Dr. Clara Belle Gambrell, 74, an elementary teacher in the D.C. public school system for 44 years before retiring in 1972, died of cancer Dec. 11 at her home in Washington.

Dr. Gambrell began her career in the D.C. schools in 1928 at Payne Elementary. She transfered to Syphax Elementary in the late 1930s, where she taught until joining the faculty at Anthony Bowen Elementary in 1964. After seven years at Bowen, she taught at Emory Elementary from 1971 until retiring in June 1972.

She was a member of the National Education Association, the Elementary Teachers Association, and the Professional Women's League. Dr. Gambrell was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society.

She was a member of the Barronites Bridge Club.

Dr. Gambrell was a member of the Dupont Park Seventh Day Adventist Church in Washington.

She was a native of Washington and graduate of Dunbar High and Miner Teachers College. She earned a bachelor's degree at Howard University and master's and doctoral degrees at New York University.

Dr. Gambrell taught school for four years, in North Carolina and New Jersey, before returning to Washington and joining the D.C. public schools in 1928.

Survivors include a brother, Horace L. Gambrell of Colesville, Md., and a sister, Beulah G. Cassell of Washington.