Chattanooga Pioneering Leader Mai Bell Hurley Dies at 87

Chattanooga (WDEF) – Chattanooga has lost one of it’s great supporters.

Mai Bell Hurley has died at the age of 87.

She has been a long time leader in arts and civic organizations.

But she would move from the civic world into the business and political arenas.

Hurley emerged in the public spotlight in the 1980’s as a leader of the Chattanooga Venture movement, that paved the way for the Tennessee Aquarium and Riverfront re-development.

In the 1990’s, she jumped into the political side by running for city council.

She became Chattanooga’s first female council member and served for a dozen years.

In later life, Hurley continue her civic leadership with United Way, Allied Arts, and the Chattanooga Library.

United Way of Greater Chattanooga – Statement on the passing of
Mai Bell Hurley

United Way of Greater Chattanooga volunteers and staff are deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend and loyal supporter, Mai Bell Hurley. Mai Bell’s life was one of service to Chattanooga and United Way. She was the first female Community Campaign Chair in 1988 and served as Board Chair in 2004-2005. She also served on the board more many years, and on numerous other committees and advisory panels.

Mai Bell was a champion for children, and instrumental in pioneering United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s nationally-recognized work in early childhood education. A key part of her legacy is United Way’s Project Ready for School initiative, which now benefits more than 18,000 children in the Chattanooga area each year by helping them develop the learning skills needed for success in school and life.

“Mai Bell was adamant that Chattanooga should be the best place to raise a child,” said Lesley Scearce, United Way of Greater Chattanooga’s President/CEO. “Her work on behalf of our children will have tremendous impact on generations to come.”

“In everything she did, Mai Bell always worked diligently for progress and positive change,” said Tom Glenn, United Way Board Chair. “She will always be warmly remembered and appreciated by United Way of Greater Chattanooga and the community.”

Statement from the Board Chairwoman of the Chattanooga Public Library Board
and Library Executive Director on the passing of Mai Bell Hurley.

“ It is with great sadness we mourn the passing of our long standing board member, Mai Bell
Hurley. Mai Bell dedicated her life to service and advocacy for families and the arts, and her
interests, intellect and involvement in these civic areas intersected seamlessly at the public
library. Mai Bell’s commitment to the Chattanooga Public Library began in 1969 and lasted
nearly 5 decades. We will miss her passion and her perspective which is unmatched ,” said Karen
McMahon, Board Chairman of the Chattanooga Public Library Board.

Hurley joined the library’s board of directors in 1969 and was named Chairman of the Board in
1979. Hurley was instrumental in the building of the downtown library which opened in 1976 as
the Chattanooga Hamilton County Bicentennial Library. After pursuing an 11 year term with the
Chattanooga City Council, Hurley returned to serve on the library board and was reappointed in
2001 where she stayed active until the time of her death.

Chattanooga Public Library Executive Director, Corinne Hill was working with Hurley this week
on new ideas for the coming year. “ I saw Mai Bell twice this week and had great conversations
about library business. She was frail but incredibly sharp, as usual. I will really miss her. She
was a great mentor, ” Hill said.

Corker Statement on the Passing of Mai Bell Hurley


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released the following statement today on the passing of Mai Bell Hurley.


"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend Mai Bell Hurley," said Corker. "Looking back on the revitalization of Chattanooga and the many positive things that have happened in our great city over the past few decades, so much of it has Mai Bell’s fingerprints on it. As a young businessman, I had the great privilege of working closely with Mai Bell through our work with Chattanooga Venture, and later, she played an important role in the creation of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise. I cannot overstate what she has meant to me personally and to our community, and I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with her over the years. Elizabeth and I extend our thoughts and prayers to all who were touched by Mai Bell’s life."

Categories: Chattanooga, Local News

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