simply that he was "a lawyer by the slimmest of margins." The few points providing success on that exam were no measure of the distinguished legal career that was to follow, one that lasted 65 years. He was preparing to go "to the office" on the day he died.

The "office" reflected all the best of his character. This special center of his life operated smoothly due to the valiant efforts of Cecilia Pando, Beverly Williams, and Edith Uranga. More family members than legal assistants, they sustained his every effort, answered his every need.

In 2005, an Honorary Resolution from the State Bar of Texas, recognized Roy Lee Bell, Jr., for representing "the very best of the legal profession" and for being "active in the community" through his service in Alcoholics Anonymous and the Clover House in Odessa, a residential program for those suffering from substance abuse. He was also identified, primarily, as a "trial lawyer on the plaintiff's side." And the Resolution went on to laud his "fine sense of humor." He was a splendid trial lawyer in a golden age of talented trial lawyers.

For 51 of those 65 years, Roy Bell practiced law sober. And that "fine sense of humor" spanned both ends of that arc of sobriety. He developed his humor and his skills as a lawyer among men for whom humor was not the delivery of a punch line but a sharp, challenging exercise meant to provide perspective on life. Humor was a vital part of self-discovery.

Roy Lee Bell, Jr., was proud of his life as a lawyer, but he was equally proud of that 51 years of sobriety. One could not have happened without the other. Though he never proselytized to the public, there was little that was anonymous about Roy Bell's decision to confront his flaws.

He spent his final Thanksgiving with family at the Bell Ranch in May, Texas, his special domain, where his sons and his daughter, his grandchildren and great grandchildren have all felt the warmth of his distinctive presence.

During part of his proud and productive life, he recognized no restrictions, knew no boundaries. But when his excesses threatened self-control, he heard the echo of his father's fine life, reached for the love and support of his family and their values, and discovered his second chance.

That discovery has paid handsome dividends to countless souls in need, and that discovery will continue to provide for many - from now on.

Roy Lee Bell, Jr., was preceded in death by two sisters, Mary (Snookie) Mims and Lurline Burns, and brother, Howard Bell and granddaughter, Tessa Bell.

He is survived by his wife, Towana Jo Bell; daughter, Danielle Bell Hinesly, son, Tom Bell and spouse, Judy Meister Bell and son, John Bell and spouse, Susan; brother, Bobby Bell and numerous nieces and nephews; grandchildren, Trinity and Remington Hinesly, Jason Bell and Jessica Bell; great grandchildren, Tristan Voss and Zoe Voss.

There will be a celebration of Roy Lee Bell's life on December 7, 2018, at Crossroads Fellowship, 6901 E. Highway 191, Odessa, Texas, at 2:00 p.m. There will be a visitation from 1:00 to 2:00 at Crossroads.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made in Roy Bell's honor to Lake Brownwood Christian Retreat for the Lakeside Conference or Clover House.

Lake Brownwood Christian Retreat

Lakeside Conference

c/o David Brannan

9801 Gray Blvd.

Austin, Texas 78758

Clover House

300 N. Jackson Avenue

Odessa, Texas 79761
Published in Odessa American on Dec. 5, 2018
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