Muriel Barrow Bell

December 23, 1913 - December 3, 2011
Muriel Barrow Bell

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Mrs. Muriel Barrow Bell, 97, died December 3 at her home in Hendersonville, NC. She was born in Savannah, December 23, 1913, the daughter of Elfrida DeRenne Barrow and Dr. Craig Barrow. She attended the Pape School in Savannah, the Holton Arms School in Washington, D.C., and was a graduate in 1936 of the University of Georgia. She was the widow of Malcolm Bell, Jr., of Savannah, who died in 2001.

Before moving with her husband from Savannah to Hendersonville in 1991, she had served on the boards of the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, Historic Savannah, Inc., and the Wormsloe Foundation from its inception in 1951. She wrote many book reviews for the Savannah Morning News and during the Viet Nam era was one of the organizers of Common Cause and Beyond War in Savannah. After her marriage in 1936 she and her husband jointly undertook ambitious projects in photography, including documentation of early architecture in Savannah, and a series of photographs for the book Drums and Shadows (University of Georgia Press, 1940; several later editions), a ground-breaking study sponsored by the Georgia WPA of surviving elements of African culture in the black communities of the Georgia coast. The Bells’ sympathetic portrait-like images of Georgian African-Americans were shown at the Telfair Academy in Savannah in 1940 and later were the subject of an exhibition at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Emory University in 1994, for which Mrs. Bell provided an account of the project. The pictures were praised by the prominent photographer Lewis W. Hine. Careers in photography were interrupted by the Second World War. Mrs Bell later actively assisted her husband’s historical research, which culminated in the publication of his book Major Butler’s Legacy (University of Georgia Press, 1987). An interested and supportive friend of many young people, she and her husband had a wide circle of friends in Savannah and later in Hendersonville. She was a skilled equestrian and in her youth served as an equestrian instructor at Camps Rockbrook and Chatooga.

Survivors include a son Malcolm Bell, III, and daughter-in-law Ruth of Charlottesville, VA; a son Craig Barrow Bell of Salem, MA, and companion Giles Laroche; a grandson Raphael Austin Bell of Paris, and companion Aki Sauliere; a granddaughter Margaret Cornelia Bell of Berlin, a great-grandson Laurens Rosinski; and several beloved nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Remembrances: Four Seasons Hospice, 571 South Allen Road, Flat Rock, NC 28731; Telfair Museum of Art, 121 Barnard Street, Savannah, GA 31401.

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    Our condolences go out to the Bell family. Mrs. Bell was a very dear and spirited soul. We will miss her.