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Local author shares his run-ins with notable people

Savannah Vasquez
Destin resident Elvin Bell’s latest book is called “Friends, Patriots, and Scoundrels” and offers a glimpse into the characters he’s met during his life.

Elvin Bell has led an interesting life; one that has taken him from a humble migrant farmer’s son to the to the White House, and everywhere in-between. A man of many trades, Bell’s life-long dedication to the military, business, political and academic worlds have brought him into contact with many notable people throughout the decades.

“In my career, I’ve met a lot of interesting people. I was always wearing two or three hats at the same time,” said Bell. “I’ve had three military assignments at the White House, where I advised the president and wrote material for him. I commanded seven different military units, and I did intelligence missions to Russia, Czechoslovakia and Poland. I also served 16 years in public office, as a city councilman and mayor of the city of Fresno, California.”

Bell’s 806-page memoir, “Friends, Patriots, and Scoundrels,”  is a collection of short stories detailing his friendships, acquaintances and chance meetings with more than 75 prominent people. Some of those names include John Lennon of The Beatles and his wife Yoko Ono, Politian and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Former president Ronald Reagan.

  “When I was serving on the faculty of the National War College in D.C. in 1972, I went in to sit in on the Watergate investigation,” said Bell. “I was ushered in by the security to the second row to the front, and pretty soon security brought in a woman seated next to me and a man to her right, both with their heads shaven. Then it finally occurred to me it was John Lennon and his wife Yoko.”

Bell said that during the hearing he passed along several pieces of paper from those seated around him to be signed by the musical legend. However the main encounter Bell shared with Lennon was not a pleasant one, as he details in the memoir a brief conversation with the musician.

“It’s amazing how arrogant people get when they are famous,” Bell said of his takeaway from the encounter.

One notable character that Bell said did not let fame go to his head was Ronald Reagan. Bell served Reagan for several years as a very close advisor and speech writer.

“I managed his campaigns for governor and I helped him run for president,” said Bell. “I then served him in the White House and in the Pentagon from ’81 to ‘85.”

Bell shared that he served under five U.S. presidents in both military and speech-writing capacities, but Reagan was by far his favorite. 

“He was the most delightful and pleasant person in office that I have ever met,” Bell said. “He was not only honest, but he was also honorable, and that was refreshing.”

As for Eleanor Roosevelt, Bell told The Log that he met her when she was in her ‘70s, and was privileged to spend two-days as her personal host in Fresno.

“I was mayor of Fresno so I greeted a lot of people,” said Bell when asked how he came into contact with so many famous characters. “I also ran a business where we handled non-profit, charitable organizations and we would always have a celebrity guest come in for our end of the year celebrations.”

Other recognizable names listed in the memoir are Frank Sinatra, Neil Armstrong, John F. Kennedy, Michael Jordan and Walt Disney.

“The book covers things that happened during my elected public service, my intelligence work in Russia, events that happened while I was at the White House and Pentagon and individual incidents,” said Bell of his memoir.  “It’s a collection of my friends, patriots and the many scoundrels I met during my career.”

Bell will be hosting a lecture and book signing at First Presbyterian Church at 134 Beal Pkwy. SW. in Fort Walton Beach on Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. “Friends, Patriots and Scoundrels,” can be purchased at area bookstores or online at www.bookstore.iuniverse.com. Proceeds from the book’s sales go to a college scholarship fund benefitting underprivileged students. For more information on the book or signing event email Bell at ecbell@cox.net.