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Dr. William Reed Bell, Sr.


December 24, 1926 - July 28, 2013

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On July 28, 2013, Dr. Reed Bell of Pensacola was welcomed home with the most cherished of recognitions- "Well done my good and faithful servant!"

A selfless leader, Reed Bell glorified God by loving others, especially children. He was born at Sacred Heart Hospital on December 24, 1926. An outstanding student-athlete, he captained Pensacola High School's 1943 football team and was selected to AP's First Team All-State. In 1944, he captained the PHS basketball team, was the class salutatorian, and was King of the annual Coronation. PHS retired his football jersey in 2011.

On a football scholarship at the University of Florida his freshman year, Reed was a starting defensive halfback and punter. He then served in the U.S. Navy as WWII drew to a close. Upon discharge, Reed attended the University of the South (Sewanee) where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in history. He played football and basketball in 1946-47-48 captaining both teams. He was named First Team All-Southern in 1947 and was twice a First Team Little All-American (1947-48) at fullback. In 2004, Sewanee inducted Reed into its Athletics Hall of Fame's initial class and retired his football jersey.
Though a gifted athlete, Reed's most outstanding trait was as a leader. As his coach, John Bridgers, said, "(Reed's) good looks, self-discipline, positive attitude, effort, and personal attractions instilled confidence in his teammates, coaches, and others. Reed always has been a person of high principles and great integrity. He has strong convictions about what is right and he always tries to do what he thinks is right."

Reed's compelling leadership continued in the medical community. Graduating Alpha Omega Alpha from Duke University's College of Medicine in 1953, Reed completed his pediatric residency and an endocrinology fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine Hospitals in1957. Returning to Pensacola, he practiced privately as a board certified pediatrician and pediatric endocrinologist until 1969. He served as President of the Medical Staff of Sacred Heart Hospital, the Escambia Medical Society, the Florida Pediatric Society and the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most significantly, Reed enlisted area physicians and the Daughters of Charity to create the area's first and only children's hospital at Sacred Heart Hospital. Opening on April 1, 1969, he became the Children's Hospital's first Medical Director, a position he held until 1986. To support this new hospital, Reed led the creation of a pediatric residency program and for 17 years recruited pediatric specialists who developed the NICU, a pediatric intensive care unit, and surgical services. He also co-founded the Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Florida.

In 1986, President Reagan appointed Reed as the founding Director of the NIH's Office of Substance Abuse Prevention, the federal government's first substance abuse prevention program. On returning to Pensacola, he served as Medical Director of District I of Children’s Medical Services from 1989-2001 and as Director of the Escambia County Health Department were he started the "We Care" program (matching uninsured residents to volunteer medical providers). In 1992, Reed became the first medical advisor to Focus on the Family. His community involvement beyond medicine is simply too long to list.

Reed lived for children and their families. He led and loved his own family most of all. Reed is survived by the love of his life, Nell Hamm Bell, his wife of 62 years; their six children, Rev. William R. Bell, Jr. (Jo), Mitzi Peters (Peter), Terry Bush (Scott), Former Justice Kenneth Bell (Victoria), Lance Bell (Sherry) and Brian Bell (Sharon); 20 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, the Honorable M. Langley Bell (Escambia Co. Clerk of Court for 34 years) and Minnie Reed Bell; his brother, Dr. M. Langley Bell, Jr. and his granddaughter, Blair Bush.

Visitation will be held 4-6pm Friday, August 2, 2013 at Hillcrest Baptist Church on Nine Mile Road. Funeral Service will be held 3:00pm Saturday, August 3, 2013 at Hillcrest Baptist Church with a Celebration of Life gathering to follow in the Northwest Hall from 4:00-6:00pm.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital or the Ronald McDonald House of NWFL.

Special thanks to Barbara Chirpe, Homestead Village and Covenant Hospice.