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Evelyn Bell:
‘A Dynamo with
Grace and Style’


Evelyn Bell
Evelyn Bell: 1927-1999

Fortunately for many a harried steward or local officer in western Pennsylvania or western New York, calling the UE District Six office looking for help often meant speaking to Evelyn Bell. Her keep grasp of workplace problems and calm manner would see the local leader through the emergency until a field organizer or district officer could offer assistance.

Evelyn Bell, regarded fondly by local officers and staff as a "dynamo with grace and style," died July 25. For nearly four decades on the staff of District Six as office manager and much more, Bell devoted her considerable intelligence, skills and energy to the union. "She was an example to everyone," commented Pat McCaughtry, who succeeded Bell in 1990.

Born in 1927, Mary Evelyn Lester Bell attended schools in the Pittsburgh area and continued her education at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). After some time spent in Chicago she returned to western Pennsylvania in the early 1950s and took a temporary job as a typist with UE District Six. Local 610 leader Ted Wright, later a field organizer, and other African-American union members recommended Bell for the job of office manager.

Bell joined the union’s staff at a time when the union faced ferocious attack by major corporations, the government and others. Interviewed for the BBC The Un-Americans, documentary on the 1950s anti-communist inquisition, Bell expressed her outrage and bewilderment at the hateful attacks on decent union members. "Forty years later, it still doesn’t make sense to me," she said, telling of the "terrible human cost" she witnessed.


As office manager Bell helped transform the District Six office into a learning and resource center for locals. She developed a financial practices seminar for financial secretaries; her instructions on maintaining local books became the basic for a manual published by the National union. She assisted new locals in developing the correct UE local constitutions, grievances and financial practices. "She kept a motherly eye on the locals," McCaughtry commented.

Bell was a force for democracy within District Six by insisting that all voices — including those of women and African-Americans — be heard.

In remarks at the District Six Council meeting in February 1990, which honored Bell on her retirement, then-Dir. of Org. Ed Bruno hailed Evelyn Bell as "a fighter for social justice," who happened to make her contribution with the title "office manager."

For her part, as Bell told a June 1988 council meeting marking District Six’s 50th anniversary, the work had been "diverse but never dull." Over the years, she said, she had been impressed by the union’s dedication to "dignity for working people."

Outside of the union, her diverse interests included traveling, sewing and jazz. Her travels took to nearly every continent, from Australia to Africa and beyond.

She is survived by a daughter, Diane Banks; granddaughter, Rachael Banks; a sister and three brothers.

UE News - 10/99

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

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