BELL, Robert Hudson
Senator Robert H. "Bob" Bell died peacefully on Sunday morning, December 13, 2020 in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. The last words he spoke, and the last he heard, were exchanged with his loving wife of 62 years, Betty Anne Rouse Bell. He is survived by daughters Leigh Bell (Michael) Barker, and Gaye Bell (Frank) Auman, along with six beloved grandchildren and six great grandchildren, who were the joy of his later years. He was the second-youngest of four brothers and a sister, all of whom preceded him in death.
Born February 1, 1929, Senator Bell lived a noble life, but not an aristocratic one. A native Atlantan, he was born to Ernest Lawson Bell and Mattie Lou Richardson Bell. He grew up in what is now the West End section of Atlanta, where his father was becoming a successful grocer. When the future Senator Bell was but 3 years old, his father died unexpectedly in surgery at the age of 42. In the depth of the depression and without a livelihood to support them, Mrs. Bell was forced to send the four boys to live at the Methodist Children's Home in Decatur until each was old enough to work in support of the family. Throughout his later life, Senator Bell never forgot the care he was given there, and continued to support their activities throughout his life.
No doubt as a result of these beginnings, Bell soon began a life of rugged individualism, doggedly living out his values with unbendable determination to care for his family and those around him. He served his state, his country and his community in myriad ways. He generously supported people, causes and institutions he believed in, most often anonymously. Above all, he served his church and his Lord with unflagging faith, as his heart's greatest desire was to see all people come to know the God who had blessed him so.
As a young man, Bell attended Boys High during its heyday as one of only two public high schools in Atlanta for boys. After working and saving, he went on to study at Erskine College, the college and seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the denomination of his family for many generations prior. In 1950, Bell joined the US Army, and was assigned to Occupation Force Germany as an infantry platoon sergeant. Upon his return, Bell enrolled at Georgia State University, and finished a BBA in Marketing through their night school. As Georgia State was then a part of the University of Georgia, his UGA diploma made him the first of what would become many proud Bulldogs in his family.
Bell met the love of his life while on a blind double-date. Although they were each with another date that night, they quickly arranged a date of their own, and were married February 15, 1958. His early career was spent as a manufacturer's representative, selling glass bottles to soft drink bottlers and many others.
During that time, Bell was active in every aspect of his community, serving at various times as President of the Henderson Mill Civic Club, Atlanta Jaycee Toastmasters Club, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the Capitol Area Kiwanis Club among many others. Always, he was active in his church, Doraville Presbyterian (later Peachtree Corners Presbyterian), serving over the years in virtually every church office: Deacon, Elder, Sunday School Superintendent, President of the Men's Club, and as Congregation Chairman.
In 1968, Bell was called to public service, winning election to the Georgia House of Representatives. He served there for four years before being elected to the Georgia State Senate, where he served until 1982. In addition to serving on the founding MARTA Oversight Committee, he was especially active in law enforcement issues and education funding. During his tenure, he received awards from the Georgia Municipal Association for outstanding service to Georgia Citizens, the Association of the United States Army for exceptional service in support of national defense, and the
Council for Children for his work in juvenile justice reform. In 1981, he was named one of the Nation's Ten Best Legislators, receiving personal congratulations from President Ronald Reagan.
In 1982, Bell was elected statewide as the Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia. Falling short of his goal to become the first Republican Governor of Georgia in over 100 years, he went on to lead the party as State Chairman until 1985.
In 2017, the interchange at Interstate 85, Exit 94, Chamblee-Tucker Road, was named in his honor for his many years of dedicated service.
Bell never earned his livelihood from public service, and returned full time to business in 1986. Nurturing the company he had formed in 1971, he was closely involved in its daily operations until the day of his death, building it into a world-class manufacturer of personal care products and employing well over 100 people.
Senator Bell will be remembered fondly by the thousands of people whose lives he touched in business, public service, community organizations, his church, and the many many friends he made over a lifetime. His children, his grandchildren and their families all wish to express their gratitude to God for the long life during which he served as a model husband, father, grandfather and mentor.
A graveside service will be held for family only on Friday December 18 at 2pm at Prosperity Cemetery in Chamblee. All friends are invited to pay their respects at a COVID-safe, drive-by visitation to be held the following day, Saturday December 19, 2020 from 1-3pm at Peachtree Corners Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church at 5918 Spalding Dr, Norcross, GA 30092 . The family will be present but socially distanced, and asks that participants write a note of remembrance or a favorite story of any length to be left as a keepsake and for their encouragement. A fitting in-person memorial service will be planned for a future date.
In lieu of flowers the Bell Family wish gifts be made to Bonclarken Conference Center in Senator Bell's honor. It was his favorite place, and one where he spent untold happy hours throughout his lifetime. Attention Chip Sherer, 500 Pine Drive, Flat Rock, NC 28731, telephone 828-692-2223.
On-line condolences may be expressed at www.crowellbrothers.com
. Arrangements entrusted to Crowell Brothers Funeral Homes & Crematory, 5051 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Peachtree Corners, GA 30092. 770-448-5757.
Published by Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Dec. 16 to Dec. 19, 2020.