Friends, family remember civil rights leader Ezekiel Bell

Friends, family remember civil rights leader Reverend Bell

(WMC-TV) - One of the earliest leaders in the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King died one week ago.  But he was one of the leaders we often don't hear much about.

"He was a man of small stature but a giant among us," said SCLC President Dwight Montgomery.

Civil rights activist, Reverend Ezekiel Bell was the founding president of the Memphis Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"Here was this short yet courageous man, when he stood up it was as if he was still sitting down, but he spoke out," said Montgomery.

He was a former Huntsville, Alabama preacher, who, when Dr. Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy were unable to lodge in local hotels due to segregation, allowed them to stay at his home.

A former Huntsville, Alabama preacher...when Dr. Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy were unable to lodge in local hotels because of segregation, it was Bell who allowed them to stay at his him in Alabama.

"As one would say an unsung hero, he had so much impact," said Montgomery.

Current SCLC President Dwight Montgomery says after the torch was passed in 2004, he was inspired by his friendship with Reverend Bell.

"I knew that those would be some big shoes to fill," he acknowledged.

Nephew to late the Reverend, Radio Personality Stan Bell, remembers his uncles courage.

"What amazed me is that at such a young age he was going up against the establishment and the movers and shakers of this city. He was just 26 or 27," said Stan Bell.

"We need more young people to stand up and speak truth to power, such as the young people at Carver High," said Montgomery, referring to the high school students who staged a protest earlier this week.

Bell played a lead role in the late 60s alongside activists Maxine Smith and Leroy Clark in the nonviolent school boycotts now known as Black Mondays.

Bell died at age 77 and those who knew him best say his life exemplified the phrase "if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."

"That may sound cliché and we've heard that from time to time but that's really what he was all about, standing for something," said Stan Bell.

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