[Updated 8:15 p.m. with info on memorial services]
Ray Bell, who built a construction firm that came to dominate public-sector contracting in Tennessee, passed away early this morning. He was 69.
In choosing Bell as one of the state's most powerful people several years ago, Business Tennessee magazine called him "Tennessee's king of the road and political kingmaker." His Bell & Associates Construction L.P. and its predecessor companies were long recognized as the leading roadbuilders in the state. Bell also played leading roles in building Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center, downtown arena and Justice Adolphus A. Birch Building, as well as the Thompson Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus and many other public projects.
In the private sector, Bell partnered in the construction of the iconic BellSouth Tower — or "Batman Building," as it is often called — in downtown Nashville.
Like most contractors that bid on government-funded projects, Bell assiduously cultivated political connections. He was a close ally of former Democratic Gov. Ned McWherter and supporter of many other Democratic candidates and causes, including the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina). But he joined the Tennessee finance committee of former Republican Senator Fred Thompson's 2008 run for the presidency, and in recent years he supported other GOP causes as well.
In 2006, Bell ceded ownership of the construction company to sons Darek and Brad as well as senior executives. He remained involved in a consulting capacity.
Born in Scottsboro, Ala., Bell was raised in Shelbyville. He graduated from the University of the South in 1963 with an honors degree in English. After working for a Shelbyville construction company for six years, he came to Nashville in 1969 and started his company in 1970.
Among many other civic involvements, Bell was active in the Tennessee State Museum Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation.
Visitation and funeral services will be held at Brentwood Baptist Church, located at 7777 Concord Road, Brentwood, Tenn., 37027. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., and on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010, from 1-2 p.m., with funeral services taking place from 2-4 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Harris-Hillman Special Education School, 1706 26th Ave., South, Nashville, Tenn. 37212.
We intend to publish reminiscences of Ray Bell's life and works from his friends and associates later this weekend. Any comments will be welcomed and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ALEX B FRUIN INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDACE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDANCE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; FRUIN, ALEX B TRUSTEE; FRUIN ALEX B INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC, CANDACE F TRUSTEE; STEFANSIC CANDACE F INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC CANDANCE F INHERITANCE TRUST
- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS