Cover photo for John Luther Bell, Jr.'s Obituary
John Luther Bell, Jr. Profile Photo

John Luther Bell, Jr.

d. May 21, 2024


John Luther Bell, Jr.

John Luther Bell, Jr, age 90, died May 21, 2024 after a brief illness. He was born in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and later moved to Hamlet, NC where he met his beloved wife of 60 years Dorothy Preslar Bell (deceased). John served in the US Army 1954-57 and was stationed in Germany. He earned graduate degrees in history from Wake Forest University (cum laude) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

John was a history professor at Western Carolina University where he taught for 31 years. In addition to teaching and advising students, he served in numerous leadership roles including director of the graduate history program (1970-72;1988-1995); acting chairman of the division of social sciences (1974-76); coordinator of the social sciences program (1976-1977); associate dean of the school of arts and sciences (1976-1987); and interim dean of arts and sciences (1987). He also served as senior research fellow at the US Army Military Institute, summer 1988.

Many contributions were made at the state and local level including member of the Advisory Editorial Committee NC Historical Review, vice president and president of the NC Literary and Historical Association, chairman of the Jackson County Committee to Secure a County History, founding president of the Jackson County Historical Association, member of the NC Historical Highway Marker Advisory Committee, and member of the Jackson County Historic Preservation Committee. He co-organized the Biltmore House Symposium on Victorian Living and the Decorative Arts in 1981. John served on the board of directors at United Christian Ministries from 2005-2011 (board chair 2010-2011).

A prolific writer, John made numerous presentations and public addresses about NC history, the civil war, and military history; and published many articles and books related to NC and southern history: Hard Times: Beginnings of the Great Depression in North Carolina (1982); chapters 5 and 6 in The History of Jackson County, Max R. Williams, editor (1987); and co-authored a textbook with Jeffrey Crow North Carolina: The History of an American State (1992) (1997 second edition, 2002 third edition).

He loved to travel and made numerous trips throughout the US and abroad with his wife. John especially enjoyed visiting friends and family. He is survived by his three children Dan Bell (Beth) Richmond, VA, Ken Bell (Cindy), Plano, Texas and Anna Lynn Bell Harrisonburg, VA; four grandchildren Brien Bell (Bonnie) of Austin, TX, Sherry Bell of Richmond, VA, Jeff Bell (Abby) of Austin, TX, and Rachel Zumbaugh (Daniel) of Colorado Springs, CO; one great-granddaughter and loving friends.

He loved living in western North Carolina, hiking the surrounding mountains, enjoying the national parks, gardening and singing with the WCU community chorus. John was a loving and generous spouse, father, grandfather, and friend. His presence will be deeply missed.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, June 29, 2024, at the Cullowhee Baptist Church. 

In lieu of flowers donations can be sent to United Christian Ministries of Jackson County, PO Box 188, attention of Cindy Royce, Sylva, NC 28779; or the John and Dorothy Bell Endowed Scholarship, Western Carolina University, attention of the Advancement Office, 1 University Drive, 201 HFR building, Cullowhee, NC 28723.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Luther Bell, Jr., please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Cullowhee Baptist Church

148 Central Dr, Cullowhee, NC 28723

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