Meet the 2020 Hall of Fame Inductees
MR. DAVID JAMES BELL & mrs. Jean creamer bell
Born in Atlanta, Louisiana, David helped his parents run the family hotel. David completed his education at Atlanta School and attended Louisiana Tech for several semesters. In the mid 1930s, he helped his father in the family business, Bell's Grocery. In 1937, he married Hazel Frazier of Winnfield, and they moved to Dallas, Texas.
David joined the U.S. Navy and served as radar man aboard the destroyer, USS Gansevoort. When David returned to Louisiana, his cousin, Earl K. Long, was campaigning for Governor of Louisiana. Earl needed help and asked David to join his campaign. After the election, Earl called David to Baton Rouge to be his Executive Assistant.
David cared about the people of Louisiana and listened to them, carrying their concerns back to the Governor. In the early 1950s, David married Jean Creamer in Baton Rouge where they lived the rest of their lives, except for two years in Washington, DC.
Starting as a secretary for various businesses in the Baton Rouge area, Jean became the lead secretary at Lamar Advertising for a number of years. In the late 1950s and into the '60s, she worked in Louisiana state government as the executive secretary for both Rufus Hayes and Dudley Guglielmo during their respective tenures as Commissioner of Insurance for the state. David Bell died in 1976, leaving 3 children. Mary Marguerite Bell Attuso, the daughter of Hazel Frazier Bell; Dr. Ronald Allen Bell and Susan Kathryn Bell Scott, the children of Jean Creamer Bell. After David’s death, Jean soon went to work for the Louisiana Sheriff's Association as its' Executive Director where she remained until she retired in the early 1980s after health complications. Jean C. Bell died in 1987.
Mr. CLARENCE R. FIELDS
Mayor Clarence Fields is a lifelong resident of Pineville, Louisiana and has been Mayor since December 14, 1999. Mayor Fields is serving in his 6th term as Mayor, the last four of which he ran unopposed for re-election. Before becoming mayor 20 years ago, he worked for CLECO for 22 years.
Mayor Fields also serves on many community and state-wide boards, including the Rapides Area Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Rapides Council on Aging. Mayor Fields also served as President of the Louisiana Municipal Association from 2007-2008, representing over 300 municipalities in Louisiana, and he was the first mayor from Pineville to serve in that capacity. He still serves on the LMA’s Executive Board, is past chairman of the Louisiana Municipal Advisory & Technical Services Bureau and currently chairs the LMA’s Legislative Affairs Committee during each Legislative Session.
Mayor Fields is happily married to Rosa Ceasar Fields. They have two children, two grandchildren and are active members of First United Methodist Church in Pineville.
Mr. RObert Gentry
Robert Gentry, a native of Marthaville, Louisiana and the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Gentry, attended Northwestern State in Natchitoches to study journalism in 1958 and joined the Natchitoches Enterprise covering politics. In 1960, Gentry moved to the Natchitoches Times and started a news, views, facts and opinion column called “Ballyhoo.”
As a young student, Gentry walked and hitch-hiked the entire region to cover any candidate or elected official who spoke in the area. He caught a ride one evening with Gov. Earl Long, and the events that followed resulted in Gentry being placed in Gov. Long’s employ as his last Public Relations man. It was Gentry who coined the campaign’s successful slogan, “Uncle Earl is the Man.” Gentry held PR positions with U.S. Representatives Harold B. McSween and Gillis W. Long in their campaigns. He also worked with Bill Dodd, in his State Superintendent of Education campaign; and with deLesseps Story “Chep” Morrison Sr. in his bid for Governor.
Robert Gentry became editor of The Sabine Index in Many in 1964, continuing a strong political focus for almost 50 years as owner/publisher. His column was renamed “Observations,” and is now in its 63rd year. Gentry and staff earned almost every type of Louisiana Press Association award, many for governmental/political coverage and in 2014, Gentry was inducted into the LPA’s “50 Year Club.”
Gentry founded Rebel State Historic Site in 1961, presenting 50 years of political and Country music functions at the 1,000-seat amphitheater, which was taken in by Louisiana State Parks in 1978. At those, Gentry forged a friendship with Gov. Jimmie Davis, later chairing Gov. Davis’ 99th and 100th Birthday parties. In 2017, Gentry and wife Laurie chaired former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ 90th Birthday celebration.
Gentry was named a Master Folk Artist by the Louisiana Folklife Center, and served on the Louisiana Sabine River Authority, the State Archives Commission, the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum Board, and other organizations. He was inducted into the Sabine Hall of Fame in 2013. Pieces from his NSU, LSU and LSUS archived collections were used in the 2019 Grammy-nominated 20-CD boxed book set, “At the Louisiana Hayride Tonight.”
Robert Gentry is married to the former Laurie Sky and they reside in Many. He is father to four daughters - Angela, Jody, Amber and Verity - and has six grandchildren.
Mr. WILLIAM EARL HILTON
William Earl Hilton is a native of Hineston in Rapides Parish, Louisiana and a graduate of Oak Hill High School. Hilton is married to Billie Faye Gunter Hilton. They share two children, Shane Hilton and Kristy Dunn, and are proud of their only grandchild, Slade Hilton.
A graduate of the LSU Basic Law Enforcement Academy and LSU Law Enforcement Institute, Hilton has proudly served the Parish of Rapides for 50 years in Law Enforcement. After serving six years in the Louisiana National Guard, he began his career in law enforcement for 50 years.
Upon retirement in 2020, he left many years of Law Enforcement leadership. Hilton served in every capacity within Law Enforcement before being elected Sheriff. Hilton was inducted into the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame in 2006.
Hilton's dedication serving as a Mason, Shriner and president of Executive Boards, charter member and administrator of fraternal, civic and professional organizations has proven to be a great asset to the Rapides Parish Sheriff's office, Rapides Parish and organizations statewide.
Hilton's proven skills in both hunting and fishing has attracted many sportsmen who share great memories and stories because of Hilton's love of the hunt! He has served as a member and supporter of all sport organizations. His love for guns and as a collector of many makes him a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.
MR. DEANO THORNTON
Deano Thornton was born in Malvern, Arkansas but was raised and currently resides in Winnfield, Louisiana. After graduating Winnfield Senior High School, Deano obtained a Bachelor of Science Business Administration degree at Northwestern State University in 1977.
His political career began when, in 1985, he was elected as Winnfield City Marshal and re-elected six years later. At the age of 38, Thornton was elected Mayor of the City of Winnfield. He went on to become the only Winnfield Mayor elected to serve four consecutive terms. Deano has served on the Winn Democratic Executive Committee since 1979, was awarded Winn Parish Outstanding Young Business Man in 1986 and Winn Parish Outstanding Young Man in 1988. Other awards he has received include Winn Parish Business of the Year and Central Louisiana Citizen of the Year.
Thornton is the Former Chairman of Louisiana Educational Television Authority and The Louisiana Energy and Power Authority. Currently, Deano is the Chairman of Uncle Earls Hog Dog Trials and the Founder and CEO of Winn Community Health Center Inc. and Trinity Community Health Centers of Louisiana.
He and Teresa Ingles Thornton have been married 42 years and have two children: Barry Thornton (deceased) and Mallorie Thornton Gardner. He is also a doting Pop to granddaughter Madelyn.
2020 Friend of Earl K. Long Award
Mr. PUCKETT WILLIS
Puckett Willis has been selected to receive the 2020 Friend of Earl K. Long Award.
In 1947, Puckett was elected to the Louisiana Senate, where he served from 1948-1952. He was elected at the age of 23, and is to this day the youngest state senator ever elected in Louisiana.
Puckett founded Merchants Insurance Agency in 1950 and operated it on Main Street in Winnfield, Louisiana until he sold the business in 1986. He was also one of the founders of Winn State Bank (now Sabine State Bank) and later served as the chairman of its Board of Directors.
After his time in the Louisiana State Senate, Puckett continued to be actively engaged in politics and civic life. He served several years as the Mayor of the Village of Sikes and was a member, and later chairman, of the Winn Parish Democratic Committee.
Willis was married to wife Rose for 65 years and they had two daughters.