by Greg Hilburn
Six Louisiana new political legends with be enshrined in the Political Hall of Fame next month during a ceremony in the town where the seeds of the Long family dynasty were sown.
Directors of the Louisiana Political Museum announced the 2020 inductees this week.
They include: the late David James Bell, a lieutenant for Gov. Earl Long, and his wife Jean Creamer Bell, longtime executive director of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association; Pineville Mayor Clarence Fields; Robert Gentry, a political consultant and journalist; Rapides Sheriff William Earl Hilton; and former Winfield Mayor Deano Thornton.
The late Puckett Willis will receive the 2020 Friend of Earl K. Long Award.
A reception and banquet are scheduled Feb. 15 at the Louisiana Political Museum and Winnfield Civic Center, respectively. Tickets are $100 and must be bought before Feb. 1. Call 318-628-5928 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for ticket details.
Following is more information about the inductees:
► David James Bell and Jean Creamer Bell: When David James Bell returned to Louisiana after serving in the United States Navy, he went to work for Earl Long’s 1948 gubernatorial campaign. Bell followed Long to Baton Rouge as his executive assistant, where married Jean Creamer Bell.
Jean Bell worked as the executive secretary for two consecutive Louisiana insurance commissioners — Rufus Hayes and Dudley Guglielmo — in the 1950s and 1960s and later as executive director of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association until her retirement in the 1980s.
► Clarence R. Fields: Pineville Mayor Clarence R. Fields is serving his sixth term after first being elected in 1999. He was the first Pineville Mayor to serve as president of the Louisiana Municipal Association and continues to serve on the LMA’s executive board. He’s a familiar face in Baton Rouge as chairman of the LMA’s Legislative Affairs Committee. He is married to Rosa Ceasar Fields.
► Robert Gentry: As a young student journalist at Northwestern State University in 1958, Gentry hitch-hiked the region to cover any candidate or elected official who spoke in the area. He once caught a ride one with Gov. Earl Long and ultimately joined the governor’s public relations staff.
It was Gentry who coined the campaign’s successful slogan, “Uncle Earl is the Man.” He also worked for former Congressmen Harold B. McSween and Gillis W. Long in their campaigns.