From resident to Olympic gold medalist, one Terre Haute man receives the surprise of his life

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A mural located in the Vigo County Courthouse has 53 faces and a story that goes back centuries; it serves as a way to highlight some of the area’s most decorated people and history.

Dr. Greg Bell said he was surprised to see his face painted with the likes of Larry Bird and Tony Hulman.

“It just doesn’t feel real,” Bell said. “I’m flattered to be among a lot of great people. This is not how I see myself. I never looked at myself as anything other than Greg Bell. I did what I could do to the best of my ability.”

Bill Wolfe, the mural’s artist, said he hopes this mural will be a community cornerstone for kids such as his grandson, an aspiring artist.

“The whole purpose of painting these murals is to hopefully inspire these kids that come through and see the people of note, that are from Vigo County, and can go chase their dreams,” Wolfe added.

Bell began his career as an aspiring pole vaulter for Garfield High School, but a back injury turned his focus to what was previously known as broad jump.

“My principal told me I should try broad jump because I was fast and pretty springy,” Bell said. “I’ll be honest, I had no idea what it was when I first started. My very first attempt, I ran, I jumped and, when they measured it, beat the school record. I remember thinking I just found my new sport.”

The discovery of his newfound sporting event coincided with defeat in the 1948 state finals. However, seven years later, Bell would exact his revenge against the same opponent he was defeated by at an Olympic Development event.

“I just happened to look down and glance at the list and remember I saw his name, Russ Smith from Anderson, Ind.,” Bell said. “I just started rubbing my hands together because I knew I had gotten better. Smith beat me by four inches in 1948, but in 1955 I beat Russ Smith by four feet. I must admit, I gloated.”

Bell would be deployed in his life, but continued to train and would compete in championships at military competition events in Germany. Upon returning from military service, Dr. William Bannon encouraged Bell to continue his competitive career at Indiana University.

“He told me: ‘get your butt up and go to school, you are too talented’,” Bell said. “He would tell people, ‘you’re going to hear about this kid’.”

Bell said he faced challenges at IU, including freshmen not being able to compete at varsity events. However, he would go onto win two national championships and leave with an undefeated record.

With his medical and jumping days behind him, Bell said he is excited for how this mural will further cement his legacy.

“I hope they try to learn something about me or whoever they happen to look at on this mural,” he said. “Look at the groundwork I laid. I wasn’t aspiring to be anything but the best Greg Bell I could be. If that was good enough to win, and it was, great.”

Wolfe plans on adding more details to the mural that include painting the name of every person the wall.

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