Stuart T. DeBell, 61, a former chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and a businessman in Centreville for many years, died Thursday at Commonwealth Doctors Hospital in Fairfax after a heart attack.
He was first elected to the board in 1951 as a Democrat representing the old Centreville District. He was re-elected to three more terms and served as board chairman in 1959 and again in 1965.
Mr. DeBell was suspended from the board at his own request in 1966 after he and other Fairfax County officials and businessmen were indicted on bribery charges in connection with several rezoning cases. He was never convicted.
Mr. DeBell, who was involved with legal proceedings for three years, did not return to the board. In 1970, he suffered the first of several heart attacks. That limited his work with Stuart T. DeBell and Co., a real estate and insurance agency he had operated in Centreville for many years. The business later was sold.
Mr. DeBell was born on the family farm in Centreville in a farmhouse dating back before 1870. He lived in that house until his death. In 1968, the family farm was sold and the farmhouse was moved to a new site about 1 1/2 miles away.
He graduated from Strayer Business College in Washington and was an accountant and tax consultant as well as a farmer before going into the real estate business.
Mr. DeBell became active in community affairs. He was a charter member of the Centreville Lions Club and the Centreville Volunteer Fire Department. He was active in politics, serving on the County Democratic Committee and the county electoral board.
In 1949, he was elected state soil conservation supervisor for Northern Virginia.
Mr. DeBell served as a county supervisor during a period of explosive growth in Fairfax County, including construction of Dulles International Airport, which opened in 1962.
He promoted the construction of sewers in the Centreville area in 1966 and profited by selling some of the farm property he and his family owned to a developer. The property had been rezoned for high-density urban use. The property of these actions was not questioned.
But that same year, Mr. DeBell was twice indicted along with others by federal grand juries on charges of bribery conspiracy in connection with properties in the Hybla Valley area of the county. He did not own the properties but voted on their rezoning.
One case involved a tract for use as a trailer park and the other acreage for garden apartments. Mr. DeBell was cleared in both cases by federal judges.
Later he was indicted by a state grand jury in the garden apartments case and another rezoning case involving an asphalt plant. He was cleared in circuit court in the first case. A hung jury in the second case resulted in a mistrial. The prosecutor later dropped the remaining charges.
Mr. DeBell was a former president of the League of Virginia Counties. He had been active in the Fairfax County Historical Society. He was a Mason.
Formerly an active member of Truro Episcopal Church of Fairfax, Mr. DeBell became a member of historic St. John's Episcopal Church in Centreville when it was reopened in 1954 after restoration. He was a vestryman there for a number of years.
He is survived by his wife, the former Mildred Keller of Centreville; three sons, Stuart T. Jr., of The Plains, Va., John Thomas, of Catharpin, Va., and Stephen Keller DeBell of Centreville; a sister, Mary DeBell, of Fairfax, and seven grandchildren.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a memorial fund in his name at St. John's Episcopal Church.