Jewel Bell first came to King College in 1952 to fill a two-week vacancy as a maid in Bristol Hall. That temporary job led to a permanent career that has included many responsibilities during her 70-year tenure, including switchboard operator, building supervisor, and executive administrative assistant for communications.
She has greeted thousands of visitors and answered countless calls throughout the years, been a second mother to several generations of King graduates, and served as a trusted friend to those on campus and throughout the community – always with an endearing smile that has become her trademark.
Born in 1929 in the Bristol home her grandfather built, Jewel was the only child of a single parent. She credits her mother for teaching her to mind her manners, love the Lord, and work hard every day. Despite her husband’s objections, she took her first job at King to help make ends meet and stayed at the insistence of then President R.T.L. Liston. After several years as a maid, she moved to Parks Hall to operate the newly installed switchboard and supervise the new female dorm. Over the years, she continued to take on new tasks and pitch in where needed. She now occupies a prominent place in the E.W. King Building, helping visitors find their way and serving as a gatekeeper to the president’s office.
Despite her many campus duties, she found time to share her talents with the Bristol community as a long-time member of Lee Street Baptist Church, the YWCA of Bristol’s Board of Directors, the American Red Cross, the Slater Community Center, and Healing Hands Health Center. In 2017, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslem declared her an Aide-de-Camp, an honor that carries the title of Tennessee Colonel. In recognition of her long-standing service to the Bristol community, Jewel was recently honored as Grand Marshal of the 2021 Bristol Chamber Christmas Parade.
King has previously recognized her many decades of distinguished service by presenting her with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in 1980, naming a campus street in her honor in 2017 (Jewel Bell Lane), presenting her with the university’s first-ever Lifetime Service Award in 2017, and establishing the Jewel H. Bell Scholarship which has provided more than $2.3 million in aid to students since 2008. In 2019, Jewel received the university’s Honorary Alumni Award, becoming the first-ever honorary alumna of King University.
Although she has shared so much of herself with others, Jewel took great care to establish a loving home and make her own family a top priority. She was a devoted wife to, Lawrence, her husband of 50 years, and raised three children – all of whom are college educated. Together, they have blessed her with seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.