Remembering Bert Bell Jr.

A tribute to the unforgettable Bert Bell Jr., an incredible contributor to the NFL as we know it.

I come not to bury my brother, Bert Bell, I come to celebrate the life of a wonderful man and great character.

Bert was the ultimate unforgettable character with many facets to his personality as well as his life.

Bert was the oldest son of our father, Bert Bell, founder of the Philadelphia Eagles, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Commissioner of the NFL from 1946-59. He was assistant to our father as well as Pete Rozelle who succeeded our father as Commissioner and later was business manager of the then Baltimore Colts from 1961—66. He later wrote a column for the Baltimore News American and other outlets.

bert bell

Bert had many interests including the stock market where he was highly successful. His life was as varied, colorful and generous as any human being I knew. When he was with the Colts, the players called him Blackie because he dressed in all black and often went without socks. He was the closest thing to Peter Falk of Columbo.

Bert loved football, the players and everything about the game. He once bought a house in Baltimore so single Colts players who didn’t have a lot of money would have a place to live for a very low rent. Bert made it very clear, in his will, that a statue be erected of our father at the University of Pennsylvania where Bell was quarterback of the 1917 Rose Bowl team as well as a coach and died as Commissioner at a game in October of 1959 at Franklin Field. Also, Bert’s great love of football and the game was exhibited by his bequeathing a donation to the NFL Players Association to study the effects of CTE.

Bert lived many different lives and knew many characters but he was the greatest I’ve known. A friend of Bert once said Bert touched all the bases but, to me, Bert was a home run and the greatest friend and brother. I prefer to leave it this way.

I think of the final scene from Casablanca when Rick says to Louis, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Bert, we always had that. Good-bye – for now.

-Upton Bell 

Bert Bell, the former Assistant to the Commissioner for Bert Bell Sr. and Pete Rozelle passed away Tuesday June 8, 2021. Bell Jr. was also known by the 1961-66 Baltimore Colts as "Blackie" the business manager who always wore all black with no sox that was always there to help out a fellow football player with a place to stay. His brother Upton Bell, who won Super Bowl V with the Baltimore Colts, successful GM and Charlotte Hornets WFL owner wrote a beautiful eulogy to his older brother Bert Bell Jr. We would like to share it with you in remembrance of the man, Bert Bell Jr. who lived life passionately and loved football as much as his family.