Mary L. Bell was a businesswoman, civic leader and Civil Rights activist.
Mary Lee Peaks was born in Nashville in 1900 and graduated from Walden University, a predominantly Black institution located on the present site of Trevecca Nazarene University. She married Dr. Haley Bell, a 1922 graduate of Meharry’s College of Dentistry, and they moved to Detroit. Ms. Bell was a community leader, active in the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women and the YMCA. In 1956, Dr. Bell founded Bell Broadcasting Corporation, the parent company of Detroit radio stations WCHB-AM and WJZZ-FM. WCHB was one of the first radio stations in the U.S.to be built from the ground up by Black owners and served as a full-service station for the community. It featured not only R&B hits, but also urban gospel music, jazz and talk shows that highlighted the achievements and aspirations of Detroit’s Black community. Mary Bell succeeded her husband as president and chairperson of Bell Broadcasting Corporation after his death in 1973. She retired at age 91 and died three years later.