Bell died April 15 after a recent fall that caused a brain injury, wife Ouida Bell said.
He headed bureaus in Phoenix; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Atlanta, in a career that began in 1944 in Arkansas and ended with his 1990 retirement in Atlanta.
Bell was always a defender of the free press, his wife recalled in an interview Monday.
"He had a great passion for the news and always thought AP was the one to be with," she said.
Former colleagues echoed that sentiment.
"He was Mr. AP," said Arlon Southall, who was assistant chief of communications in Atlanta when he retired, after working with Bell in both Charlotte and Atlanta.
"That was his great love," Southall said of the AP. "He didn't tolerate anybody or anyone who had anything bad to say about the AP."
Bell also oversaw the installation of the Atlanta bureau's first computer, as reporters moved from typewriters to keyboards, his wife said.
"It was exciting and he was in the movie they sent out to show reporters how to use the computers," she said.
Ouida Bell would sometimes help her husband on election nights and other big events such as political conventions.
Bell was fair, direct and "old-school tough," former Atlanta AP newsman Johnny Clark said.
"When you walked out of a meeting with him, there was no ambiguity in your mind about what just transpired," Clark said.
Ouida Bell said her husband began his career when he was about 19 years old, covering sports in Arkansas. He later joined the AP as a newsman in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1944.
In 1954, he transferred to the AP's Chicago bureau as a newsman. He was named chief of the Phoenix bureau in 1956, the Charlotte bureau in 1963, and then took the same position in Atlanta in 1982, according to AP employment records. He also served as a general executive in the South region.
A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
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