Remembering Ray Bell: 'A Rock, a Fighter and a Teddy Bear'



Ray Bell
  • Ray Bell
I didn't know Ray Bell, but I had long heard there was more to him than the gruff, rumpled, pugnacious persona he affected in public life. Now that he's gone, those who knew the whole man have been sharing memories of him for the reaction story I have put up at

It's a work in progress. I hope to get further comments after the holiday. But the ones that have come in so far have been eye-opening:

Ray felt that his rough and hard-driving persona gave him a competitive advantage in the construction industry — most people saw this side of him. Unknown to many was the other Ray Bell: He loved art, history and music and was probably one of the most well-read men in Tennessee. Ray’s passion for life; his generosity toward charities, employees and the less fortunate; along with his love of government, politics and his country made him one of the most influential men in Nashville’s history.
— Robert Davidson, accountant

I would call on Ray, and he would always take my call cheerfully, listen intently then write the check. Ray's quick smile and affection for his friends was inspiring. It would not surprise me to know he is already at work building a new staircase to heaven.
— Nan Parrish, community volunteer

An incredibly committed leader and an unparalleled fundraiser and friend-raiser, Mr. Bell was a rock, a fighter, and a teddy bear, all rolled into one. He could even be a bit scary at times — precisely the trait which made him so commanding in any task he undertook. He was absolutely larger than life — incomparable, irrepressible, irresistible, irreplaceable and almost immortal.
— Lois Riggins-Ezzell, Executive Director, Tennessee State Museum

Relationships were very important to him, and he was a master at cultivating deep and lasting friendships. He was a rock for many people. Fathers and sons don’t always have the best communication, yet we used to talk for hours like old friends. Because, quite simply, we were.
— Darek Bell

Have you got a Ray Bell story to tell? Leave it in the comments below, or send to

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