William Woodward Bell

May 15, 1938March 5, 2014
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William Woodward Bell, 75, of Brownwood passed away Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Born May 15, 1938, to Charles Smith and Jane Woodward Bell, he was a descendent of one of Brownwood’s pioneer families. He married Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Beniteau Bell May 31, 1969 in San Antonio. Mrs. Bell is a former CPA and county auditor.

Mr. Bell graduated in 1960 with a B.B.A. from Baylor University where he was a member of Taurus social club, and in 1968 he earned a J.D. from Baylor Law School. He served in the United States Marine Corps as a Tank Platoon Commander and Naval Aerial Observer Captain from 1960 -1963 at Camp Pendleton and in the Marine Corps Reserve Forces from 1969 -1972. In 1968 Mr. Bell returned to Brownwood to practice law. He served as Municipal City Judge from 1969 – 1980 and City Attorney from 1980 – 1999 and was General Counsel of Brownwood ISD from 1975 – 1980. He was a Director of the Brown County Water Improvement District from 1974 – 1978 and its General Counsel from 1978 – 2013. He was a member of the Texas and Supreme Court of the United States Bars. Two of his most prominent cases included the successful defense of a local movie theater owner against obscenity charges for screening "Midnight Cowboy" and the murder trial of performer Rae Bourbon. He retired after 45 years of practicing law in May 2013.

Following in his parents’ footsteps, Mr. Bell was active in community affairs, which included service to the Brownwood Industrial Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Brown County Humane Society, Brownwood Boys Club and the local chapter of the American Red Cross. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom. He was the primary force behind efforts to create the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation and was instrumental in bringing the extension of Texas State Technical College to Brownwood. He chaired several mayoral committees, and in 1991 he was the first recipient of the Team Brownwood Distinguished Service Award and was named the Volunteer Industrial Developer of the Year by the Texas Industrial Development Council.

Mr. Bell was a member and officer of the local Pecan Valley Detachment of the Marine Corps League and a member of First Baptist Church Brownwood. He was also a cattle rancher who enjoyed fishing, hunting and golfing, and often could be found driving a World War II-era Willis Jeep around his ranch. Survived by wife Betty Bell; daughters, Susan Elizabeth Bell of Pasadena, Calif., and Carol Ann Bell and husband Robert Kozeluh of Chicago; sister, Betty Jane Smith and husband Jack of Dallas; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and infant daughter Mary Jane Bell.

Pallbearers for Mr.Bell are Jim Cavanaugh, John D. Harkey, Bert Massey II, Buddy Reynolds, Dennis Spinks, and E. Ray West. Honorary Pallbearers for Mr. Bell are Stuart Coleman, and Harry Miller.

Services will be held at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, March 9 at First Baptist Church, with Dr. Rodney McGlothlin officiating. Interment will follow at Greenleaf Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Saturday at Davis-Morris Funeral Home. If desired, memorials may be made to the Jane W. Bell Scholarship Fund at the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom or to the charity of your choice.


  • Visitation Saturday, March 8, 2014
  • Funeral Service Sunday, March 9, 2014
  • Interment Sunday, March 9, 2014

William Woodward Bell

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J Mitchell Johnson

March 9, 2014

Rostov-on-Don, Russia

Dear Betty, Susan and Carol,

Sorry to hear the sad news. Bill was always very kind to me, and to our family. He provided great advice to us. I know he will be missed by his many friends, the community at large, and by all of you.

I wish you all the best as you celebrate his life and his legacy.



March 8, 2014

Sincere sympathy to family of Bill Bell...Charles Richardson, BHS '54 of Abilene, TX

Tommie McCollum

March 8, 2014

In loving memory of Bill ~ He will be missed by family and many friends and will always live in our hearts. May God comfort his family during this time of sorrow.

Wanda (Smith) Odum

March 8, 2014

My heart is deeply saddened. Bill and I go back a long way. I remember the first day he joined the lawfirm in Brownwood where I was secretary. I watched him hone his skills to become the outstanding attorney he was. He was exacting, particular and sometimes a hard taskmaster but kindness personified. He was the best teacher I ever had. I have never seen a man more proud of his family. Sincere condolences to Betty and his daughters. He will be missed by all those who knew and loved him.

Mary Crumley

March 8, 2014

My condolences to the family. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I went to Brownwood High School with his daughters Susan and Carol.

Connie Mitchell

March 7, 2014

Our condolences to the family of William W. Bell. There is one more Marine Angel gathered in Heaven now. I was extremely proud to call this great man a true friend. His legecy will forever be etched in many places and hearts of people, not only in his home town of Brownwood, TX, ;but also in those hearts he touched worldwide. Rest in Peace and God Bless You, Bill.
Connie Mitchell

Jo Ellen Bell Mercer

March 7, 2014

We will miss you Cousin Bill--your dedication to conservation of the land, to the administration of the law, and the preservation of local history---also your patriotism, your love of your family, your irreverent humor, caustic comments and your marshmallow heart...we will miss you a lot.