John C. Bell (lawyer)

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John Cromwell Bell
From a portrait by Julian Story, c. 1918
District Attorney of Philadelphia
In office
Preceded by John Weaver
Succeeded by Samuel P. Rotan
45th Attorney General of Pennsylvania
In office
January 17, 1911 – January 19, 1915
Preceded by Moses Hampton Todd
Succeeded by Francis Shunk Brown
Personal details
Born October 3, 1861[1]
Elders Ridge, West Lebanon, Indiana County, Pennsylvania
Died December 29, 1935 (aged 74)
Spouse(s) Fleurette de Benneville Keim Myers
Alma mater University of Philadelphia

John Cromwell Bell (October 3, 1861 – December 29, 1935) was a distinguished Pennsylvania lawyer, serving as a District Attorney for Philadelphia and state Attorney General.

He was closely involved with football and his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. He served as director of Penn's athletic program, chairman of its football committee, and from 1911 onwards, was a trustee. He helped found the NCAA, and served on Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee, responsible for the many rules changes made in collegiate football in its early years.[2][3][4][5]

Personal life[edit]

His family moved to Philadelphia when he was fourteen.[6] Bell attended Central High, graduating in 1880 (with an A.B.)[6] and then the University of Pennsylvania, directly in the law school, receiving an LL.B. in 1884.[7] At Penn, he played halfback on the football team for three years.

He married Fleurette de Benneville Keim Myers, daughter of Leonard Myers, a former Congressman, in 1890.[8] They had two sons. The elder, John Cromwell, had a distinguished career as attorney, governor, and judge. The younger, de Benneville, known as Bert, had a distinguished career as football team owner and NFL commissioner.


Bell achieved prominence as an attorney very quickly, and he was noted for his corporate work.[6][9] He was offered a judgeship, but declined.[6]

When in 1902 sitting Philadelphia District Attorney John Weaver won election as the city's mayor, Bell accepted the appointment to take his place, and then ran for and won a term on his own, but declined a renomination. As District Attorney, he was noted for enforcement of food purity laws.[6]

In 1911, Governor John K. Tener appointed Bell as state Attorney General. Upon completing his term, Bell returned to private practice.

Bell died of heart disease in 1935.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Some sources, including the New York Times obituary and the University of Pennsylvania, state or imply 1861. His "official" state biography in The Pennsylvania Manual while he was state Attorney General gives 1862.
  2. ^ "How the Game of Football is Now Played". Chicago Daily Tribune. September 20, 1896. p. 33. 
  3. ^ "Football Rules Revised". Washington Post. April 30, 1900. p. 8. 
  4. ^ "Football Solons Meet to Adopt Rules Today". New York Times. January 27, 1908. p. 7. 
  5. ^ "Forward Pass to be Changed Today". New York Times. January 25, 1908. p. 7. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Warwick, p. 397.
  7. ^ General Alumni Catalogue, p. 435.
  8. ^ Warwick, p. 398.
  9. ^ Hudson, p. 81
Legal offices
Preceded by
Moses Hampton Todd
Pennsylvania Attorney General
Succeeded by
Francis Shunk Brown