Longtime dentist Dr. Lawrence Bell Jr. dies at 77

— He was the immaculately dressed dentist with the warm smile. He was the giving dentist who would give of his services even when people didn’t have the money to pay. He was the dentist who mentored countless aspiring dentists. He was the dentist with the familiar practice at 3326 Auchentoroly Terrace. He was Dr. Lawrence Bell, Jr., and on Friday, May 18, 2018, the legendary dentist passed away. According to family, the 77-year-old died after a lengthy illness.

Funeral services for Dr. Bell will take place Friday, May 25, 2018 at the United House of Prayer for All People, 3401 Edgewood Road in Baltimore. The viewing will take place from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Services will take place on Saturday, May 26, 2018. The wake will begin at 10 a.m., with the funeral starting at 11 a.m.

Dr. Bell was born in Baltimore, and graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1960. He became the first in his family to attend college, attending Morgan State College (now Morgan State University), where he pursued a degree in biology. It was there that he met Elinor Willis, his wife of 57 years, whom he married in 1961. They had two sons, Lawrence Bell III, followed by another son, Marshall Bell.

The eldest Bell is a former Baltimore City Council President. He reflected on his father’s life.

“He was a trailblazer,” said Bell. “He was my hero in many ways, and the ultimate father figure. My father was a scientist, but went back to school when the University of Maryland began to allow blacks to attend. That spoke of his resilience and tenacity.”

Dr. Bell was among the first African-American students to graduate from the University of Maryland, School of Dentistry, receiving his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1974. After a brief period practicing at the Provident Druid Health Clinic on West North Avenue, and at an office on Duvall Avenue with his friend, Dr. Willie Richardson, he opened his famed practice – The Bell Dental Center at the corner of Auchentoroly Terrace and Gwynns Falls Parkway, across from Druid Hill Park.

“He was really loved,” said Bell. “Everywhere I went, people would say, ‘You are Dr. Bell’s son. How is he doing?’ Several generations were patients of his, or knew someone who was a patient of his. He was down to earth and never lost the common touch. He was a very generous man and always helped people who didn’t have the means. He discounted services so much, that sometimes he didn’t make anything.”

He added, “He especially helped children, and those who were down and out. He never let a child in pain walk out of his dental office.”

According to Bell, his father practiced for 44 years.

“He saw his last patient just three months ago,” said Bell. “The people he saw ran the spectrum. They included everyday people as well as prominent members of the community. His patients were a Who’s Who of Baltimore. In his heyday, he probably saw as many people as any dentist in Baltimore City. He really cared about people and African American business.”

According to Bell, his mother who is a retired 35-year Baltimore City Public School teacher – helped his father run the practice.

“They did everything together,” said Bell.

In addition to membership in Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, Inc., Baltimore Alumnae Chapter, and the Auchentoroly Terrace Association, Dr. Bell was a member of the National Dental Society, Inc., State of Maryland Chapter; member of the Frederick Douglass High School Alumnae Organization; and lifetime member of the NAACP, Baltimore City Chapter.

“My father really did a lot for people,” said Bell. “Over the years, he employed many people. I got my commitment to serve the community from my father. “He was really committed to his Alma Maters Douglass High School and Morgan State.”

Dr. Bell was the second of five children born to the late Lawrence Bell, Sr. and Roxie Bell. He regularly attended The House of Prayer for All People with his family, and in recent years, reconfirmed his faith by being baptized at Christian Memorial Church. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, which included The Thurgood Marshall Award by the NAACP, Baltimore City Chapter in 2012.

“My father was a staple in the community,” said Bell. “We will keep the Bell Dental Center going in his legacy. He had other dentists who are here now. It will remain open in his honor.”

All African American 231st Transportation Truck Battalion Celebrates 67th Anniversary

The Veterans of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion will celebrate their 67th Anniversary of being ordered to active duty by the Maryland National Guard on August 18, 1950 to support the Korean War, by attending church service at the Open Bible House of Prayers Baptist Church located at 3814 Gwynn Oak Avenue in Baltimore on Sunday, August 20, 2017. The Pastor is Rev. Seawall Smith.

Many citizens of the Baltimore Region may not be aware of the significance behind this veterans organization’s determination for many years to share the contributions with the wider communities by African Americans who answered the country’s call to war when needed.

Louis S. Diggs, (right) a member of the 726th truck company with his brother George A. Diggs, a member of the 24th Infantry Regiment. They spent Christmas of 1951 together in Korea.

Courtesy Photo

Louis S. Diggs, (right) a member of the 726th truck company with his brother George A. Diggs, a member of the 24th Infantry Regiment. They spent Christmas of 1951 together in Korea.

The all African American 231st Transportation Truck Battalion with it’s three Transportation Truck Companies, began as a semi-military African American organization in the early 1880s called the “Monumental City Guards,” who militarily competed with like semi-military units. Upon inspection by the Maryland National Guard in 1883, all of the units were accepted into the Maryland National Guards as “Separate Companies.” Only the Monumental City Guards continued for many years with the Guard and eventually became the “First Separate Company.”

The First Separate Company was activated during the Spanish American War, World War I where they fought in France with the French Army; World War II where they ended up in the Pacific. In 1947, the unit was converted to the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion, with the 147th 165th and 726th Transportation Truck Companies. The entire Battalion consisted of only African Americans, commanded by an African American Lieutenant Colonel.

WWII image of LTC Vernon F. Greene, Commander of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion took units from the 231st to Korea on August 19, 1950.

Courtesy Photos

WWII image of LTC Vernon F. Greene, Commander of the 231st Transportation Truck Battalion took units from the 231st to Korea on August 19, 1950.

While the battalion was participating in their summer encampment in Virginia, in 1950 the entire battalion was ordered to active duty to support the Korean War. On August 19, 1950 the battalion had a mass formation in front of the Richmond Market Armory on Howard Street in Baltimore, and marched to the train station located at the end of the North Avenue bridge and was sent to Camp Edwards in Massachusetts for training. The 165th Truck Company remained in Baltimore until they were brought up to full strength, then they were sent to an Army base in Virginia.

Before 1950 came to an end, the Battalion Headquarters and the 726th Truck Company were ordered to Korea. After an extremely lengthy train ride across the United States, the units arrived in Seattle, Washington, where they joined with many other transportation units and boarded the troop ship “Sergeant Sylvester Antolak” for the long ocean voyage to Korea.

The ship arrived in Pusan, Korea on December 31, 1950 where the 726th Truck Company was selected to be immediately off-loaded and rushed into duty to begin moving units north during the United Nations Offensive and United Nation Summer-Fall Offensive Campaigns.

The 726th made history by being the first United States National Guard unit to arrive in Korea to support the war. The 231st Truck Battalion off-loaded the next day and began doing their share in the war effort. The two units were separated during the war. The units were required to operate under segregated conditions during the War.

As the men from the 231st Truck Battalion and 726th Truck Company completed their tours in Korea and returned home, members had to fight segregation all over again because the Maryland National Guard refused to allow them to continue their contracts to serve because the colors of the 231st Truck Battalion had not returned. This led to strong petitions by the officers of the 231st who refused to return as a segregated battalion because they felt they fought and earned the right to integrate the Maryland National Guard, which occurred in 1955 when the colors of the 231st were returned to the state of Maryland.

From 1953 to 1955, the 231st was organized under segregated conditions in the Maryland National Guard under the command of Captain Jesse P. Peaker. Then, in 1955 the governor of Maryland integrated the Maryland National Guard, the 231st Truck Battalion which was again reorganized under the command of Lt. Colonel Vernon F. Greene, who commanded the battalion when it was ordered to Korea.

It remained as such until 1960 when the name of 231st Transportation Truck Battalion was eliminated and began a new career as the 229th Transportation Battalion.

Howard Park Senior Center Choir Hold Black History Program

— The Howard Park Senior Center Choir held a Black History Month program on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

The Howard Park Senior Center Choir is one of the many programs and activities offered by The Forest Park Senior Center, located at 4801 Liberty Heights Avenue in Gwynn Oak. The event drew a capacity crowd to the Center’s auditorium.

Iantha Dixon was the Mistress of Ceremonies for the event, which included performances by the Forest Park Senior Center Choir, The Helping Up Mission, “Brother L.”, Elsie Greene and Gloria Johnson. The event also included lunch sponsored by The Howard Park Senior Center Choir. Thelma McBride serves as the Choir’s Director.

Barbara Honeycutt Pickett is a member of the Howard Park Senior Center Choir. She also serves as the Editor of The Howard Park Newsletter and participates in the center’s sewing room and aerobics classes.

“The Howard Park Senior Center Choir is very appreciative of all of our Black History Month participants,” said Pickett. “We thank all of our participants and our vendors and all those who made the event possible.”

She added, “All of the proceeds raised from this event go back to the Forest Park Senior Center, which is a recreational playground for seniors.”

According to the Rev. James Worthy, he serves as Executive Director of the Forest Park Senior Center, while James “Winky” Camphor heads its Board of Directors.

For the Black History Program, each table included framed photos of trailblazing African-Americans, which included Bessie Coleman, Frederick Douglass, Barack Obama, and Rosa Parks. The program also included a Poetry Reading by Retha Dilbert and Black History Facts, which highlighted the history of ushering in the African American church, and the beginnings of the Morton Moving Company. Vashtied Brown delivered the Welcoming Address, and Hortense C. Mason read a Scripture.

“Today was such a blessing,” said Elsie Raynor of the Howard Park Senior Center Choir. ”It was something different. We also had a great turnout. Black History Month is a very special time of the year, so this was a special occasion. It was beautiful.”

The Forest Park Senior Center also offers a variety of other programs. They include an “Eating Together Program every Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 12:45 for $1.25, a variety of dancing programs, Bingo and other activities.

For more information about the Forest Park Senior Center, call 410-466-2124.