JANS – Longtime professor/researcher and music connoisseur, Dr. Jimmy Lee (Jacque) Bell transitioned December 14, 2023, three weeks shy of his 80th birthday. Family and friends gathered December 23, 2023, at Lakeover Memorial Funeral Home in north Jackson to celebrate his life and contributions in the areas of criminal justice and entertainment. Besides educating thousands of college students over a course of 44 years, Dr. Bell directed the path of numerous up and coming jazz and blues musicians, including internationally acclaimed saxophonist Kyle Turner who paid tribute to his mentor with a special selection.
The eulogy was delivered by longtime friend and spiritual guide, Rev. Clifford D. Wilson, Pastor, First United Baptist Church, Indianola, MS. “I’m sure by now, Jimmy has found the LP section and is going through all the albums,” he jokingly told the mourners.
A lot of laughter was heard throughout the memorial service from stories shared by close friends and family members. However, Rev. Wilson gave the okay to cry as well. “I’m not going to tell you (family members) not to cry. Through our weakness, God strengthens us. We should cry with you. When Jesus saw Mary and Martha crying, the Bible says he wept.”
Jimmy Bell was born on January 4, 1944, in Indianola, Mississippi, and was raised with an abundance of love and security by Magnolia and Eugene (Simp) Simpson. He was educated in the Indianola Public School System and graduated from Gentry High School in 1963.
Recognized for his athletic talent in football, he earned the nickname “Quick Feet.” He also excelled in academics and received college scholarships in both academics and athletics.
Staying close to home, Jimmy completed his undergraduate degree at Mississippi Valley State College (MVSC) and graduate degree program at Mississippi State College.
He began his professional career at MVSC, later moving to Jackson State College, now Jackson State University (JSU).
In 1971, he met Clara Johnson McGee. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and life-long love.
During his 45-year tenure at JSU, Jimmy established the Department of Criminal Justice. He created the National Coalition of Community Researchers, Inc. (NCCR); implemented the Jackson State University Center for the Study of Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Intervention (CSJDPI); and was a founding member of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice (NABCJ).
He was a pioneer in “community policing” long before the concept surfaced in literature by such a name.
Professor Bell served as a Consultant to the Board of Directors for the National Black Police Association (NBPA). He co-authored the book, “Blacks and Criminal Justice,” and served in various capacities for the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Pace Law School, Harvard Law School, and Yale University. Jimmy also provided services to numerous organizations, attorneys, and individuals as an expert witness, grant writer, and consultant.
As much as he was committed to advancing minority representation within the field of Criminal Justice, “JAZZ! JAZZ! JAZZ! was his passion. Introduced to jazz at an early age by his uncles, and exposed to a variety of jazz genres, Jimmy emerged as a preeminent jazz aficionado and promoter.
He established a local jazz venue, THE JAZZ GALLERY, which was housed in the basement of the now historic site of the Summers Hotel. He later created, for his pleasure, the BLUE NOTE EXPERIENCE. A welcoming atmosphere of generosity and entertainment, this was his home-away-from-home.
Jimmy was preceded in death by his parents, Eugene and Magnolia Bell Simpson.
He leaves to celebrate his life, honor his legacy, and cherish his memory: “Darling” wife, Clara; four daughters, Sonya (Jay) Smith, Arlinda (David) Day, Meredith McGee, and Rasheda Bell; a special son, Thaddeus (Kalia) Reed; six grandchildren, Jayson and Jared Smith, Odessa Staffney, Artavian and Taylor Washington, and Nicholas Kingston Jimmy Bell; and special grandchildren, Thaddeus (T.) and Karter Reed. He also leaves one precious great-granddaughter, Zuri Rose Washington and two aunts, Sandra Bell Stewart and Emma Jean Bell (Alfred) McClinton. He will fondly be remembered by beloved cousins, a loving extended family, honored friends from across the decades, and a host of professional collaborators and music lovers by whom his life was enriched.