Left to Right: Harold Bell, DC Mayor Marion Barry and Hattie Bell
Hattie T. Bell was the first born in Orangeburg, S. C. to Civil Rights icons the late Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr. and Elease Thomas. Her mother was a school teacher and her father taught psychology at South Carolina State University. He was also the President of the local chapter of the NAACP and he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the early 50s.
There is a faded Christmas card received from Dr. King to the Thomas family during the holidays. Dr. King is seen sitting on the left and Dr. Thomas is seen standing on the right in the home of the Thomas Family.
Dr. Thomas is a graduate of Dunbar High School in Washington, DC
Dr. Thomas coordinated the first ever student-registration drive on the campus of South Carolina State University that quickly spread across the state of South Carolina. He was inducted into the Black South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2007.
Dr. Thomas and his wife led Orangeburg residents on the march for Civil Rights
In the meantime, his oldest daughter Hattie and her siblings followed him and his wife Elease to the picket lines to protest racial discrimination in the city of Orangeburg. Dr. Thomas rescuing his children, Hattie T. can be seen in sun glasses, Reggie and Loretta from the Orangeburg jail.
Hattie is a graduate of Claflin University in Orangeburg and received her Masters Degree at Indiana University. She landed her first teaching job in Greensboro, NC at the HBCU Bennett College.
In 1967, she moved to Washington, DC, which she considered her second home and accepted a job in the DC Public Schools at Cardozo High School in the NW Shaw/Cardozo community. The school was located several blocks from the historical U Street corridor. Hattie’s first teaching assignment—girls swimming coach. It was here she met Civil and Human Rights and youth advocate Harold Bell her future husband.
He was volunteering as the wide receiver coach for the Cardozo football team. He was the wide receiver coach for DC Public School’s Inter-High West All-Stars.
Hattie taught swimming to beginners in the Cardozo HS pool. Harold was several blocks away with Redskins’ RB Larry Brown and the late LB Harold McLinton at the “Kids In Trouble” Hillcrest Saturday Program. There NFL Films/CBS Sports was videotaping the first ever national television community promo for the NFL. Larry and Harold where teaching water safety to inner-city youth.
Hattie became engaged to Harold shortly before the 1968 riots in April and watched him take to the dangerous streets of DC as a Roving Leader and Youth Gang Task Force member for DC Department of Recreation and Parks. He had nothing but a DC police badge for protection. He was on the streets trying to negotiate peace between the armed cops and military personnel with inner-city residents.
Hattie and Harold were married in November 1968 and found “Kids In Trouble, Inc.” in December. This was just in time for their first ever KIT toy party for elementary school children.
Hattie was there when Harold’s Virginia Sailor football teammate the late George Kelly played the first ever Santa Claus. Redskins’ LB Harold McLinton, LB Dave Robinson and QB Doug Williams would follow his lead.
She was there for 45 straight years when he was the host and coordinator for toy parties for elementary school children throughout the DMV to include Baltimore without grants or loans.
She was there in 1969 when President Richard M. Nixon invited him to the White House to renew an old friendship established in the late 50s when Harold caddied for him at the Burning Tree Golf Course in Bethesda, Md.
Hattie was there in February 1974 when Harold became the first black to host and produce his own radio sports talk show “Inside Sports” in DC. NBA legend Red and his lovely wife Dotie were his first high profile in studio guest
She was there in 1974, when Congressman Lou Stokes (D-Ohio) read his name into the Congressional Record on the House Floor for his work with youth gangs and at-risk kids on the streets of the inner-city.
She was there when Muhammad Ali woke him up in the middle of the night inviting him to New York City to interview him after he stun the world with his 8th round knockout of George Foreman. She was there when he became the first black to host and produce his own sports television special in prime time on NBC affiliate WRC TV 4 in November 1975. His special guest was Muhammad Ali.
She was there when Washingtonian Magazine honored him as Washingtonian of the Year in 1980. He was the first sportscaster ever honored.
She was there on June 4, 2019 as the Executive Producer against all odds for his film, “We Remember Muhammad Ali.”
Happy Birthday (Saturday July 6, 2019) to Hattie T. Bell, “A Phenomenal Woman” standing by her men, Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr. and Harold Bell. Wishing you many more happy birthdays.
Photo #1: Harold, Hattie & Gary Johnson Photo #2: Hattie, Boxing Historian Bert Sugar and Harold
Photo credit: Top photo courtesy Alyshia Bradley Photography