Late mayor pro-tem to be remembered with scholarship

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A beloved county educator and city council member, described as a “true ambassador for Greenville,” will be remembered and celebrated with a college scholarship in his name.

The late Jeddo Bell,  Greenville’s mayor pro-tem, community leader and veteran of high school and college classrooms, was recalled by many of those who knew, respected and admired the man on Monday afternoon.

The place was the Wendell Mitchell Conference Center at LBW Community College’s Greenville campus, and the occasion was the official signing ceremony to establish the Jeddo Bell Memorial Scholarship.

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A number of local dignitaries, officials and city employees were on hand for the event, along with friends and members of Bell’s family.

With Greenville’s mayor Dexter McLendon out of town, Ed Sims, current mayor pro-tem spoke on behalf of the city.

“Jeddo was such a special person. Just look around at the number of city employees here today and you can see how special he was to us. I know he’d be thrilled about this, too,” said Sims. “Up until those last few months of his life when his health was really bad, he would always walk into our city hall with a big smile on his face and a greeting for everyone. He was a true ambassador for Greenville. If we are all Jeddo Bells, this world would be a better place.”

Dr. Herbert Reidel, president of the LBWCC, recalled first meeting Bell in October 2008 as one of the community representatives who interviewed Reidel and other candidates for the position.

“Jeddo was one of the people responsible in part for bringing me here . . . I discovered he had a long history of involvement with Upward Bound [a federally funded program designed to help high school students prepare for success and enrollment in college] and with the LBWCC Foundation,” Reidel said, adding with a smile, “Jeddo was always well known for his amazing abilities to sell a lot of tickets for good causes.”

Wayne Bennett, vice-president of  the LBWCC Foundation recalled meeting Bell in the fall of 1978 (“I remember thinking what a nice man he was—and dressed a lot better than I could ever be”) when Bennett was a young representative of what was then known as Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College.

“I was the person who went around and spoke to high school seniors about LBW . . . I went to Jeddo Bell’s classroom in Georgiana,” Bennett said. “I was used to three groups among the students in each classroom . . . the ones who were genuinely interested in college and specifically, LBW, who were attentive and polite; the ones who weren’t really interested but were still attentive and polite—and the third group who had absolutely no interest whatsoever. The best I could expect from them were closed eyes and heads on their desk. Usually they would talk while I was talking.”

However, in Jeddo Bell’s classroom, things were different.

“Every single student put away their books and papers and pencils, sat up straight and focused their attention on me. It was almost scary . . . I decided Mr. Bell had done something really special with those students,” Bennett recalled.

After working with Bell in the early 80s, Bennett said he discovered the secret to the educator’s success.

“Jeddo lived up to that adage, ‘They don’t care how much you know, until you show them how much you care.’ He really cared about all his students.”

Dr. Arlene Davis,  associate dean for instructional advancement for LBWCC, shared how the scholarship program works.

“We are starting off this scholarship with $5,000 from the proceeds made from last year’s golf tournament and additional funds from this year’s event will be added. Once the total amount raised reaches $25,000, it will be an endowed scholarship,” Davis explained.

“That money will be invested, with the principal never touched. The monies raised from the investments will be used to fund scholarships in perpetuity, with a preference for students attending the Greenville campus, particularly those from the Upward Bound program.”

Davis declared herself thrilled to know that long after she and other current faculty members were gone, there would still be a Jeddo Bell Memorial Scholarship “and people will still be sharing his name and his story.”

Tracey Burnett, Bell’s son, was visibly moved as he listened to the speakers recall his father and the impact he had on the county and community.

“Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart . . . I cannot put into words just what this means to his family . . . my father loved this community, he loved Andalusia, Georgiana and McKenzie and his whole Upward Bound family,” Burnett said.

Recalling his father’s infectious and gregarious spirit, Burnett said, “I am pretty sure right now he’s up there trying to tell somebody,’That’s my son!’”

Burnett recalled his father as a man who was “all about helping others.”

“To know that this scholarship, something education-related is going help someone in my father’s name, in perpetuity . . . this is a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Following Burnett’s remarks, a ceremonial signing with Reidel, Burnett and Bennett was held to formally establish the Jeddo Bell Memorial Scholarship.

“We welcome anyone wishing to contribute to this scholarship to contact us at LBWCC so we can soon have it fully endowed,” said Davis.

For more information, contact the Greenville campus at 334-383-6701.