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Former City Council member Gary Bell dies in California

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, August 7, 2013, at 9:59 a.m.

One of the first African-Americans and youngest member at that time to ever sit on Wichita’s City Council has died.

Native Wichitan Gary Bell was just 25 years old when he first ran for office in Wichita in 1985. He served on the council for two years.

In 1989, he moved to Richmond, Calif., where he worked as a banker, becoming involved in political and community activities. He was president and CEO of Cooperative Federal Credit Union in Berkeley.

Mr. Bell died Thursday in a Redwood City, Calif., Hospital from a bacterial sinus infection. He was 54 years old.

Funeral services were scheduled for 11 am. Wednesday at the Hilltop Community Church in Richmond.

In 1985, Mr. Bell became the second African-American in Wichita’s history to serve on the Wichita council. The first was A. Price Woodard. At the time Mr. Bell served, he was youngest person in the city’s history to sit in that position.

During the 1980s, Mr. Bell was working on a degree in general studies at Wichita State University. He was active in organizing the Black Arts Festival and in gaining signatures for a petition supporting district elections for council members.

On Tuesday, former Mayor Bob Knight, who served with Mr. Bell on the council, said he lost a good friend.

“He was a terrific athlete who became interested in politics and in true form was very competitive,” Knight said. “I liked him a lot, so did my family. He was a quality guy.”

In recent years, Mr. Bell served on the Credit Union Advisory Council to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was a former licensed real estate broker and served on the Richmond City Council from 2000 to 2005, according to Richmond Council member Tom Butt’s e-mail forum website. He was elected again on November 2012 to serve on the council but was unable to assume the post after being hospitalized from the bacterial infection.

During his youth, Mr. Bell excelled in football and wrestling, earning scholarships at WSU where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1986. He earned his master’s degree in financial management and organizational leadership from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, Calif.

Mr. Bell is survived by his wife, Shelley Ross-Bell, sons Gary Jr. and Germaine and eight brothers and sisters: Edward Bell Jr., Anthony Bell, Charles Bell, his twin sister, Gale Bray, Carol Davis, Carolyn Young, Jacqueline Bell-Murry and Donald Bell.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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