October 17, 2006

W&L ATHLETICS HALL OF FAMER BRIAN BELL '49 PASSES AWAY

LEXINGTON, Va. -- Brian Bell '49, a 1994 inductee into the Washington and Lee Athletic Hall of Fame, passed away on Thu., Oct. 5 at his home in Virginia Beach, Va., after a valiant battle against cancer.

Bell, 80, was a star football and baseball player for the Generals before playing professional football briefly with the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions. He was also on the verge of signing a baseball contract with the New York Giants before suffering a knee injury that ended his professional sports career.

In football, Bell was a two-way back and dangerous return man. He earned All-State honors as a senior after leading the team in rushing, scoring and interceptions. He held the school records for season (27.2 ypr) and career (24.5 ypr) kickoff returns until just recently and is remembered for a 94-yard touchdown runback against the University of Richmond in 1947. The runback was aided by a photographer's flash that caused two Richmond players to tackle his lead blocker and was one of the Associated Press' sports oddities of the year.

In baseball, Bell used his combination of power and speed to earn all-state honors in 1947, 1948 and 1949. A team captain for the 1949 season, Bell had his best year in 1948 when he batted .419 and led the Southern Conference with six home runs and 22 stolen bases.

After his professional sports career ended, Bell switched to journalism, working all over the world as a correspondent and bureau chief for the Associated Press in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Among the events he covered was Isreal's capture of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina. He later joined the diplomatic service in 1960, where he rubbed elbows with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson while serving in Mexico, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Chile.

Bell is survived by his wife of 49 years, Sue Ransom Bell of Virginia Beach; two stepsons, Morris E. Flater of Alexandria and Jeff Flater of Chicago; a daughter, Lisa Bell Ashford of Norfolk, Va.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

-- GENERALS --