Early Life: Born in Caltagirone, Sicily, Sept. 5, 1901, christened Mario Scelba (pronounced Shell-ba). His poor family sharecropped land owned by Don Luigi Sturzo, Italy's great political priest who founded what is now the Christian Democratic Party. Don Luigi was the boy's godfather, paid for his law studies in Rome, employed him as his private secretary, thus launched him in politics.

Political Career: When Don Luigi's party was suppressed by the Fascists in 1926, Scelba dropped out of politics, lived as a none-too-successful criminal lawyer. In wartime, when the movement revived underground, he was arrested by the Nazis for publishing a clandestine newspaper. After the war, he was appointed a member of the Allied-controlled temporary Parliament. He became De Gasperi's Minister of Interior in 1947.

Government Career: Lawyer Scelba built the country's disheveled police into a force of some 200,000, heavily armed and equipped with armored cars and special jeep-riding riot squads called the Reparto Celere (Speed Brigade). Energetic in putting down Communist and neo-Fascist attempts at disorder, Scelba soon made himself known as a man of action and made himself a large crop of enemies, including many democrats who disapprove his harsh methods, and collected in his scrapbooks more than 100,000 caricatures (few flattering) of his short, stubby figure and broad eye-twinkling smile. Scelba is regarded as the Christian Democrats' prime advocate of sterner measures against the Communists, who now ride higher than ever in Italy.

Political Philosophy: A tough lawyer-cop, with what seems a single-minded concern for law and order and a Watch & Ward Society attitude toward scant bathing suits and nude statues, Scelba leans left of center in his party. He favors more social reforms and public works; has attacked speculators for pushing up prices, industrialists for contributing to the Communists as insurance for the future. "It is virtually impossible," he once said, "to be Minister of Interior for a government that doesn't care if the people work or not."

Family: Married, two daughters. They live in a modest apartment near the Vatican. After leaving the government last summer, Scelba went back to his law practice, could be found typing his own briefs, hunt-and-peck style. on Digg


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