PASSINGS: Harold Bell

Harold Bell

Creator of Woodsy Owl

Harold Bell, 90, a merchandising executive who designed the environmentally conscious character Woodsy Owl that urged people to “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute,” died Dec. 4 of renal failure and complications in West Los Angeles, his family said.

Bell created Woodsy Owl in 1970, in time for the first Earth Day, according to Gerald R. Williams’ book “The Forest Service: Fighting for Public Lands.”

The idea was to create a symbol that would “promote wise use of the environment and programs that foster maintenance and improvement of environmental quality,” Williams wrote.

Bell was a longtime licensing agent who had worked with the Forest Service on Smokey Bear, said his son, Richard Bell.

“The Forest Service knew my father and also knew he was very artistic,” he said. “They were looking for an icon for the environmental movement.”

Richard Bell, then a teenager, remembered discussing possible names for the character with his father, including the name Woodsy Owl.

“His grandchildren are also very involved in the environment and they feel a connection,” Richard Bell said.

In 1974, Congress passed the Woodsy Owl Act, which defined Woodsy as “a fanciful owl” who wears forest green slacks, a brown belt and a forest green “Robin Hood-style hat” with a red feather.

Harold Bell was born Oct. 5, 1919, in Union City, N.J. He served in the Navy during World War II.

He worked for Disney during the 1950s, then started his own company.

Bell worked as a licensing agent for such characters as Dick Tracy.

-- times staff and wire reports