Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recalling the 'devilish' Holley Mack Bell

When the Greensboro Daily News and Greensboro Record were moving out of their aging red-brick building at the corner of Friendly and Davie in Greensboro 32 years ago, I spotted an old cartoon tossed into a trash bin and fetched it out.
It was one I had seen hanging on the wall since my high school days in the 1960s when as a sports correspondent I visited the newspaper to write up the box scores and stopped by to say hello to the sages in the front office. It was drawn by Hugh Haynie, who had been the paper’s editorial cartoonist until 1958, and portrayed the cartoonist drawing up his Resolutions for 1957. No. 1 on the list was “I will not draw nasty pictures of the editorial department.” Accompanying that image were three others portraying the paper’s editor, H.W. “Slim” Kendall, its associate editor, William D. “Bill” Snider and its editorial writer Holley Mack Bell as devils, complete with pointed tails, horns and pitchforks. Bell also wore a bowtie, a sure-fire giveaway to the cloven-footed devil inside.
Haynie, the cartoonist, went on to a colorful career at the Louisville Courier Journal, where he gave Richard Nixon, among many others, the fits.
That cartoon has gone with me through various moves throughout a long career, including a stint as an editorial writer at the Daily News and the newly merged News & Record many years ago. I have a small collection of editorial cartoons - mostly autographed copies - from some of the best in the business - Dwane Powell of the N&O, the late Jeff MacNelley, and the Observer’s inimitable Kevin Siers.
It wasn’t until several years ago when Bland Simpson asked me to speak to the N.C. Writers Conference that I finally met Holley Mack Bell and got to tell him that he has enjoyed a place of honor on my wall for decades. Bell had completed most of a fascinating career in journalism by then and was living in the little Eastern N.C. town of Windsor and doing some work for his beloved Episcopal church. He had forgotten all about the Haynie cartoon until I mentioned it.
He was born in the 1920s, graduated from UNC’s School of Journalism and served in Europe in the Army during World War II and was a historian at Bad Nauheim in postwar years.
He was a journalist down home, managing the Bertie Ledger-Advance, and a reporter at the old Charlotte News before moving on to the Daily News in Greensboro. He later joined the U.S. Information Agency and was press attache at U.S. embassies in Chile and Colombia and public affairs officer in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. After returning to North Carolina he became involved with the Historic Hope Foundation, the Historic Murfreesboro Commission and the Museum of the Albemarle, and was president of Friends of Joyner Library at East Carolina University.
Holley Mack Bell died Sunday in Windsor. Those who knew him will celebrate his life Wednesday at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Windsor. And I’ll raise a toast to my impish, bow-tied fellow ink-stained wretch, still hanging on the office wall of an editorial department after half a century.

16 comments:

Kirk Ross said...

Thanks Jack. He was a good man and a true inspiration.

BUD COX said...

Having been a fellow staffer at the Charlotte News, I was saddened to learn of Holley Mack Bell's death. On a visit to the Bells in Washington, DC, Mack told us of his having to draw up daily news briefs for the "Big Double R" as a part of his job there. I will remember him not as a "devil", but as the epitome of a Southern Gentleman. Bud Cox

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