Mell Knox Bell, a former prominent Monroe businessman and civic leader who also served a total of 12 years as mayor, died Monday, Aug. 24, in Madison. He was 85.
Mr. Bell was born in Monroe on March 11, 1935 to Clara Knox and John Robinson Bell. He attended Monroe public schools and graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering in 1957.
Mr. Bell and Shirley Walker Drake of Monroe were married in 1955 and remained together until her death in 1980.
Mr. Bell began his professional career as a civil engineer working in South Carolina and Florida before settling in Atlanta with the McDonough Construction Company.
In 1967, Mr. Bell and his family returned to Monroe to take over the Monroe Coca-Cola Bottling Co. begun by his grandfather. Mr. Bell ran the company until 1982, when he sold it to the Athens Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
Mr. Bell was first elected as Monroe’s mayor in 1976. After his terms as mayor, he worked for the city from 1994 until 2012 as chief code enforcement officer.
In 1983, Mr. Bell married Jane Carter Eidson and they remained at the family’s Walton Street home until relocating to Madison in 2014.
In 2010, Mr. Bell was inducted into Georgia’s Municipal Government Hall of Fame. The award noted his many accomplishments as mayor and code department officer, from establishing a Historic Preservation Commission and becoming a certified local government in 1985 to maintaining the city’s growth through keeping the city’s zoning ordinances and maps up to date.
Mr. Bell also formerly served as president of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce; chairman of the board of First National Bank of Walton County, later Synovous; and a member of the board of directors of both Athens Tech and Gwinnett Tech.
In Monroe, Mr. Bell was active in the United Methodist Church and was a founding member of The Little Theater, the local theater organization. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Walton County Christian Learning Center, on whose board he sat.
Mr. Bell was preceded in death by his parents; his first wife Shirley; and one brother, John Robinson Bell.
Survivors include his wife, Jane; one brother, George Weyman Bell (Susan); three children, Melanie Blackwood Gilley (Donovan), David Knox Bell (Jeanette) and Beverly Ellen Bell (John Sorrells); three stepchildren, Joel Franklin Eidson III, Leslie Eidson Turner (Jim) and Shelley Eidson Kester (Scott); 10 grandchildren, John H. “Jack” Sorrells III (Elizabeth), David Scott Blackwood (Jessica), Jared Chastain Blackwood (Jade), Elizabeth Walker Bell, Rebekah Ansley Bell, Chelsea Smith Powell (Dusty), Caroline Taylor Kester, Claire Victoria Kester, Meredith Anne Eidson, Joel Franklin “Drew” Eidson IV and five great grandchildren. Mr. Bell also is survived by two nieces, Elizabeth Bell Canon (Bates) and Suzanne Bell Newsome (Mike) and one nephew, Ryan Anderson Bell (Lynette).
A private graveside service will be held Friday, Aug. 28 at the Rest Haven Cemetery in Monroe with the Reverends Grady Mosley of First United Methodist Church of Madison and David Blackwood of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans, GA officiating.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Walton County Christian Learning Center.