V.J. Bella

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Vincent Joseph "V.J." Bella
Louisiana State Representative from District 50 (St. Mary Parish)
In office
Preceded by At-large members:

(1) Carl W. Bauer
(2) J. Richard "Dickie" Breaux
(3) Helen L. Laperouse

Succeeded by Jack D. Smith
Louisiana State Fire Marshal
In office
In office
Personal details
Born (1927-07-29) July 29, 1927 (age 86)
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Missing

(2) Grace Parrino Bella

Children Marsha B. Graham

Chad Gerard Bella
Blaise Joseph Bella
Bridget Bella Poleman
Megan Bonnie Bella
Beau Michael Bella
Bradley Joseph Bella (deceased)

Residence (1) Berwick
St. Mary Parish
Louisiana, USA

(2) Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Occupation Firefighter

Vincent Joseph Bella, known as V.J. Bella (born July 29, 1927),[1] is a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from St. Mary Parish whose service extended from 1972-1990.[2] Thereafter, Bella served in Baton Rouge as the appointed state fire marshal from 1990–1992 and again from 1996-2004. As a representative, Bella was a pioneer in fire sprinkler legislation.[3]


In 1942, Bella, as a teenager, joined the fire department in Berwick in St. Mary Parish. Soon called into World War II, Bella served in the United States Marine Corps. He then returned in 1947 to the Berwick Fire Department. He was elevated to chief in 1951. In 1972, he was elected as a Democrat to the Louisiana House. A dozen years later, he switched to Republican designation. In 1987, Bella only narrowly won his final term in House District 50 as the GOP candidate because his district is heavily and traditionally Democrat. Bella defeated Jack D. Smith, 7,348 votes (51 percent) to 7,053 (49 percent).[4]

In the House, Bella was chairman of the House Retirement Committee, a position previously held by Shady Wall of Ouachita Parish. He served on these committees: (1) Transportation, Highways, and Public Works, (2) Ways and Means, (3) the Administration of Criminal Justice, (4) Appropriations, and (5) Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs.[3] C.B. Forgotston, a government watchdog attorney in Hammond in Tangipahoa Parish, describes Bella as a critic of excessive government spending and waste, along with colleagues Ed Scogin of Slidell and Raymond Laborde of Marksville.

In 1988, Bella co-authored legislation to bar the placing of obscenities on automobile bumper stickers. The legislation forbids "patently obscene words, photographs or depictions displayed to members of the public not occupying such vehicles."[5]

Jack Smith won the House seat over another Democrat in a special election held on March 23, 1991.[6]

Fire Marshal[edit]

Bella then joined the administration of Governor Buddy Roemer in the role of fire marshal, an officer who serves at the pleasure of the governor. He replaced retiring Fire Marshal Carroll Herring while still serving as a Louisiana representative. A special election was held for Bella's replacement.[7] Governor Edwin Washington Edwards removed Bella as fire chief, but Republican Governor Murphy J. "Mike" Foster, Jr., also from St. Mary Parish, recalled him for eight years.[8] Then Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco removed him again in September 2004. Bella said that he thought he had a good relationship with Blanco, whom he supported in 2003, rather than the Republican favored by Foster, Blanco's successor as governor, Bobby Jindal.[9]

Marshal Bella worked for the purchase of equipment for investigations and inspections, establishment of an Arson Strike Force, development of the Louisiana Fire Information Council, and the formulation of a statewide building code. Bella's professional organizations include the Louisiana Firemen's Association, the Louisiana Fire Chiefs Association, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, the National Fire Proection Agency, and then International Fire Marshal's Association. The V.J. Bella Central Fire Station at the Louisiana State University Fire Training Center is named in his honor.[3] In 1998 Bella came under scrutiny for abusing his power by interfering in the prison system on behalf of an inmate friend of his.[10]

A year before he left office as fire marshal, Bella launched a fund-raising campaign to construct the Louisiana Firefighters Memorial on the grounds of the Department of Public Safety off Indepencence Boulevard in Baton Rouge. In November 2003, he dedicated a new Fire Marshal Building to correspond with the 100th anniversary of the office. Bella envisioned the memorial as a "place for remembrance and reflection of firefighters" and added that "it should have been done years ago."[11] Bella sought donations from corporations, fire departments, and interested citizens. Included in the memorial is a wall of granite etched with the twenty-eight names of Louisiana firefighters who were killed in the line of duty. The names date to 1970, the earliest year for which state fire department records exist. Bella convinced Governor George Pataki of New York to send a piece of steel from the former World Trade Center for another part of the memorial. Flag poles around the perimeter hold different banners from Louisiana fire departments.

Family and legacy[edit]

In civic matters, Bella has been affiliated with the Jaycees, the Lion's Club,[3] and the fight against juvenile diabetes, which claimed the life of his 11-year-old son, Brad Joseph Bella (1990–2001).[12] V.J. Bella is married to the former Grace Parrino (born ca. 1960). His other children include Marsha Graham, Chad Gerard Bella (born ca. 1955), Blaise Joseph Bella (born ca. 1959), Bridget Poleman (born ca. 1962), all from a previous marriage, and Megan Bonnie Bella (born ca. 1986) and Beau Michael Bella (born ca.1998), both from the second marriage.[3]

In 2005, the state legislature, on a resolution introduced by Bella's friend, Peppi Bruneau of New Orleans, commended the former lawmaker and fire chief for his service to the state. Having left state service, Bella has been employed as a business consultant.


  1. ^ Outstanding Civic Leaders of America. Outstanding American Foundation. 1968. p. 40. 
  2. ^ "Membership in the Louisiana House of Representatives, 1812-2008". house.louisiana.gov. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Regular Session, 2005, House Concurrent Resolution No. 14 by Representative Bruneau". legis.state.la.us. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Louisiana election returns, October 24, 1987". sos.louisiana.gov. Retrieved April 27, 2010. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Lawmaker Stirs 'Obscene' Debate," Minden Press-Herald, June 2, 1988, p. 1
  6. ^ "Louisiana election returns, March 23, 1991". sos.louisiana.gov. Retrieved April 27, 2010. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Bella named fire marshal". The Advocate. September 27, 1990. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  8. ^ "La. fire marshal warns against burning". The Advocate. May 20, 2000. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Longtime Louisiana Fire Marshal Removed by Governor, September 27, 2004". firehouse.com. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Fire marshal abuses office". The Advocate. February 21, 1998. p. 6.b.S. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Memorial honors fallen La. firefighters". The Advocate. April 9, 2006. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Brad Joseph Bella". findagrave.com. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
Louisiana House of Representatives
Preceded by
At-large members:

Carl W. Bauer
Richard J. "Dickie" Breaux
Helen L. Laperouse

Louisiana State Representative from District 50 (St. Mary Parish)

Vincent Joseph "V.J." Bella

Succeeded by
Jack D. Smith