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Dr. Kate A. Bell


                1907 - 2003 


Trinity Standard, March 13, 2003

HOUSTON -- Graveside services for Dr. Catherine Atkinson (Kate) Bell, 95 of Houston and Trinity were held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 1, 2003, at the Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.

A memorial service followed at 2 p.m. Saturday at Houston's First Baptist Church with the Rev. Larry Lilley officiating.

She died Tuesday, February 25, from multiple injuries she sustained during a January 10 assault in Houston.  Dr. Bell had been beaten and robbed outside a fast-food restaurant in Houston.  No charges have been filed because she could not identify her attacker.

Dr. Bell was born June 29, 1907 in Groveton, Texas.  She was the daughter of sixth generation Texans John Irving and Ida Belle Hart Atkinson.

After graduating from Groveton high School in 1925, she enrolled in Baylor University in Waco where she obtained a bachelors degree.  She later received her master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Houston and studied at the University of Chicago.

In 1934 she was married to Houston Municipal Court Judge Will Enoch Bell.  the couple met while they were both attending the First Baptist Church in Houston where she taught Sunday school.  Judge Bell died in 1963.

After obtaining her teaching degree, she was hired in 1931 by the Houston Independent School district where she served for 47 years. 

During her career, Dr. Bell held the position of elementary teacher, elementary principal, director of reading, director of elementary education and assistant superintendent.

In 1954, she was elected as president of the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) and in 1978, two years after her retirement , Kate Bell Elementary School in southwest Houston was dedicated.  At her retirement, Houston Mayor Fred Hofheniz and Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe declared "Kate Bell Day" in her honor.

During her career, she taught for 11 years at Wilson and Fannin elementary schools and served for four years as principal of Port Houston Elementary

During her early years in education she also taught English during night classes.  When one of her colleagues by the name of Lyndon B. Johnson told her he planned to quit teaching and go into politics, she urged him to reconsider.  She told him he might be able to reach the ranks of school principal.

After Johnson became president of the United States, the two met again and he reminded Dr. Bell about her advice.

As part of her commitment to education Dr. Bell co-authored the Developmental Science Series of books that have been adopted in 18 states as well as a Skill Building Series published by Reader's Digest.

In 1970, Gov. Preston Smith named Dr. Bell to a 17-member committee charged with developing standards for preschool education in Texas. 

Among the clubs and organizations which Dr. Bell served as member or board member are Texas Heritage Society, Junior Red Cross, Women's Auxiliary of the Houston Bar Association, Camp Fire Girls, Junior League Patron, Houston Heart Association, Houston Baptist University Advisory Board, Ladies Reading Club and Houston Chapter of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.

In addition to her service with TSTA, other profession organizations in which she belonged included the National Education Association and the World Conference of Organizations of the Teaching Profession.

Dr. Bell also was a charter member of the local and state chapters of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and of the Texas Association for the Improvement of Reading.

She also served on a number of state committees at the request of the State Board of Education, the Texas Education Agency and other elected officials.

During her career, she helped write the Standards for Preschool Education and, as a lobbyist, helped secure the passage of six bills implementing the program.

Of all the honorary educational societies to which she belonged, Dr. Bell was most devoted to Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.  Elected to the Beta Omicron Chapter in 1938, she became affiliated with both the state and national branches of the organization.

She served as president of the Beta Omicron Chapter from 1947-49 and was awarded the Alpha State Achievement Award in 1952.  The chapter also awarded her the Chapter Achievement Award in 1962.

Other offices and honors awarded to Dr. Bell included being twice appointed to the White House Conference on Education, election to the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, being listed in the Who's Who Among American Women and being selected as the Outstanding Woman Educator by newspapers as well as social, civic and professional organizations. 

Following her retirement, Dr. Bell continued to work through the Retired Teachers Association.  She served as an active member and president of the Houston Association of Retired Teachers (HART) and lobbied the state legislature for improved benefits for all retired teachers.

She headed the drive to build a suitable office in Austin for the association and maintained support for the Henry W. Stillwell Memorial Residence for Retired Teachers in Waco.

In recognition of Dr. Bell's service, HART established in 2000 a continuing education fund in her name to support and encourage the implementation of standards for teaching excellence that she upheld for herself and others.  The first awards from this fund was made in 2001.

In addition to her home in Houston, Dr. Bell maintained a residence in the Bellwood Cove subdivision on Lake Livingston.

In Trinity County, Dr. Bell was active in historic preservation efforts and chaired the museum committee of the Trinity County Historical Commission.

She led the successful campaign to raise funds to establish a Trinity County Museum in Groveton to house historical items and material significant to the county and it's residents.

At present, the museum includes two buildings, one of which was named in her honor last year, in recognition of her local historical preservation efforts.

In addition, she remained active in Groveton Ex-Students Association and endowed a scholarship in memory of her parents.

She was preceded in death my her husband; two brothers, Fred and Marvin Hill Atkinson; and a sister, Ruth Griswold.

Survivors include two nieces and their spouses, Anna and Clayton Hester of Groveton and Donna and Buddy Smith of Groveton; a nephew, John Atkinson of Houston; three cousins and their spouses, Tory and Bob Free of Appleby, Martha Miller of Houston and Mickey and Les Adkins of Houston; and numerous great-nieces and great-nephews.

The family has asked that memorial contributions be sent to the Trinity County Museum, PO Box 474, Groveton, Texas 75845.

Forest Park Lawndale Funeral Home of Houston directed the arrangements.