UpwardAction Salutes Travers J. Bell, Jr.
Travers J. Bell, Jr. was born in 1946 and grew up in the Ida B. Wells public housing project on the south side of Chicago. He set a goal of owning an investment bank and he made it happen.
Mr. Bell began his career as a messenger in the Chicago office of the investment bank Dempsey Tegler & Co., primarily because his father had worked at the bank in operations for 15 years. Due to the mentorship of the investment bank’s owner Dempsey Tegler and Mr. Bell’s unrelenting work ethic, he was later appointed operations manager of a 15-member office firm, Straus, Blosser and McDowell, which Dempsey Tegler acquired.
In 1967, he joined a New York firm, Fusz Schmelzle, as a vice president and director in charge of operations and its new computer facility.
In 1970, Mr. Bell (age 30) formed Daniels & Bell Inc., a securities firm on Wall Street with co-founder Willie E. Daniels (age 33). Mr. Daniels later left the company to go into the restaurant business.
In 1971, Daniels & Bells became the first black-owned member firm on the New York Stock Exchange. In addition, Bell structured the first leveraged buyout completed by an African American when his DanBell subsidiary acquired Cocoline Chocolate, which at that time was among the nation’s largest black-owned companies.
Between the time of its founding until 1988, Daniels & Bell grew to have a net worth of $15 million. The firm contributed to the needs of the minority community while growing its wealth by focusing its business on underwriting securities of emerging minority-owned businesses and by participating in large distribution syndicates formed by other investment banks.
Sadly, Mr. Bell died from a heart attack at age 46 in 1988. At that time, his firm was the only black-owned member of the New York Stock Exchange. At the time of his death, Mr. Bell was also chairman of the New York district of the Securities Industry Association, the industry’s chief lobby group.
CNN interviewed Mr. Bell in 1986, just two years before his untimely death. You can enjoy learning about Mr. Bell’s rise to success in his own words during this fantastic interview, which contains many gems for how to win in your own business and life. Mr. Bell shares lessons learned from playing marbles in the projects, working 13 to 17 hours a day to learn his craft, the competitive advantage of having a mentor teach him the ropes of his business, to believing that he could own an investment bank and actually launching it at age 30.
What I most love about this interview is that conviction that Mr. Bell had at an early age that he would succeed. He had no doubt; he know that it was up to him to make it happen.
You’ve got to believe that you can do it. ~Travers Bell
This is a great lesson for all of us!
Cool Random Fact: One of Mr. Bell’s sons Darryl Bell played Ron Johnson, Jr. on the hit television show A Different World. I LOVED this show as a teenager and credit it with fueling my desire to attend Hampton University, which was one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
To learn more about the life of Travers J. Bell, I suggest a couple of resources: