Ella Bell, a longtime member of the Alabama School Board, has died, the Alabama State Department of Education announced Sunday. She was 71.
State Superintendent Eric Mackey in a statement called Bell an education icon who "dedicated her life to the betterment of the students of Alabama."
"Her tenacity and steadfast resolve in fighting for equity for all students will be her legacy always. Her presence on the Alabama State Board of Education will be sorely missed," Mackey said.
Bell was first elected to the State Board in 2000 and was re-elected four times. Her district included Montgomery and many low-income communities in Alabama's Black Belt region.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who serves as president of the state school board, said Bell shared a "passion for the children of our state."
"She was an ardent champion of her district and will be missed. May the Lord be with her family and friends during this time," Ivey said.
Bell in recent months was an outspoken critic of proposal to replace the elected state school board with an appointed commission. Alabama voters will decide the measure next year.