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Debbye Turner Bell

Broadcast journalist and veterinarian Debrah Lynn Turner Bell was born on September 19, 1965 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Gussie Turner and Frederick C. Turner, Jr. Raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Turner Bell graduated from Jonesboro High School in 1983. She went on to attend Arkansas State University, where she received her B.S. degree in agriculture in 1986. In 1991, Turner Bell obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In 1989, Turner Bell won the Miss Missouri pageant title. Later the same year, she became the first delegate from the State of Missouri to win the Miss America crown. After winning the title of Miss America, Turner Bell became the national spokesperson for Ralston Purina’s Caring for Pets Program. In 1995, she was hired as a host of the Public Broadcasting Service animal show, “The Gentle Doctor”, and as co-host of KSDK’s entertainment magazine show, “Show Me St. Louis”, where she was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards. From 2001 to 2003, Turner Bell worked as an on-air contributor to CBS networks’ “The Early Show”, and from 2003 until 2012, she served as a staff correspondent for CBS News. In 2013, she was hired as an anchor for Arise News.

Turner Bell has hosted “48 Hours on WE” and appeared on Animal Planet's “Cats 101” and “Dogs 101” series. She has also hosted the Miss Missouri, Miss Florida, and Miss Georgia pageants, and was a Miss America Pageant judge in 1997 and 2011. Turner Bell has appeared as a guest on numerous television programs including “The Late Show with David Letterman”, “Oprah”, and the “Today” show. In addition, she has served as a motivational speaker for over twenty years.

Turner Bell’s honors include the University of Missouri - Columbia, Black Alumni Organization's Distinguished Alumni Award; the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the College of Agriculture, Arkansas State University; Outstanding Alumnus Award from the University of Missouri-Columbia; and the First Place award for Outstanding Reporting from the New York Association of Black Journalists. In 1998, she was named a Distinguished Alumna of Arkansas State University, where she established the Debbye Turner Scholarship and the Gussie Turner Memorial Scholarship. Turner Bell received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in October of 1994.

She has served on local, state and national boards, including the Children’s Miracle Network, the National Council on Youth Leadership, the Missouri Division of Youth Services, the Mathews-Dickey Boys Club, and the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council as part of the National Institutes of Health. She served as director of the Consortium of Doctors from 1994 to 1995.

Turner Bell lives in the New York City area with her husband and daughter.

Debbye Turner Bell was interviewed by “The HistoryMakers” on August 12, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.229

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/12/2014

Last Name

Turner Bell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Lynn

Schools

University of Missouri

Arkansas State University

Jonesboro High School

Douglas MacArthur Junior High School

East Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Debrah

Birth City, State, Country

Honolulu

HM ID

BEL07

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Hawaii

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/19/1965

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pepperoni pizza and thanksgiving dinner

Short Description

Broadcast journalist and veterinarian Debbye Turner Bell (1965 - ) is a motivational speaker and anchor for Arise News. In 1989, she became the first delegate from the State of Missouri to win the title of Miss America.

Employment

Arise News

CBS News

Self Employed

DOGS 101/CATS 101 Television Shows

48 Hours on WE

CBS Networks' "The Early Show"

"ShowMe St. Louis"

PBS "The Gentle Doctor"

Ralston Purina's Caring for Pets Program

Miss America 1990

Dillard's Department Store

Safeway Food Store

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Debbye Turner Bell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Debbye Turner Bell lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her mother's effort to find her biological father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her great aunt, Gussie Lee Jones Turner's, domestic work in Kennett, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her paternal family ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her paternal great-grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Debbye Turner Bell describes spending time at her paternal great-grandparents' farm in South Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about the history of Juneteenth and her great-great grandparents' freedom

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Debbye Turner Bell talks briefly about the farmland her uncle inherited from her great-grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Debbye Turner Bell describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Debbye Turner Bell describes growing up with a parent in the military and her father's teaching appointment at Arkansas State University

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Debbye Turner Bell remembers staying with her aunt while her father was serving in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her father's experience in the Vietnam War

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her parents' divorce and co-parenting

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Debbye Turner Bell describes home life, including her mother's taking in of mental health patients and Thursday night Bible study group

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about competing for her mother's attention as a girl

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Debbye Turner Bell describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood neighborhood in Jonesboro, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about developing a relationship with her older sister after the death of their mother in 1990

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Debbye Turner Bell explains the unconventional spelling of her name

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Debbye Turner Bell describes wanting to be a veterinarian and volunteering in a veterinary clinic

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her houseful of pets

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her grade school years in Jonesboro, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Debbye Turner Bell describes growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Jonesboro, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Debbye Turner Bell remembers discussing race and current events at home

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her racially integrated friend group

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her experiences in both St. Paul A.M.E. Church and Carter Temple CME Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her acceptance of Christianity and learning to read the Bible

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Debbye Turner Bell describes how she first got involved in pageants

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her experience in the Southern pageant circuit

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Debbye Turner Bell describes entering the Miss Arkansas pageant three times and placing first runner-up twice

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about Vanessa Williams winning the Miss America title in 1984

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Debbye Turner Bell remembers the statement she made about her racial identity at her first press conference as Miss America

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Debbye Turner Bell remembers an article written about her by HistoryMaker Lynn Norment for Ebony magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about being the first brown-skinned African American winner of the Miss America pageant

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Debbye Turner Bell describes attempting to address a controversial statement she made at the Miss America press conference

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about differences between Miss America and Miss USA and describes how she financed pageant competitions

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about body type and typecasting in beauty pageants

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Debbye Turner Bell describes the Miss America pageant scholarship prizes

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Debbye Turner Bell describes differences in the contemporary Miss America pageant

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about controversy in the Miss America and Miss USA pageants

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Debbye Turner Bell describes winning the Miss America title in 1990, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Debbye Turner Bell describes winning the Miss America title in 1990, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Debbye Turner Bell describes Miss America's yearlong responsibilities

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Debbye Turner Bell remembers appearing on the David Letterman Show

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her platform as Miss America and finishing her degree in veterinary medicine after giving up the title

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about her first job out of veterinary school as the spokesperson for Ralston Purina's Caring for Pets program

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Debbye Turner Bell explains how she got started in broadcast television anchoring 'Show Me St. Louis,' an entertainment show in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Debbye Turner Bell describes meeting her husband and getting married, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Debbye Turner Bell describes meeting her husband and getting married, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Debbye Turner Bell explains how she got to CBS Networks' 'The Early Show' as an on-air contributor and resident veterinarian

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Debbye Turner Bell explains why she left the CBS network in 2012

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Debbye Turner Bell explains how she was hired as an anchor for the global cable network, Arise News

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Debbye Turner Bell describes the mission of global cable network, Arise News

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Debbye Turner Bell considers her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about parenting

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Debbye Turner Bell considers her regrets

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Debbye Turner Bell shares her advice for the up-and-coming generation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her experience as an anchor-reporter on 'Show Me St. Louis'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Debbye Turner Bell describes learning to be a broadcast journalist at 'Show Me St. Louis'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Debbye Turner Bell describes her experience on CBS', 'The Early Show' and talks about the advantages and disadvantage of its number three time slot

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Debbye Turner Bell talks about traveling as a reporter for Arise News

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Debbye Turner Bell describes lessons from her career in broadcast journalism

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Debbye Turner Bell narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

9$2

DATitle
Debbye Turner Bell describes her experience in the Southern pageant circuit
Debbye Turner Bell remembers the statement she made about her racial identity at her first press conference as Miss America
Transcript
So the journey of being in these pageants as a smart young women who didn't necessarily buy into the pageantry of it, what was your journey? How did you experience going from contest to contest?$$What you first have to understand is not only was I in a pageant, The Miss America System, I was in the Miss America System in the South. And pageants to this day are a big, you know, bouffant business. And there were girls who were born, bred, and burped to be Miss Somebody, so I entered the system with, you know, no preconceived notions of a it would be like and no investment really in whether or not it affected my life. It was just something fun to do, win some scholarship money. And I entered with these girls who had been raised for this. And so first it served as a challenge because now in some ways, I'm in a foreign land. So now, I've got to learn a new language and a new way of being. You know, I didn't wear makeup, I barely wore dresses and I wasn't really a tom girl, just wasn't bothered with those things. So it was a challenge for me just to sort of figure out the game and to beat the others who had been playing it for a long time. So at first that's sort of what it was, it was just a game to me. And it took I believe three tries for me to win a local. I went to the Miss Arkansas pageant for the first time, again, this is a big hairy deal. And most girls on their first time don't do anything. I made the top ten and that got people's attention. And I remember one of the pageant people saying, "You really have potential. If you would actually apply yourself, you could do very well." So that was the first time it ever entered my mind that maybe I could excel at this, maybe I could be Miss America. So I set about to win another local to take me back to Miss Arkansas. It took a couple tries, went back to Miss Arkansas the second time and I got first runner-up, which again, big deal for a second try. And then I was told, if you can just win a state pageant, you will be Miss America. And that was when I set as my sight to be Miss America, it was no longer just about the scholarship. I'd learned more about the system; who this organization is; who Miss America is, what she does. I was like, oh that would be kind of cool.$I will tell you though, my aspiration to be Miss America was not connected to Vanessa [Williams] in any way, I was already involved in pageants by the time she won and I already had my own reasons for wanting to be there and wanting to win. So much so, that when I won, the first thing that Miss America does as Miss America, is goes into her first official press conference. There were dozens if not more than a hundred members of the press from around the world in the pressroom. And I remember after I walked the runway and waved and, you know, all the girls surround the winner and, you know, was congratulated and hugged by all my fellow contestants. The head of the Miss America Pageant at that time, Leonard Horn said, "I'm gonna walk you to your press conference. They're gonna ask you all kinds of things. We don't limit what you can talk about. You can say whatever you want to say; you can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but as an attorney"--because he was---"let me just caution you, what you say can and will be held against you." And I was so high on just winning Miss America, "Okay." And I, you know, I walk in, the flashbulbs go off. And it's important to understand, a part of competing for Miss America is preparing for a private, job-style interview. The most rigorous questioning I've ever endured. And so I knew how to answer questions. That's a part of what helped me win the pageant. So I didn't feel any intimidation, I felt like I was fully prepared for this because that's part of the competition. They want to know can you handle this. I was not prepared for the very first question. Second question, the first one was how did--what were you thinking when you walked down the runway? Second question. "How does it feel to be a representative for little black girls out there as the new Miss America?" I'd never thought of myself in that way. I was just this veterinary kid who wanted to pay for her education, from Arkansas. And while I was very aware of my ethnicity growing up, it didn't define me and I was caught of guard and I gave a poor answer. I said, "Being black is not everything that I am, it's just a part of who I am." And I went down, "I'm a veterinarian--or I'm a veterinary student, I play the drums, I was raised by a single--"I mean I went down this list of the things that define me and again I said it, "It's just part of who I am." And the next question came. As you might imagine, that didn't go over well with many members of the African American community, because what I didn't get in my youth at that time, was the significance of the achievement coming after Vanessa. We had a shot, didn't go so well, I was the next shot. And I only saw it as it related to me, not as the significance in society. And I spent a lot of my year explaining that statement.