CAMBRIDGE, Md. - Mrs. Virginia Askins Bell, affectionately known as "Topsie", a native of Cambridge, MD, passed away on Saturday, April 2nd, at Englewood Hospital, Englewood, NJ. She was born December 18, 1835 to the late Vatice Askins Colder and George Douglas Sr. She was married to James Bell of New York City on August 26, 1961. A 1953 graduate of Mace's Lane High School, Mrs. Bell received a Bachelor of Science degree from Maryland State College (University of Maryland Eastern Shore). Following graduation, she accepted a teaching position at Henry Highland Garnet High School in Chestertown, MD. As a result of her outstanding work with her New Homemakers of America Club, she was selected as State Chaperone of delegates to the national convention in her second year of teaching. The first time such a selection had ever been made. Mrs. Bell also had two Master's Degrees from New York University and a PHD. In June 1960, she left Garnet High School to move to New York City. She qualified as a teacher in New York State and accepted her first teaching assignment at Markham Junior High School on Staten Island. Mrs. Bell and her husband, Jim were both lovers of jazz and sailed on jazz cruises, in addition to other cruises, for well over twenty years. They loved to travel and did so throughout the U.S. and other countries, such as France, Russia and the Caribbean.
Mrs. Bell became very active in Harlem politics while residing in Harlem, NY. She joined the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club (Political Club of Charles Rangel and the late Percy Sutton). She became the local district leader with the then Assemblyman Charles Rangel when he announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress against the late Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. She joined his campaign staff and worked diligently in this successful campaign. In 1965, Mrs. Bell, along with Borough President Percy Sutton, ran for Democratic district leaders' posts representing Central Harlem and won. She won re-election to a third two-year term. She joined Congressman Rangel's staff in 1971 as his district administrator heading the political and community operations on behalf of the congressman and ran the district office until 1975 when she left to assume the duties as director of the New York State University Educational Opportunity Center. A student and lecturer of politics, she also wrote and education column for the weekly "New York Courier" and sat on many civic advisory committees in the Harlem area. Although Mrs. Bell and her husband Jim relocated to Wayne, NJ in the early 70's, she remained active in Harlem politics and was a part of the Rangel family supporting him in all his campaigns for the past 40 years. During Congressman Rangel's 2010 campaign, both she and her husband attended fundraiser's and also supported him in every way.
In addition to her husband, James Bell; a daughter, Melissa Bell and a brother, George Douglas Jr.; survivors include a host of cousins and friends. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, April 9, 2011 12 noon at Bethel AME Church 623 Pine St Cambridge, MD with a viewing Friday evening 6-8pm and one hour prior to service at the church. Interment in East New Market Cemetery. Memorial contributions made to the American Cancer Society. Condolences sent to Henry Funeral Home's website.