Biographical / Historical
Dr. William Jackson "Jack" Bell was a professor and department head (Department of Communications/Journalism and Graphic Arts) at East Texas State University who was also involved with intercollegiate athletics (at the university, conference, and national levels) as well as in the community (including as Mayor of Commerce and as a member of the Commerce Lions Club).
Bell was born in rural Decatur County, Kansas, on November 1, 1915, and graduated from Norcatur Rural High School in 1933. In 1937, he earned his Bachelor of Science from Kansas State Teachers College (later renamed Emporia State University) with majors in English and History & Government; in 1939, he earned his Master of Science from the same institution while majoring in Education and Social Science. Between 1937 and 1942 he taught journalism at Colby High School in Kansas while also editing the Colby Free Press-Tribune; at the same time, he served as a correspondent for numerous other papers, including the Topeka Daily Star, Omaha World-Herald, and Kansas City Star.
In May 1942, Bell married Marjorie Andrews of Rawlings, Kansas. Between 1942 and 1945, he served in the United States Naval Reserve in Kansas and Missouri in a "shore duty" recruiting position. In 1949, he earned a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he also taught as a graduate assistant and directed the editorial page of the Columbia Missourian. After graduating, he served as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Journalism.
In September 1951, Bell was hired by East Texas State University (ETSU) as both a professor and as the head of its Department of Communications (later renamed the Department of Journalism and Graphic Arts). At ETSU, he served the athletic department in numerous different roles, including as Sports Information Director (1951-68), play-by-play announcer for football games, official scorekeeper for basketball games, and as a member of the ETSU Athletic Council (1954-85). He was also active in national intercollegiate athletics, as both the founder of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Sports Information Directors Association and as its national president from 1965-67; he was inducted into the NAIA-Helms Foundation Hall of Fame in 1970. In addition, during this period he was a sports correspondent for numerous newspapers, including the Austin American-Statesman, Dallas News, Dallas Times Herald, Houston Chronicle, Houston Post, San Antonio Light, and San Antonio News Express.
In addition to academic and athletic involvement, Bell was also greatly involved in the City of Commerce, serving on the city commission for 21 years, as mayor pro-tem for 11 years, and as Mayor of Commerce for 4 years. He also served as president of the Board of the Friends of the Commerce Public Library and was active in the Commerce Lions Club.
Bell stepped down from his position as a department head in 1983, and retired from teaching in 1985; that same year, ETSU named him a Professor Emeritus. He received numerous accolades for his various achievements: he was named a distinguished teacher by the Faculty Senate (1976), a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor (1982), and a Distinguished Alumnus of Emporia State University (1985), while he also received a Meritous Service Award from the ETSU Athletic Hall of Fame (1985), the Commerce Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Decade award (1989), and the President’s Spirit of Mayo Citation (1997).
Bell died in Commerce on January 1, 2003.