County Commissioner Joel Bearden passes away

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, November 8, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Friends and family members are remembering a “great, caring and funny man” after District 5 Shelby County Commissioner Joel Bearden died on Nov. 8.


Bearden, 81, of Helena, won re-election to the District 5 commission seat during the Nov. 6 elections, and had been serving on the commission since the early 1990s.

“I just got the message this morning that he was doing great. He came out and voted on election day, and was out talking to folks,” said Shelby County Attorney Butch Ellis, Bearden’s longtime friend. “He was a great man. He was one of the individuals who would never let politics get in the way of doing what was right.”

Bearden’s family is prominent in the Helena and Pelham communities, and donated the land needed to build Pelham High School, Ellis said.

Ellis said he and Bearden got to be friends after both were raised in “farm families.”

“He has a fantastic family. They have always been very civic minded,” Ellis said. “It’s a sad day for Shelby County. We’ve lost a great human being.”

Shelby County Commission Chairman Corley Ellis said he was “shocked” by the news of Bearden’s passing, and called him “truly an asset to this county.”

“I will miss him as a commissioner and as a friend,” Corley Ellis said. “He will be sorely missed.”

The Ellises said Bearden helped to guide Shelby County out of rough economic times in the early 1990s, and helped mold the county into what it is today.

“When he came in, the county was in real financial trouble,” Butch Ellis said. “He, along with the other commissioners, adopted responsible fiscal policies that helped bring us back from the brink of bankruptcy.”

Because Bearden won re-election to the commission but had not yet been sworn in for the next four years, Butch Ellis said the District 5 commission spot likely will be filled by a governor’s appointment.