Durham County

Durham political veterans had questionable meeting

Bell in 1972
Bell in 1972 File photo

Mayor Bill Bell said he considers retiring City Councilman Howard Clement a “great friend,” but it didn’t start off that way.

By the time Bell first ran for office, in the county commissioner election of 1972, Clement was an established political figure in Durham, from years of work in the civil-rights movement.

“I was pretty young an naive,” said Bell, who came to Durham in 1968 as an IBM engineer. “I figured since Howard and I were both Howard University alumni, I would give Howard a call and ask for his endorsement.

“His answer was, ‘Bell Bell? Who knows Bill Bell?’

“That was my introduction to him. … But after I thought about it, he was right.”

Bell won the election, anyway, and went on to spend 26 of the next 28 years on the Board of County Commissioners before being elected mayor in 2001. Clement subsequently served one term as a state Representative, and more than 30 years on the City Councilman. Clement leaves office when newly elected Councilman Eddie Davis takes over the Ward 2 seat Monday night.

Staff writer Jim Wise