Then U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell spoke at my graduation from Berry College in the spring of 1978. I don’t recall his message but his strong, clear Southern voice was pleasing to the ear.

Judge Bell died yesterday morning at age 90. He will be buried in Americus, Ga., on Wednesday with a public memorial service set for 11:00 AM on Friday at Atlanta’s Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church where he was a member.

A strong advocate of the historic freedoms that have marked Baptists and Americans, Judge Bell was often sought out for his wisdom and guidance.

“Judge Bell combined a high sense of integrity with a strong measure of grace,” said R. Kirby Godsey, former president and current chancellor of Mercer University, in a press release.

A 1948 graduate of Mercer’s law school, Bell was very loyal to his alma mater. He served six terms on the university’s Board of Trustees including holding the chairmanship from 1991-1995.

He also chaired two major fund-raising campaigns and had a chair established at the law school in his name in 1986.

In 2007, the university bestowed the rare title of Life Trustee on Judge Bell.

While a high-profile figure in American politics, Judge Bell’s long life also serves as a reminder of how important all lay leaders are to the church and church-related ministries.

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