Behind the scenes of the Alexandria Gazette Packet’s article on, “In the Business of Caring Bell and Johnson Funeral Service” January 22, 2019.
Grace Bell like so many African Americans in Alexandria decided to have her child in Washington, DC at the Freedmen Hospital. During the years of segregation, the Alexandria hospital had few colored beds and the condition of treatment was not the same as others for Blacks. So Grace decided in 1932 to have her son, Phillip Bell at the Freedmen Hospital.
Phillip Bell grew up surrounded with a loving mother, grandparents, Sebron and Teresa Anderson-Bell and his aunties and uncles. One of Phillip’s aunts was Alice Christine Bell Lewis who was the wife of Lloyd Lewis who got Phillip started in the funeral business. After Lloyd Lewis died in 1967, his widow Alice married Ferris Leonard Holland. Alice and Ferris worked at Parker-Gray School during the segregation era. Alice was an administrator and Ferris was the science teacher. Today, Lloyd and Alice Lewis’ son Lloyd still lives in the area.
When Phillip decided to attend the funeral home academy in New York, he did not leave his family behind. He took his wife and children with him while he was obtaining his degree in mortuary science.
Prior to Phillip moving his funeral business from Wolfe Street to 311 N. Patrick Street, he obtained Richard H. Poole’s funeral home that was located at the same address. Richard H. Poole died on August 7, 1987. He was born between 1891 and 1893 but his birth was reported by the Nursing Home as being born in 1900. Other documents showed he had an earlier birth. Phillip Bell took care of Richard’s funeral. Phillip’s signature was on Richard’s death certificate and the name and address of the funeral home: Lewis Funeral Home, 311 N. Patrick Street, Alexandria, VA.
Although, Phillip and Winona moved their business into 311 N. Patrick Street they hung out the sign for their business as Lewis Funeral Home. Phillip never forgot the generosity of his uncle who got him started in the Funeral business.
Phillip Bell and Lloyd Lewis made their mark on Alexandria’s African American History. They indeed provided a needed service in the African American community.
Check out this article, “In the Business of Caring: Bell and Johnson Funeral Service, from the Alexandria Gazette Packet on pages 8 and 14 at