Longtime public relations veteran and community activist Robert K. “Bob” Sells has died at the age of 85.
Sells worked in PR for Arkansas’ Southwestern Bell operations for decades before starting his own agency and teaching at the University of Central Arkansas. He is survived by his wife, Georgia, their two children, Stacy and Mike Sells, four granddaughters and three great-grandchildren.
For many years, Sells was a pillar in the state’s business community and for a variety of worthy nonprofit and volunteer causes.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, he came to Little Rock, Arkansas from Texas in 1961 to begin a 30-year career in public relations for Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. When he retired in 1990, he opened a public relations and marketing agency – now known as The Sells Agency – wrote a weekly column for the former Arkansas Gazette, and taught public relations classes at the University of Central Arkansas.
Sells was active in the Public Relations Society of America’s Arkansas chapter. He would eventually be inducted in the national PRSA College of Fellows for his contributions to the profession. In 2011, the Arkansas Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators honored him with their “Communicator of the Year” award.
His volunteer activities encompassed a number of nonprofit causes and church work with the United Methodist Church. He volunteered in many roles for the Arthritis Foundation, United Way of Pulaski County, Arkansas Opera Society (now Wildwood for the Performing Arts), Camp Aldersgate, Arkansas Med Camps, and American Field Service. He also served multiple appointments on the Arkansas Literacy Commission.
He was an active member of Little Rock’s Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church for many years. A memorial service will be held Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 3 p.m. in Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church with a reception to follow. Ruebel Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
The full memorial obituary can be read below.
ROBERT KENNETH (BOB) SELLS
Robert Kenneth (Bob) Sells of Little Rock, veteran public relations professional and community activist, left this earth and entered the Church Triumphant on Monday, June 26, 2017.
Born October 29, 1932 in Kansas City, Missouri, Bob graduated from Westport High School in Kansas City, Missouri. Following service in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Bob enrolled at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia where he was awarded the Eugene Fields Scholarship, and inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha and Sigma Delta Chi.
With his BS degree in hand, Bob relocated to Texas to work for the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce as Public Relations Director. He later became the Executive Director of the South Jefferson County United Way. While in Texas he was chosen as Outstanding Young Businessman by the YMCA.
It was in Texas where he met his wife Georgia McCoy. They were cast opposite each other in a community theatre play, and married six months later in June 1957. Two weeks ago, the Sells celebrated 60 years of marriage.
In 1961, Bob accepted a position in the public relations department of the former Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. With his first assignment in Little Rock, Bob moved his wife and infant daughter to Little Rock to begin a 30-year career in various jobs throughout SWBT, many of them as spokesperson for the company. Upon his retirement in 1990, Bob opened his own Public Relations/Marketing agency (now the Sells Agency), wrote a weekly column for the former Arkansas Gazette, and taught public relations classes at the University of Central Arkansas.
Throughout his career, Bob was an active leader in the Public Relations Society of America. In 1986 he was elected chapter president, and won the national Banner Award for best chapter among its size. He also launched the annual Prism Award competition, recognizing superior work in the profession. He was later elected PRSA Southwest District Director then to the board of directors of the prestigious Foundation for Public Relations Research and Education in New York. He would later be inducted into the national PRSA College of Fellow, comprised of only 350 professionals in the nation who have “left a significant footprint on the public relations profession.” His final recognition was in 2011 when the Arkansas Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators honored him with their “Communicator of the Year” award.
Bob was one of ten professionals to organize the Arkansas Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi/SPJ-SDX. He served as treasurer of the organization for many years, and as business manager for the popular bi-annual stage spoof, the Farkleberry Follies, and was also a regular cast member.
Bob’s volunteer and board leadership service could fill a book, maybe two. Organizations include the Arthritis Foundation (both state and national service), United Way of Pulaski County, Arkansas Opera Society (now Wildwood for the Performing Arts), Camp Aldersgate, Arkansas Med Camps, and America Field Service. At the behest of Governor Bill Clinton, he was also appointed to multiple years as a member of the Arkansas Literacy Commission.
Following his retirement from SWBTC, Bob became a vocal advocate for the rights of senior citizens, including two terms as president of the Arkansas Gerent Logical Society. Three governors appointed him to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Aging, serving as chairman of the statewide panel for two years. He also served on the inaugural advisory board of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-Reynold’s Institute on Aging. In 1995, Bob was appointed by U.S. Senator Davis Pryor to represent Arkansas at the White House Conference on Aging, while Bill Clinton was President. Serving as a section leader, Bob was asked to make recommendations to the President for future legislative actions affecting seniors in the U.S.
Perhaps his favorite volunteer work began in 2004 when he and Georgia were asked to support the work of the William Jefferson Clinton Center and Library. Bob would write the first volunteer application, develop the first volunteer training program, and ultimately recruited, interviewed and trained almost 450 inaugural volunteers. After the grand opening, Bob would continue his service to the Clinton Library, and was a regular tour guide each and every Friday.
Bob truly loved his church – the United Methodist Church, especially Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. Bob served in too many volunteer capacities to name – youth counselor, Sunday School leaders, Board of Stewards, Pastor/Parish Relations Committee, fundraiser, missions, Prime Timers, the Energizer Choir, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer too.
But his family was his favorite. He was a devoted husband to Georgia, a most engaged father to Stacy and Mike, and a fabulous BobBob to his grandchildren and great-children. His love for family was beyond words. It was simply special.
Sells leaves behind his wife, Georgia; two children, Stacy Sells (Tim Gauger) and Mike Sells (Bari); four granddaughters: Emily Sweeney (David), Olivia Abernathy (Jon), Allyson Gattin (Ryan) and Anna-Lee Pittman; and three great-grandchildren Avery, Annie and Owen. He also leaves behind sisters-in-law Alice McCoy and Kay Flynn.
Predeceasing him in death are his mother, Lena Maurine Bradley Sells, father, Raymond Hartley Sells, one brother, Raymond Bradley Sells, and his stepmother, Dorothy Sells.
In lieu of flowers or food, the family asks for memorial gifts sent to Pulaski Heights United Church-Music Ministry/Sanders Foundation, or to the Robert K. Sells Scholarship in Journalism, c/o Missouri School of Journalism, 103 Neff Hall, Columbia, MO, 65211.
A memorial service will be held Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 3 p.m. in Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church with a reception to follow. Arrangements are under the direction of Ruebel Funeral Home. Leave comments for the family at this link.