The Coach Curtis Bell gymnasium and bronze bust was dedicated in a touching ceremony at Heritage on Dec. 11 that reunited the wide range of people whose lives the late basketball coach had touched.
In the audience were family members and old friends from Augusta, teammates from his alma mater Morris Brown College, where he played basketball and baseball, former students from JP Carr and Heritage, and community members.
“It's an honor and privilege to witness this for my husband,” said Bell’s widow, Gwen Bell, flanked by her daughters Djana and Damese Bell. Gwen Bell said she grew to enjoy basketball games after marrying her husband and watching so many of his games over their 28 years of marriage. Etched on the bronze bust is Bell’s record of 508-93.
“He brought a lot of excitement to this gym,” she said. “Thank you on behalf of Coach Bell’s family. I appreciate the recognition you have done for him today.”
Person after person spoke of Bell’s character, generosity, intense but respectful competitiveness on the court, humbleness, and integrity.
Dr. Roscoe Williams, a friend, described his character. “Curtis had tremendous integrity. Whatever he said, he did,” said Williams.
Coach Cleveland Stroud, who coached at rival Rockdale County High School but was also a close friend of Bell’s, said they never let their on-court rivalry interfere with their friendship.
Rev. Aldren Sadler, president of the Progressive Club which organized and raised funds for the bust and new gym name, described the circumstances when Bell began coaching at JP Carr. The basketball team had been suspended for reportedly breaking the windows of a Gwinnett team’s bus. It was also the beginning of voluntary integration.
“When Curtis Bell came to Rockdale, he didn’t let the environment of the situation change him, he changed them,” said Sadler. “He was a mentor, he was a father, and he was a friend to many of us in the community.”
Williams also spoke of Bell’s love for the school where he coached for 18 years. “You’re meeting us for the first time, but Curtis was so in love with you, Heritage High School,” said Williams. “Curtis came back to Augusta and told everybody about Heritage long before it was built. He said, in so many words, it would be a different school.”
In summing up Bell’s legacy, Stroud said, “You should be judged by what you leave to others. Coach Bell has left a lot to a lot of us.”