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David E. Bell

David E. Bell (1919-2000) was a director of the United States' Office of Management and Budget from January 22, 1961 until December 20, 1962 under President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy named him director of the Agency for International Development in late 1962. He left government service in 1966 to become the Executive Vice President of the Ford Foundation.[1]


Personal life

David and Mary Bell with their two children c. 1954

David E. Bell was born on January 20, 1919, in Jamestown, North Dakota, to Florence and Reginald Bell. He spent part of his youth in San Francisco, while his father was teaching at Stanford University.
In 1939 he received a B.A. from Pomona College, California, and in 1941 a M.A. in economics from Harvard University.
On November 17, 1943, he married Mary Louise Barry. When they met, Mary worked at the Commerce Department and later was employed as a 4th grade teacher. David and Mary had two children: a daughter Susan, born December 20, 1944, and a son Peter, born March 22, 1948. The Bells and their children traveled extensively in all parts of the world, and lived in several locations, including New York City, Boston, MA, Washington D.C., and Karachi, Pakistan. He continued to travel the world with his wife up until the time of his death.
Bell died of leukemia on September 6, 2000, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 81 years old. He is survived by his two children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Bell was notably tall and thin, and had an avid interest in arts and crafts. His home was filled with items he and his wife collected on their many trips abroad. Both Bell and his wife loved jazz and had friends in the arts. They were socially progressive for their time regarding sexual orientation, race and religion. The Bells strongly opposed segregation and sent their children to integrated schools.[2]

Military service

Bell joined the United States Marine Corps in December, 1942. He was trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, Camp Pendleton, California, and Quantico, Virginia, where he was an instructor. He served on land in Pearl Harbor from July 1945 until he was released from active duty on 21 September of the same year, at which point he was a First Lieutenant. He was promoted to the rank of Captain on 19 July 1948 and was honorably discharged on December 16, 1957.

Government Service

In 1942, he became a staff member at the Bureau of the Budget. During W.W. II (1942 to 1945) he served in the Marine Corps. From 1947 to 1951, Bell alternated between a position on the staff at the Bureau of the Budget, and a position as a special assistant to President Harry Truman. In 1951, Bell became Administrative Executive to the President. In these positions Bell worked on the formulation and evaluation of the administration's economic policies and programs. During this time, Bell also worked as a speech writer for President Truman.[1]

President Kennedy with a picture of Bell

In 1952, Bell left Washington temporarily to join the campaign staff of the Democratic nominee for president, Adlai Stevenson. Bell served Stevenson as a speech writer and as Stevenson's White House liaison. When the Truman administration ended in January 1953, Bell returned to private life. At the end of 1960, President-elect Kennedy asked Bell to become the Director of the Bureau of the Budget. Bell accepted, and was immediately put to work during the Eisenhower/Kennedy transition helping to formulate the new administration's economic policy. Some of Bell's other tasks were to map out legislative proposals and strategy, and to review the proposals made by other government agencies. At the end of 1962, President Kennedy asked Bell to become the new Administrator for the Agency for International Development, created in response to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.[3] In this post Bell worked at developing foreign aid programs and legislation and appealing for funds and fighting budget cutbacks.[4]

Ford Foundation Work

Bell left the government in the summer of 1966, and became Executive Vice President of the Ford Foundation, a private independent institution dedicated to advancing social justice in the US and in developing nations. During his time at the Ford Foundation, Bell was a member of a large number of advisory committees dealing with foreign aid and government reorganization. He left the Ford Foundation in 1980.[4]

Preceded by
Maurice Stans
Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget
January 22, 1961 - December 20, 1962
Succeeded by
Kermit Gordon


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