Huey Long

Huey Long


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Huey Long was a fiery and charismatic Louisiana politician who moved up the ranks at a young age. Branded a demagogue and radical by his opponents, and known for turning his back on established processes to gain political victories, Long controlled a vast political machine in the name of courting working class and poor constituents.

HUEY LONG: EARLY YEARS

Long was born on August 30, 1893, in rural north central Louisiana, the seventh child in his family.

His hometown of Winnfield was in one of the poorest parishes in the state, but the Longs, farmers with livestock, were relatively well off. Long was known for his avid reading, photographic memory and an audacious personality with no inhibitions about offering his opinion.

During high school, Long won a scholarship to Louisiana State University in a debate competition. Long claimed that he became a traveling salesman instead when he realized he couldn’t afford the required books, but it’s believed he didn’t attend because he never graduated high school.

His older brother George paid for attendance at Oklahoma Baptist University to become a preacher, but Long never registered. George then gave his brother money to switch to the University of Oklahoma Law School, but Long lost that gambling.

After hustling for a job, Long attended for a semester, but by his own admission, learned more about gambling than the law. He left to become a traveling salesman again.

ROSE MCCONNELL LONG

At the end of 1912, Long was arrested in Shreveport for creating a disturbance in a brothel, though Long later claimed he was falsely arrested for the shooting of two men.

He was in Shreveport to propose to Rose McConnell. Long had met Rose in 1910 at a baking contest he organized to promote a shortening called Cottolene while he was still in sales. Serving as the judge, he gave the top two prizes to Rose and her mother. They were married in April 1913.

In 1914, Long enrolled at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, which he attended for a year, concentrating on his studies. He received special permission to take the Louisiana bar exam, passing at age 21.

LOUSIANA RAILROAD COMMISSION

In 1918 Long won a seat on the Louisiana Railroad Commission and used his position to fight monopolies and utility rates, winning favor with working people. In 1922, he became the chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission and sued the telephone company for raising rates.

Long rankled the conservative establishment and confrontations with them sometimes erupted into violence, including a knife attack.

At the age of 30, Long announced his candidacy as a Democrat for governor, attacking Standard Oil as controlling the corrupt New Orleans political machine. Long lost by 7,000 votes, placing third, which he blamed on torrential downpours preventing rural voters from getting to the polls.

Though Long’s politics were anti-corporate, his finances told a different story, with multiple lucrative investments in independent oil companies. His battles against Standard Oil were often on behalf of companies that he benefited from financially.

THE KINGFISH

With the slogan “Every man a king,” Long ran for governor again four years later. He won by huge numbers in 1928 and, now embracing the nickname “the Kingfish,” immediately made good on his promises by maneuvering out of government agencies the cronies of the conservative political establishment and installing his own allies.

Democratic Governor Long began his agenda of centralizing power around the executive office – a move that brought accusations of a dictatorship, pressuring the legislature to pass laws allowing him to seize control of multiple state agencies.

He later signed a bill that allowed all police to make arrests without a warrant, along with others that centralized investigative power to the governor.

Long pursued increased spending in education, infrastructure and energy, and placed a tax burden on the rich, most notably large corporations like Standard Oil. Threatened with impeachment, Long charged legislators with taking bribes. Impeachment was attempted, which Long narrowly escaped.

Death threats followed him, and Long procured the service of bodyguards out of fear of assassination.

HUEY LONG AND THE BLACK COMMUNITY

Despite Long’s reputation as a reformer, his efforts did not extend to the black community.

One of his earliest acts as governor was to sign a bill expanding train segregation to buses, and he gave speeches warning of “Negro domination,” though some of his populist policies did benefit blacks economically.

Long’s favorite way to discredit opponents was to claim they were of black descent.

SENATOR HUEY LONG

In 1930, Long ran for the U.S. Senate and won, but left his Senate seat unattended for months while he consolidated his power in Louisiana before departing the state, installing cronies to take his place as governor.

Long would demand a special session of the state legislature when he visited, pushing through his agenda at a startling pace that ignored standard procedures. In one five-day session, 44 bills were passed.

Many of these bills were meant to divert power to Long behind the scenes, including those that transferred powers away from local authorities in the courts, police, elections and licensing to state authorities. Other bills targeted newspapers, particularly Long’s enemies in the press.

SHARE OUR WEALTH

In the Senate, Long addressed the Great Depression by advocating for a series of reforms known as Share Our Wealth, a plan to redistribute wealth and capping personal income at $50 million.

Labeled a socialist by both political parties, Long started his own newspaper, the American Progress, to spread his ideas.

Share Our Wealth political clubs appeared around the country, boasting over seven million members in 27,000 clubs. Long allowed blacks to participate, but only in segregated groups.

LONG AND FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

Long initially supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but felt threatened by him. Roosevelt felt that Long was dangerous and attempted to undo his power, going so far as to order investigations into Long by the IRS and the FBI.

Roosevelt incorporated some of Long’s Share Our Wealth initiatives into his New Deal to ensure Long’s efforts did not undo it – and to undercut Long’s popular support as he began to move towards a presidential bid.

In 1935, Long wrote a speculative book called My First Days In The White House, which gave a fictional account of how Long expected his first 100 days as president to unfold.

SQUARE DEAL ASSOCIATION

A group called the Square Deal Association had quietly formed in Louisiana, a gathering of Long’s opponents who embraced armed revolt as the only way to stop him.

In January 1935, the East Baton Rouge Parish courthouse was raided by a group of 300 armed men in the Square Deal Association.

Governor Oscar K. Allen declared martial law and called in the militia. The skirmish moved to the airport where there was a brief armed altercation.

That summer, Long claimed to have uncovered a plot to assassinate him involving four congressmen, the mayor of New Orleans and two former Louisiana governors.

HUEY LONG ASSASSINATION

On September 8, 1935, Long arrived in Baton Rouge to take part in a special legislative session when he was approached by Dr. Carl Weiss, the son-in-law of Judge Benjamin Pavy.

Pavy stood to lose his position during the session after Long revived a rumor about black children in the Pavy family to discredit him professionally.

Weiss shot Long at close range. Long’s bodyguards shot back at Weiss, killing him, while Long was rushed to the hospital where he died two days later of internal bleeding at the age of 44.

LEGACY OF HUEY LONG

Many observers of Long and his political machinations have described him as a demagogue with an insatiable lust for power and control.

In the satirical novel It Can’t Happen Here, author Sinclair Lewis created the character of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a politician with totalitarian ambitions that critics believe was based on Long.

Others, however, commend Long for his work on behalf of Louisiana’s infrastructure, education system and health care.

Indeed, many of Long’s relatives have had long careers in politics and government, including his brother Earl Kemp Long (three-term governor of Louisiana), his widow Rose McConnell Long (U.S. senator) and his son Russell B. Long (also a U.S. senator).

SOURCES

Kingfish and His Realm. William Ivy Hair.
Huey Long. T. Harry Williams.
Life and Times. The Long Legacy Project.


Life & Times &mdash Introduction

1920s Louisiana was a powder keg of injustice, and Huey Long was a lightning bolt. The unique influences of his background collided with the oppressive social conditions of his times to produce an explosion of change.

Huey Long grew up on a farm in the poorest part of Louisiana. He came from a large, comfortable family in a small, close-knit community. It was the perfect combination to foster self-confidence and compassion in a precocious boy. His home was a haven of security, faith, and education, which provided him with all the fundamentals to succeed. Meanwhile he was sadly aware that many of his poor friends and neighbors had no opportunity at all.

His brilliant mind and boundless energy caused Huey to hopscotch through life, skipping every other step. With a modicum of formal education, a dab of experience, and a sense of urgency, Huey charged into politics on a mission to help the poor. He began by cutting train fares and utility rates in his first public office and rapidly developed a state-wide reputation as a champion of the common man.

Over the formidable opposition of the entrenched political establishment, an unfriendly press, and the Ku Klux Klan, Huey rose to the governorship on the shoulders of Louisiana's masses in 1928. Thwarted each step of the way by the powerful elite, he transformed the physical and political landscape of Louisiana, providing roads, bridges, free school books, public education, healthcare, and equal access to the voting booth for all.

Halfway through his term as governor the Great Depression swept the entire nation. Believing that his &ldquoShare Our Wealth&rdquo program was the cure for the country's ailing economy, Long quickly won a United States Senate seat to take his plan to all of America's poor. When both the Democratic and Republican parties refused his program, Long positioned himself as a third-party challenger in the 1936 presidential election.

Huey Long was caught in a race against time that he could not win. Unable to stop him by legal means, his enemies resorted to violence. Threats, assassination plots, and physical attacks against himself and his family beleaguered him.

On September 8, 1935, Huey Long was shot in the corridors of the Louisiana State Capitol that he built. He died two days later. More than 200,000 grateful mourners attended his funeral. He is buried on the Capitol grounds, where a statue depicts his remarkable achievements.


Strippers, Insane Asylums, Assassination, and Termites: Inside the Insane History of the World’s Greatest White House Replica

Governor Huey Long was so anxious to get to the White House that he built his own in Baton Rouge. An assassin’s bullet cut short Long’s ambitions, but his gaudy knock-off survives.

William O’Connor

Richard Alan Hannon Photography

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana—On March 7, 1929, the Louisiana governor’s mansion here was rendered to nothing more than a nub of a foundation in the dirt.

A building that had embodied the state’s class and elegance for its aghast city elites, it was reduced to its ignominious condition by convicts from the state prison on orders of the grandiloquent new governor—Huey P. Long. Plundered of its riches (whereabouts still unknown), it was replaced by one of the greatest pieces of Ozymandian architecture in U.S. history.

Long’s mansion has stood empty for more than half a century—the last governor moved out in 1963. But this physical embodiment of hubris, this temple of over-the-top excess, still draws crowds. People can’t stop snooping in it and talking about it even now, much as they can’t stop debating the pros and cons of the politician who commissioned the edifice in the first place. The subject of biographers too numerous to count, one Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, and even songwriter Randy Newman, Long is to this day acclaimed and reviled, sometimes even by the same people, with the same fervor he inspired almost a century ago. When it comes to Huey Long, the jury will always be out.

The mansion, on the other hand, is less a subject of debate and more an object of awe. Or just plain old disbelief. Even today it’s hard to reckon with the unguarded, unzipped—hell, unhinged—ambition embodied in the mansion ordered up by the Kingfish. You can roll your eyes, you can snort with derision, but the one thing you cannot do when you drive out North Boulevard and stare at the mansion on the hill is turn away. You can’t stop staring—and oh how Huey would love that! Because no one loved attention more, or did more to get it.

Why else would you design the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to look exactly like the White House?

Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

There are a number of White House replicas around the world. Suburban D.C. has at least three. Two are found in McLean, Virginia: one of them being 14,000 square feet and built by a Vietnamese immigrant owner who wanted an architectural “thank you” to the U.S., and the second is visible to all gawkers driving on Georgetown Pike and a stone’s throw from the estate of former longtime Saudi Arabia Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan. The third can be found in Haymarket, Virginia, and is an architectural manifestation of a hot mess. Atlanta has one, too, featuring a copy of the Oval Office from the George W. Bush era. In Houston, former governor and oilman Ross Sterling built a limestone replica on the water in 1927 with 34 rooms inside a total of 20,689 square feet, which sold for $2.8 million this year. Dallas has a monstrosity replete with one of those weirdly ornate kitchens with overdone boiserie found in modern American McMansions. Those without taste are not limited to the U.S., as oligarchs in Iraq and China, among others, have built their own versions of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Nonetheless, Long’s White House replica eclipses them all for sheer audacity and lubricious detail. And make no mistake, it was a replica of the White House. Were it not abundantly clear while standing in front of it, contemporary accounts make the connection explicit. The Times-Picayune and other outlets called it the “Louisiana White House” and his contemporary biographer Forrest Davis quotes Long as saying about the building’s look, “I want to be used to the White House when I get there.” (New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling tells a different version, wherein Huey “wanted a replica of the White House so he would know where the light switches were in the bathrooms when he got to be president.”) Since a restoration completed in 1999, the mansion is managed by Preserve Louisiana, and has been open to the public for an entertaining (it is Louisiana politics, after all) and essential tour.

There has been so much written in the past year and a half about Huey Long, and stories about him are like going to a Pizza Hut lunchtime buffet as a kid—endless, tasty, but if you actually step back and think about them, it makes you gag. But to understand how a sitting governor of an impoverished state in the throes of the Great Depression built a White House replica you need to understand Long and read some of those stories.

After all, this is a man who wrote what was essentially 146 pages of White House fanfiction titled My First Days in the White House (published after he was assassinated in 1935) in the run-up to the 1936 election in which he: virtually calls FDR low-energy (“worn and tired”) puts down a rebellion titles chapters Wherein the New President Encounters the Masters of Finance and Destiny and Wherein the Masters of Finance and Destiny Are Ours nominates FDR as his secretary of the Navy, Hoover secretary of commerce, and Al Smith budget director imagines conversations with each one, such as him telling FDR, “I only offered you a position which I thought you were qualified to fill,” and another where the text reads, “‘Huey, you amaze me,’ [Smith] ejaculated” to Long musing to himself as he watches happy crowds at the inauguration, “Could other presidents have had such confident throngs as these?”

A governor building a mansion similar to the White House is not so shocking when you understand that the man who did it opened his autobiography Every Man a King by claiming inspiration from Cellini, the 16th-century sculptor whose autobiography is generally considered the greatest ego trip in history, and Mazarin, the cardinal who largely ruled France during the youth of Louis XIV. Long was dubbed by Davis as “the most dangerous man in America” and “Der Furore of the Delta.”

Or perhaps nothing captures the ego of the man as well as how one day, while visiting New York City, standing in the shadow of the 102-story Empire State Building, Long bragged to those around him about the new state capitol he had built that stood 34 stories tall.

Long was born in Winn Parish, Louisiana, in 1893, a year in which the U.S. was sunk in an economic depressions while the state battled floods, drought, and a hurricane. The seventh child of nine, Long loved to wax about his humble beginnings however, when he was 7 the railroad came to town and transformed it—as well as the fortunes of his family, which owned a lot of the land. While Long was not wealthy, his siblings would gripe in later years about how he exaggerated their economic situation. In The Story of Huey P. Long, historian Carleton Beals places Long within the contrarian political tradition of upstate Winn Parish, which had backed some of America’s most colorful populists, including William Jennings Bryan, Carrie Nation, Eugene Debs, and Bill Haywood.

Huey spent his late teens and early twenties on the move—working as a traveling salesman, attending a handful of different universities, passing the bar after only a year of law school. He eventually opened a law practice in Shreveport, where he made a name for himself by suing corporations. He was married in 1913 and had three children, one of whom, Russell, spent nearly three decades in the U.S. Senate. Huey himself began his meteoric rise in 1918 when at 25 he won election to the state railroad commission after running on a platform that attacked Standard Oil and utility companies. He ran for governor in 1924 and lost. Four years later, again working from a populist playbook that set the working classes against the incumbent elites downstate (in Long’s lexicon, “New Orleans” was always shorthand for inherited wealth and Catholicism), he won the general election with an astonishing 96.1 percent of the vote.

Getty

It is hard to capture just how quickly and absolutely Long consolidated power upon taking office. Described by the mayor of New Orleans as “Caligula, Attila, Henry VIII, and Louis XIV” rolled into one, he turned the state police into a personal army enforcing his version of martial law. “I used to get things done by saying ‘please’,” he once claimed. “That didn’t work and now I’m a dynamiter. I dynamite ’em out of my path.”

He cleaned out government agencies and commissions and packed those sinecures with loyalists. In his first year in office he threatened to withhold the state’s payments on an existing loan if the state’s bankers didn’t issue new ones. He detached the National Guard to break up gambling and nightclubs, and to resolve political disputes. He pushed for a severance tax on Standard Oil.

When one state senator was overruled by Long during a committee debate, the senator threw a book at Long’s head and shouted, “Maybe you’ve heard of this book. It’s the Constitution of the State of Louisiana.” Long shot back, “I’m the Constitution around here now.”

In 1929 everything came to a boil. After his severance tax was defeated in court, Long pushed for an occupation tax targeting Standard Oil—he wanted to use the revenue to pay for his plan to give free textbooks to the state’s schoolchildren. The legislature erupted, and introduced 19 counts of impeachment against Long, one of which accused him of “demolishing the Executive Mansion without express legislative authority and spending $150,000 for a new mansion disposing of and destroying furniture in the Executive Mansion without authorization or accounting.”

The executive mansion whose destruction so irked Long’s opponents had been built in 1857 by the Knoxes, “a leading Baton Rouge family” according to the State Times. It was purchased by the state in 1887 for use by the governor. On the eve of its demise, this typical but unremarkable plantation-style house received a fulsome eulogy extolling it as “one of the most beautiful and stately homes in the city, while its broad galleries and spacious halls radiated an air of cheerfulness and hospitality.” The March 1, 1929, story in the State Times rolled on breathlessly: “So the old home that has graced North Boulevard for almost three-quarters of a century is being torn apart. Its walls hold many a secret of state, its fine old mirrors have reflected joys and sorrows … its stately columns and broad verandahs, the flowering japonicas and the broad sweep of lawn have given it personality and distinction among other homes of Baton Rouge. Thousands of visitors have driven out the Boulevard to have pointed out to them the home of their governor.”

Nothing could have been further from what Huey saw when he moved in.

Tenant Complaints

“When we moved into the Mansion, the old structure was in such condition that living in it comfortably was practically impossible,” wrote Long in Every Man a King. “Rats and other vermin ran through the building unrestrained. Half the windows could neither be raised nor lowered. Termites had destroyed the lower sills.” In his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Long, T. Harry Williams adds that the Kingfish claimed, “There were too many clocks in the place. They kept me awake. You know how it is. I tried to make ’em all strike together. Then the rats would get into ’em and I’d lie awake listening to ’em.”

Whether Huey genuinely wanted to be able to sleep in the mansion or just wanted a fancy new one remains an open question—a number of historians point out that before and after construction on the new mansion, Huey spent most of his time living in hotels. But what mattered was that Long wanted a new mansion. So he brought a building inspector to the old mansion, and the inspector duly concluded that the house was “dilapidated” and would need to be gut renovated. That was all Huey needed, and so he went to the state Board of Liquidators and got approval for $150,000 for a new governor’s mansion.

But first the legislature had to approve the destruction of the old mansion. Long, writes Williams, knew his opponents would block the new mansion to spite him. So he didn’t wait for the legislature to come back during its winter recess, and instead got “approval” via mail.

“Governor Long announced today that with one-third of the members of the Legislature yet to be heard from, all six of the propositions recently submitted to the members by the state board of liquidation had carried by majorities of the elected members in each house,” bleated the Times-Picayune, which opposed Long at every turn. With what he considered a legitimate majority, Long went ahead with the destruction.

"It reminds me of the old man who keeps a boarding house,” Long retorted, when confronted with the criticism that the house was good enough for the state’s aristocratic governors. “When one guest complains that the towel is dirty, he says, 'people have been wiping on that towel for a month without complaining, I don't see what's the matter with you.’" And so Long was not content to merely flout the aristocratic society’s grip on social norms—he annihilated it in a way that would portend what was to come.

One night in March 1929, Long called up the warden of the “Alcatraz of the South,” Angola State Prison, and ordered him to send a number of convicts (reports range from 30 to 100) to Baton Rouge. Huey personally led the chain gang down from the Capitol to the mansion and watched them tear it down. “The job was done fast. The upper classes were horrified—the old house that had harbored great governors was gone and great traditions gone with it, torn down by jailbirds!” wrote Williams. The riches of the old mansion—the china, silverware, and antique furnishings—vanished. Later, reports historian Richard D. White in his recent biography Kingfish, the sergeant-at-arms of the House would testify that as far as the silver, it ended up engraved with “Huey P. Long” and was sent off to Shreveport.

Before these events, Long told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1931, the elites always demanded to know “who your mother’s brother’s cousin’s uncle’s aunt’s grandmother was. But that’s out. The barbarians are in now.”

It was a sign of how ruthless he would be.

Richard Alan Hannon Photography

Long summoned every scrap of that ruthlessness to fend off impeachment. Through backroom deals, parliamentary maneuvering, threats (he was accused of ordering a hit on a member of the Legislature), and chicanery (when one of Long’s cronies introduced a motion to adjourn, opposing lawmakers claimed their push buttons had been tampered with to change their votes), Long emerged victorious. He then set about crushing any opposition that remained. He also became obsessed with the idea that he was an assassination target.

“He had all the appurtenances of frightened tyranny,” wrote Carleton Beals in The Story of Huey P. Long. Whenever the Kingfish prepared to leave the hotel in Baton Rouge, he came down in an elevator full of armed men (Long himself was always armed) and brought out in a phalanx of men to the cars. Once in, he was driven with armed cars to the front and rear and “flanked by motorcycle cops.” The New Yorker wryly noted in a 1935 Talk of the Town story that when Long changed his regular hotel in New York City from the Waldorf to the New Yorker, he doubled his number of bodyguards and made them dress the same. “Sometimes,” it reported, “he would slip out on them and hide, and they’d have to scurry around and hunt for him.” They all slept in his suite.

White House Envy

After surviving the impeachment attempt, Long managed to take time out of his rapid strangling of Louisiana to oversee the construction of the new mansion now underway.

It would be generous to call Huey Long’s taste “eccentric.” Throughout his adult life, he required the constant help of sycophant-in-chief Seymour Weiss (manager of the Roosevelt Hotel) to rein in his terrible yet expensive sartorial decisions. (One ensemble nixed by Weiss involved a swallowtail coat, striped trousers, and a flaming red tie). At Hyde Park, his plaid suit and pink tie led FDR’s mother Sarah (not that she was the ultimate arbiter of taste—Hyde Park is suffocated by its Victorian clutter) to harrumph, “Who is that awful man?”

Unfortunately, Long was heavily involved in the construction of the mansion, which was designed by the architectural firm of Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth, and decorated by architect Leon C. Weiss’ wife, Caroline. While Weiss' daughter writes in her book Times Tapestry that Long told Weiss, “You stay out of my politics and I’ll stay out of your architecture,” that wasn’t exactly the case. According to T. Harry Williams, “[Long] spent a good deal of time at the site, spurring the foremen and workers on to greater efforts. He even went to the building late at night, accompanied by some friend he had aroused from bed, and grabbing a flashlight from an astonished watchman, he would go over the structure inch by inch to assure himself that all the specifications were being followed.”

Those specifications included a secret staircase from his office to the private residence so he could escape unwanted supplicants, and a master bathroom with only a stand-up shower because Long said he didn’t want to “bathe in his own filth” or, according to another account, because he claimed that any man with enough time for a bath has too much time on his hands. Long’s wife, Rose, on the other hand, was not involved. During its construction, she stayed in Shreveport, and later made New Orleans her home base. In all fairness to the mansion, the real culprit for Rose’s distance was likely Huey Long’s secretary, who was rumored to be his mistress. The giveaway might have been when he named her secretary of state for Louisiana and possibly had her ex-husband kidnapped and stashed on a remote island.

Richard Alan Hannon Photography

Nowhere is the mix of Long’s questionable taste and his reported hands-on approach to the mansion as readily apparent as in the East Room. Sporting crystal chandeliers, built-in pier glass mirrors with gilded frames, a red marble terrazzo floor, and damask and velvet drapes, the ballroom is dominated by walls painted a neon shade of booger green. Long loved the color green, and he wanted the room to be “Louis XVI-style,” which along with Louis XIV and XV, I’ve long seen as a heuristic for unimaginative straight men meaning “looks like a room in a palace.” The house as a whole has the feel of such a man’s idea of a well-appointed mansion, rather than being a fully realized one.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time described the house as having “all the newness of a model home development or a department store window.” In his book The Earl of Louisiana, A.J. Liebling described it as “a great reception room furnished like a suite in a four-star general’s house on an Army post, where the furniture comes out of quartermaster’s stores… a place in which boredom began in the first ten seconds … the ballroom smacked of Bachelor’s Hall, lacking the touch of a woman’s fastidious hand.”

Richard Alan Hannon Photography

The East Room is just one of the 22 rooms that make up the mansion, which fills out to roughly 30,000 square feet in total, according to Preserve Louisiana. By comparison, the White House is approximately 55,000 square feet and has 132 rooms. The governor’s mansion cost $150,000 to build, and an additional $22,000 was spent furnishing it. The three-story stuccoed white manse is fronted by four 30-feet-tall Corinthian columns. Inside the front door is a dramatic entrance hall with a black and white marble floor and a sensually curving staircase of Alabama marble and granite. To the left is the East Room, which also connects to the dining room, which was decorated with Zuber wallpaper showing scenes from around the Americas—but not Louisiana—and furnished with pieces from Chippendale and Duncan Phyfe. The East Room, the state dining room, and the oval shape of the entrance hall are the only real similarities between the White House interior and the inside of the Baton Rouge replica.

Richard Alan Hannon Photography

The luxuriousness of the new residence did not go unnoticed. Even in his autobiography, Long felt compelled to address it. He repeated a conversation he had with one critic, who challenged Long by saying, “The people never expected to see a governor live in such a palace.” Long, never bashful, claimed he responded, “That was because the people never expected to have such a wonderful governor.”

Upstairs there are seven bedrooms, each with a bathroom decorated with hand-painted tiles, as well as a sunroom and solarium (later glassed in) that at the time the mansion was built had unobstructed views of the Mississippi River. It was in the master bedroom that the St. Louis Times-Dispatch and Marquis Childs caught up with Long for one of the best in-person profiles of him ever recorded.

“He lies on a great bed with an orange cover to receive the interviewer,” Childs observed. “He is sprawled out, his collar unbuttoned, his belt unbuckled, his shoes off. He is wearing gray knickers and golf socks with a herringbone stripe … Governor Long never speaks in a normal conversational tone. He bellows, he roars, he shouts, he whispers confidentially, he grunts dismally. During the next two hours a procession of people passes in and out of the Governor’s bedroom. It is like a levee of state in the ancient manner of Louis XIV.”

Richard Alan Hannon Photography

The End of the Kingfish

By the time Childs caught up with Long, the governor’s career had gone national. In 1930, Long decided to run for the U.S. Senate, and beat the incumbent with 57.3 percent of the vote. But Long became a prisoner in his own state, unable to leave and take his Senate seat because his one-time ally and lieutenant governor, Paul Cyr, had turned into a bitter enemy because Long refused to pardon Thomas E. Dreher and Mrs. Ada Labouef in one of the decade’s more sensational murders. If Long left the state, Cyr would assume his seat and begin unwinding Long’s carefully crafted political kickback network. Long waited out the end of his term, and then hand-picked his friend Oscar K. Allen to succeed him as governor and become his puppet. Aptly named O.K. Allen, he was perfect for Long, as Allen was said to be willing to sign anything. One day, the joke went, a leaf blew in and he signed it.

In the first two years of the ’30s, Long managed to get $5 million appropriated for a new state capitol, designed by the same architects as the mansion. The previous capitol, which is also a must-see in Baton Rouge, is a Gothic Revival misadventure built in 1847 that Mark Twain once roasted as coming from too much reading of Sir Walter Scott.

In the midst of all this, Long was also up to his usual political antics. One Long family friend told Liebling that when a new hospital went up in Baton Rouge, some black politicians approached him about how there were no black nurses. “Huey said he’d fix it for them,” the friend recalled, “but they wouldn’t like his method. He went around to visit the hospital and pretended to be surprised when he found white nurses waiting on colored men. He blew high as a buzzard can fly, saying it wasn’t fit for white women to be so humiliated. It was the most racist talk you ever heard, but the result was he got the white nurses out and the colored nurses in, and they’ve had the jobs ever since.”

When Long finally took his seat in the Senate, he instantly became a lightning rod for his “Share Our Wealth” program, taking the Standard Oil recipe that worked so well for him back home and expanding it to include J.P. Morgan and other titans of finance and industry. He so infuriated his Senate colleagues that expulsion proceedings were commenced against him.

All the while, Long controlled Louisiana—he ordered bills shoved through the legislature, controlled the state’s 24,000 public employees, and through them most of the state’s businesses. He owned the state’s attorney general, as well as the state supreme court. Only politicians in New Orleans dared defy him, although that didn’t stop Long from using the state police force to intimidate some of them. Roosevelt even considered sending in troops to counter Long’s use of the state police as an army, but decided against it.

To be sure, Long was popular for a reason. He built highways, bridges, schools, hospitals, and secured free textbooks for Louisiana schoolchildren. Without pressure from Long, it is unlikely FDR would have pushed so far to the left.

Long had been a key supporter of FDR in the 1932 election, but thereafter turned on him. On Labor Day of 1935 in Oklahoma City, just a few months after boasting that “[Roosevelt’s] scared of me … I can outpromise him and he knows it,” Long declared he was running for president as a third-party candidate.

This wasn’t exactly news to those who had followed Long’s career. In 1930, when former President Calvin Coolidge swung through Louisiana, Huey asked him in front of the press, “Are the Hoovers good housekeepers?”

"I guess so," said the ex-president.

"Well," the governor went on, "when I was elected I found the governor's mansion in such rotten shape that I had to tear it down and build another. It started a hell of a row. I don't want to have to tear down the White House when I'm elected.”

Richard Alan Hannon Photography

Long reportedly confided to supporters that his third-party run would not win him the presidency in 1936, but it would prevent Roosevelt from reelection. Thus a Republican would be in power with the economy still wrecked, making 1940 ripe for the taking. “I’m going to abolish the Electoral College,” he crowed. “And I defy any sonofabitch to get me out under four terms.”

On Sunday September 8, 1935, just after 9 p.m., Long was shot in the state capitol. Surgeons racing from New Orleans to save Long’s life crashed their car and were delayed. An inexperienced doctor that Long had handpicked to run a local hospital botched the operation. Less than 48 hours later, the Kingfish was dead. His last words were: “God, don't let me die. I have so much to do.”

While conspiracy theories abounded in the aftermath of the assassination, the generally accepted version of events has it that Long was assassinated by retired Baton Rouge doctor Carl Weiss. Weiss’s father-in-law was a judge in the process of being gerrymandered by Long, who had also fired Weiss’s uncle-in-law from a high school, and accused the family of having “coffee blood.” The assassination happened as Long was returning to the governor’s office suite from a session of the Louisiana House. As Long was speaking to his secretary, Weiss came from behind a marble pillar and shot Huey in the chest. Long’s bodyguards then opened fire on Weiss, riddling his body with at least 30 bullets as Huey fled the scene.

Crazy Tenants

The mansion’s story does not end with Long’s assassination. In fact, depending on which historian you consult, Huey may not even have been the mansion’s most interesting occupant.

Earl Long was Huey’s younger brother, and their relationship was tempestuous. But Earl, along with Huey’s son Russell, the U.S. senator, would extend and, at least in Earl’s case, enliven the family’s political dynasty. Less dangerous than Huey, Earl was surely more colorful—he was institutionalized while governor, allegedly tried to kill his wife, and in his last night as governor reportedly threw a party for strippers at the mansion.

Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Not for nothing did he end up being the focus of Liebling’s must-read book The Earl of Louisiana, which begins with one of the greatest first sentences anywhere: “Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly.”

Earl’s daily routine was quirky, noted Liebling. “When he gets the papers in the morning, he tears them open and goes straight to the hog quotations and the racing charts … After he makes his bets, the day’s business can begin. First item is to turn to the supermarket ads. If he sees something in the ads that the price is right, he buys it regardless if he needs it at the moment or not.” On hot Louisiana summer days, he would cool himself off by wiping his face with a handkerchief dipped in iced Coca-Cola.

Earl went from colorful to infamous in 1959 in one of the most extraordinary events in American political history when his wife had him committed to a mental hospital even while he was a sitting governor.

The drama started on a Thursday evening, May 28, in the governor’s mansion, when Long became inexplicably violent. His wife, Blanche, later said he tried to kill her. For two days he remained locked in his room, until, crying nonstop, he was examined by a psychiatrist. Then, Eleanor Harris wrote in the Times-Herald in 1959, “with the suddenness of a thunderbolt, he seemed to go uncontrollably wild… all through the night those belowstairs could hear the crash of breaking wood and glass, and a steady stream of shouted profanity. At one point the governor tore a heavy post from his bed. At another, after throwing some heavy ashtrays through the glass of his windows, he stood screaming, ‘Help! Murder!’ into the night air.”

So, against his will and restrained by six men, Earl was shipped off to a hospital in Galveston, Texas. He remained there for 17 days and tried to adopt a 14-year-old fellow patient. He managed to get a court-ordered release by agreeing to treatment in New Orleans, escaped, was arrested by the Baton Rouge sheriff on his wife’s orders, and put in a Louisiana state hospital. After eight days he called the state hospital board and had the people holding him in the hospital fired and replaced them with two men who declared him sane.

Probably due to a combination of Earl’s madness as well as his flagrant affair with the stripper Blaze Starr (whose fur coat hangs in the mansion to this day), Blanche moved out of the executive mansion after Earl returned from the hospital. After being “dis-domiciled” by Blanche, as he put it, Earl became even more flagrant. When French President Charles de Gaulle visited New Orleans in 1960, Earl had the driver detour down Bourbon Street past the Sho-Bar where Blaze worked so she could get a glimpse of the French leader.

On his final night as governor, Earl reportedly “invited every stripper from the Sho-Bar to a big blowout at the mansion. With his help and encouragement, the party-goers stripped the house of silverware, glasses, and all china. Then, with the radio playing "Hound Dog," Blaze Starr took it all off as Uncle Earl shouted to the assembled crowd, "Last strip at the governor's mansion.”

Not all of the mansion’s colorful occupants were Longs. Two-term Gov. Jimmy Davis (he served both before and after Earl) also wrote “You Are My Sunshine,” had no birth certificate, did not sleep in a bed until he was 9, and stabled his horse inside the mansion.

Davis was also the mansion’s last occupant.

Taking office in 1960, Davis wanted a governor’s mansion with air conditioning. Informed that it would cost $1 million to install, he allegedly said he could build a nice new mansion for that amount. Construction began on the new mansion in 1961 and took two years. Ringed by 21 Doric columns, the less-exciting new house held 12 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms, and in return for legislative support of its funding, The New York Times reported, “the governor made clear that he would also favor public works projects that might benefit the legislators' districts.”

Since becoming a relic of political history, the mansion has been fortunate enough to be preserved and have undergone a multimillion-dollar restoration. This means, for now, Long’s ego trip has yet to go the same way as Ozymandias’ sculpture.


Huey Long - HISTORY

(1893-1935) was Louisiana's legendary populist Governor, U.S. Senator and favorite son. Poised to run for president on his &ldquoShare Our Wealth&rdquo platform, Long was assassinated in 1935 at the age of 42.

Long was revered by the masses as a champion of the common man and demonized by the powerful as a dangerous demagogue. BIO GRAPHY | QUOTES | STATS | TIMELINE

A vocal critic of corporate greed and government incompetence, Huey Long's "Share Our Wealth" political movement swept the nation during the Great Depression, garnering millions of supporters and threatening the re-election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. >

Huey Long was known as "the Kingfish", a take-charge problem solver who delivered immediate relief to the suffering and powerless. As Governor, he used strong-arm tactics to break political gridlock and cut red tape. He took Washington by storm as the most outspoken U.S. Senator. >

Huey Long launched a vast program of modernization and reform in Louisiana &mdash building roads, bridges and vital infrastructure, providing free public education to children of all races, expanding LSU, expanding voting rights and healthcare, and lowering taxes on the poor majority. >

Huey Long believed that government should protect and uplift its most vulnerable citizens and provide opportunity for everyone, regardless of race or class. He broke the monopoly on power held by the ruling elite and their corporate backers and transformed Louisiana politics. >

Huey Long transformed the public's perception of the role of government in a democratic society. Some of our most cherished government institutions &mdash from social security to veterans benefits, student financial aid to public works projects &mdash were causes championed by Huey Long. >


Huey P. Long wasn’t assassinated.

“The House that Huey built,” the Louisiana state Capitol building in downtown Baton Rouge, towers over the city’s skyline. If you’re traveling into Baton Rouge on Highway 190 East, the route most commonly taken by people from central and northern Louisiana prior to the construction of Interstate 10, the building comes into view several miles before you reach the Mississippi River, appearing to stand alone, in the same way the Emerald City materialized in front of Dorothy.

It is the nation’s tallest state Capitol, and as its nickname suggests, it was conceived and built by Huey P. Long, the Kingfish, a man that Franklin D. Roosevelt considered to be one of the most dangerous in America.

“It’s also the nation’s tallest tombstone,” Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne once observed. The body of Huey P. Long is buried on the Capitol grounds. Atop his grave, there’s a statue of Long overlooking his building.

At 9:22PM on September 8th, 1935, Long, then a U.S. Senator, was shot while walking down one of the building’s corridors. He died two days later, at 4:06 in the morning, only 42 years old and still generally considered to be the most powerful politician in Louisiana’s history.

The official version of Long’s death is that it was an assassination carried out by a 29-year-old, well-respected Baton Rouge physician named Carl Weiss. Weiss, the story goes, was angry that Huey P. Long had orchestrated the ouster of his father-in-law, Benjamin Pavy, from a judicial seat in St. Landry Parish. The Pavy family were outspoken opponents of Long, and according to unsubstantiated rumors, Long had once claimed the Pavys had “Negro blood,” which some speculate had also driven the young physician to confront Long that night.

For the past eight decades, students of Louisiana history have been taught that Carl Weiss approached Huey P. Long, exchanged some heated words, and then pulled out a gun and shot him once in the abdomen. Long’s bodyguards immediately returned fire and killed Weiss, shooting him 61 times.

Long had initially survived the shooting and was able to walk down a flight of stairs and across the grounds of the Capitol and then hail a car to take him to the hospital. He lived for another 32 hours, and many believe that he only died because of incompetent medical care.

The assassination of Huey Pierce Long has earned a central place in the mythos of Louisiana. It ensured he would not merely be remembered as a powerful and ruthless politician but as a man who had sacrificed his own life in service to the people of Louisiana. The word assassination is reserved only for a select few, and in a macabre way, the term itself is an expression of respect for the victim.

Only a leader can be assassinated, and only when their life was taken by someone opposed to them for political or religious reasons. In that respect, an assassination is also a political statement, a way of intimidating and silencing those who supported and respected the fallen leader.

83 years after Huey P. Long’s death, we should acknowledge a compelling body of evidence that suggests the story we have told about Huey P. Long’s death is wrong, even if the true story diminishes the mystique of the Kingfish. Huey P. Long wasn’t assassinated by Carl Weiss.

More likely than not, he was killed accidentally by a stray bullet fired by one of his bodyguards, likely either Joe Messina or Murphy Roden.

The front pages of three Louisiana newspapers- The Monroe News Star, The Ruston Daily Leader, and The Alexandria Daily Town Talk. September 10th, 1935

There are bullet holes from that night still visible in the Capitol’s marble walls. But more significantly, there are holes in the government’s story about who is responsible for causing the death of Huey P. Long, and some of those holes have only come into view in the past twenty years.

Eight years ago, at a symposium held in the Old State Capitol, Dr. Carl Weiss, Jr., who was only an infant when his father died and who has spent much of his life researching the events of that night and retracing his father’s steps, spoke for the first time at length about his long-held belief that his father did not actually shoot Huey P. Long. In fact, he asserts his father wasn’t even carrying a gun that night. (Thankfully, because of the great work of Louisiana Public Broadcasting, you can watch the lecture here).

Carl Weiss, Sr. did confront Long. He was angry, though the exact reasons why are unknown and will probably always remain unknown. His son dismisses the long-standing theory that the confrontation had anything to do with defending his father-in-law. “I don’t think it makes any conceivable sense that a person would carry out an attack like that on behalf of a father-in-law who was ready to retire anyway,” his son contended.

“The other reason is equally fuzzy, but it’s suggested that Huey may have made some kind of racial slur, which my father interpreted wrong and chose to avenge himself. Again, I don’t think that’s the least bit likely.”

Weiss may have not carried out an attack on behalf of his father-in-law, but historian Ed Reed believes the most likely explanation is that he simply wanted to plead his father-in-law’s case. According to Reed, Carl Weiss had attempted to talk with Long three times, stationing himself in plain view outside of the door to the governor’s office, and each time, he was rebuffed. Several other historians agree and argue that the likeliest story is that after Huey P. Long made an insulting comment to Weiss, the young doctor punched him in the face. At that point, Long’s bodyguards opened fire.

This theory is bolstered substantially by the sworn affidavit of Jewel O’Neal, a nurse who had attended to Long that night. According to O’Neal, Long told her, “That’s where he hit me,” while she was treating his bruised lip. Another nurse confirmed O’Neal’s account.

Decades later, Carl Weiss, Jr. had his father’s body exhumed, and according to a forensic analysis, there was evidence of a small fracture in one of his hands consistent with the type of injury from throwing a hard punch.

If Weiss had planned on killing Huey P. Long that night, he made no indication of his motives to anyone who knew him. The Weiss family home, it’s worth noting, was on Lakeland Drive, very near the state Capitol. “My father’s daily route home literally took him through the parking lot of the Capitol,” his son explained.

That day, Weiss had attended to a man named Morgan, who later told police investigators that the physician was not acting unusual and did not seem disturbed at all. He also made plans to perform surgery the following morning, and at dinner that night, he tried to cool the temper of an uncle who was arguing about politics.

His actions that day did not seem like those of a man who was plotting to kill the most famous man in Louisiana.

The House that Huey Built, the new Louisiana state Capitol. 1931. Source: Louisiana Digital Library

There is also significant evidence that police engaged in a hasty cover-up in order to place a weapon in Weiss’ possession. His brother, Tom Ed Weiss, arrived at the scene within an hour and discovered that police had moved the doctor’s Buick from where it had been originally parked and had also pilfered through the car’s glove compartment, which is where Weiss kept his gun, a .32 caliber pistol he had purchased on a vacation in France.

A security guard on duty that night, Elois Sahuk, told the historian Ed Reed, “One of the bodyguards, who is now dead, told me that he felt that that gun was a throw down gun, that one of the bodyguards had gone out to the car that Carl Weiss had driven up in, had gotten that pistol and had thrown it next to the body.”

There was a gun next to Weiss’ body, but curiously, his car keys were missing.

When surgeons operated on Long, they were able to recover a .38 caliber bullet, the same caliber as the weapons carried by his bodyguards. Weiss’ .32 caliber pistol was never a match, and for decades, the weapon was nowhere to be found.

Then, in 1991, a researcher hired by James Starrs, a professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University, made an astonishing discovery: The weapon was owned by Mabel Guerre Binnings, the daughter of Louis F. Guerre, the man who headed up the investigation into Long’s death.

“It is submitted that there is significant scientific evidence to establish grave and persuasive doubts that Carl Austin Weiss was the person who killed Sen. Huey P. Long,” Starrs announced at a meeting of the Academy of Forensic Scientists in 1992.

A year later, in 1993, the son of Huey P. Long, the late U.S. Sen. Russell Long, met the son of Carl Weiss. Russell Long had steadfastly maintained his public belief that his father was assassinated by Carl Weiss, but privately, he wasn’t always as adamant.

Three years ago, the writer Jonathan Alter unearthed a letter that Russell Long sent to Tom Ed Weiss, Carl’s brother. “We shared a personal tragedy,” he said of himself and Carl Weiss, Jr.

“It was my fortune to know some of the eyewitnesses and respect them,” he wrote about his father’s bodyguards. “I do not want to do anything to cast doubt on what they testified under oath. Yet I remain of the view that only the Eternal could know all that happened and why it happened as it did.”

Something else happened in 1993. Colonel Frances Gravemberg, who served as the Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police in the 1950s and a man who earned a sterling reputation for his work against organized crime, stated in a sworn affidavit that he knew the identities of the men who were responsible for shooting Huey P. Long.

Two troopers who were eyewitnesses to the shooting had told Colonel Gravemberg they watched Long’s bodyguards plant a gun on the unarmed Weiss shortly after accidentally wounding Long the fatal bullet was aimed at Weiss but ricocheted off of a marble wall and struck the Kingfish.

In the late 1990s, the Louisiana State Police reviewed their investigation on Huey P. Long’s death, an investigation which, by all accounts, was flawed from the very beginning. “On September 16, 1935, a sham inquest was held, in which only fervent Long loyalists (including a puppet judge who later admitted he hadn’t seen the shooting) were allowed to testify and no autopsy or ballistics tests were conducted,” Jonathan Alter explained.

Despite the substantial evidence that Carl Weiss was not the shooter- indeed, could not have been the shooter, the police did not change their ruling. “We believe from a law enforcement standpoint that he had motive. We believe he had opportunity. And we believe he had the means to do the job. And we know that he was there,” they wrote then, a position that, presumably, they still hold.

The story of Huey P. Long will be told in Louisiana for generations to come, but hopefully, some day soon, we will tell the truth about the final chapter.


Long, Huey

Ed. Note: This entry is based entirely on material copied with permission from the “Long Legacy Project.” More details about the life and contributions of Senator Huey Long are available at the project’s Web site: (www.hueylong.com).

Huey P. Long, The Kingfish

Introduction: Huey Long was Governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930. A Democrat, Huey Long was a radical populist, of a sort we are unfamiliar with in our day. As Governor, he sponsored many reforms that endeared him to the rural poor, the unemployed and young adults seeking a better education. Many of his initiatives as Governor were models for the New Deal. An ardent enemy of corporate interests, he championed the “little man” against the rich and privileged. The Kingfish wanted the government to confiscate the wealth of the nation’s rich and privileged. He called his program Share Our Wealth. It called upon the federal government to guarantee every family in the nation an annual income of $5,000, so they could have the necessities of life, including a home, a job, a radio and an automobile. (Note: A copy of the Share Our Wealth proposal can be found at the end of this entry.)

Family and Early Education: Huey Pierce Long, Jr. was born on August 30, 1893, in Winnfield, a small rural community in the piney woods of north central Louisiana. He was the seventh of nine surviving children born to Caledonia Tison Long and Huey Pierce Long, Sr., a livestock farmer. Huey’s parents were better educated than most, and they stressed the importance of education to all of their children. The Longs were also a deeply religious family, studying the Bible daily, attending church twice a week and never missing a gospel revival.

Huey’s mother was universally remembered as a remarkably tolerant and compassionate woman, often sending her children to the homes of less fortunate neighbors with gifts of food and clothing. Caledonia Long imbued her children with a strong sense of righteousness and fairness. In addition to her values, Caledonia appears to have passed her brilliant intellect and photographic memory to Huey.

Caledonia, was determined that her nine children be well educated to achieve their fullest potential. There was no public school in Winnfield, so she home-schooled her children until more formal education became available. In 1903, at age 11, Huey started fourth grade in public school. Far ahead of his class, he was quite bored. Huey was an excellent debater in high school and won a scholarship to Louisiana State University as third prize in a statewide debating competition in Baton Rouge. However, he could not afford the textbooks or room and board to attend. Instead he decided to become a traveling salesman. At age 17, he began touring the South for various companies, selling everything from cooking oil to patent medicines.

Early Career: Huey Long was a natural salesman and immediately exceeded all expectations. He learned how to advertise, draw a crowd, and dress well to make a good impression. He found that music not only attracted people but put them in a buying mood. Most importantly, by visiting people’s homes, he learned how they lived and how to connect with them. All of these elements would later appear in his campaigns for public office.

Long met Rose McConnell at a baking contest he had organized in Shreveport to promote a lard substitute called “Cottolene.” Instantly smitten, he deftly awarded the top two prizes to Rose and her mother. He married Rose in 1913, and they had three children: a daughter named Rose and two sons, Russell and Palmer.

When the sales jobs dried up Long cobbled together three semesters of law classes at the University of Oklahoma and Tulane University in New Orleans. At age 21, he convinced an examining board to allow him to take the Louisiana bar exam, and he passed easily. Long moved his family to Shreveport in 1918 where as a lawyer he primarily represented small plaintiffs against large businesses, including workers’ compensation cases. He made a name for himself as an outspoken reformer by taking on the biggest businesses in town and lobbying the state legislature for workers’ compensation reform.

Entry Into Politics: In 1918 at age 25 Long won a seat on the Louisiana Railroad Commission (later renamed the Public Service Commission). He used his position on the commission to build a name for himself as a champion of the common man, fighting against utility rate increases and oil pipeline monopolies. He became chairman of the Public Service Commission in 1922 and won statewide acclaim after he sued the Cumberland Telephone Company for unjustly raising its rates by 20 percent and successfully arguing the case on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. The phone company was forced to send refund checks to 80,000 overcharged customers.

In 1924 Long made his first statewide bid for public office by running for governor at age 30. In an election dominated by race and the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, he refused to play the race card and instead campaigned on issues of economic equality. Long ran a close third, missing the run-off election by less than 7,400 votes.

At the next election, in 1928, Long was elected Governor of Louisiana by the largest margin in the state’s history. As Governor, Long immediately pushed a number of bills through the legislature to fulfill his campaign promises. During his term these initiatives resulted in 9,700 miles of new roads, 111 new toll-free bridges, free textbooks, adult education programs, night courses for adult literacy, hospitals and piping natural gas to New Orleans and many others.

Long expanded the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU), tripled enrollment, and built LSU into one of the best schools in the South and the eleventh largest state university in the country. Long lowered tuition and instituted scholarship programs that enabled poor students to attend. He also established the LSU medical school to meet the state’s desperate need for new doctors.

The public soon began to see the tangible results of a massive building and infrastructure program to modernize Louisiana. As the nation plunged into the Great Depression after the stock market crash of 1929, thousands of Louisianians were at work building the state’s new infrastructure. Louisiana employed 22,000 men just to build the roads — ten percent of the nation’s highway workers. With greater access to transportation, education and healthcare, the quality of life in Louisiana was on the upswing while the rest of the nation declined.

In order to finance his building and new social programs, Long called a special session of the legislature to enact a five cent-per-barrel tax on the production of refined oil. The bill was met with a storm of opposition from the state’s big oil interests, and opponents in the legislature moved to impeach Governor Long on charges ranging from misuse of state funds to using “abusive language.” Long responded with a statewide campaign to make his case that Standard Oil and his political opponents were conspiring to retake state government using the trumped-up charges against him. He asserted that legislators had been offered as much as $25,000 for their votes to remove him from office — or enough money “to burn a wet mule”. When the trial moved to the Senate, Long produced a document signed by over one third of the senators, stating they would vote against impeachment because the trial was illegal. With the two-thirds majority required to convict now impossible, the Governor’s opponents halted the proceedings.

Senator Huey Long: In 1930, Long ran for the U.S. Senate, characterizing the race as a referendum on his policies to strengthen his position as governor. He won easily but left the Senate seat vacant until he could install a loyal successor to continue his reform agenda in Louisiana. Senator Long arrived in Washington in January 1932. Long believed that the Great Depression was the result of the tremendous disparity between the wealthy and the poor and he charged that the richest five percent of the population controlled 85 percent of the nation’s wealth.

In Long’s view, capitalism had run amuck and the vast majority of the population was suffering as a result of corporate greed. The nation was stuck in a vicious cycle in which people had no money to put into the economy, and jobs were drying up because there was no commerce. One in four breadwinners were out of work, and more than a million men roamed the country in search of work.

As the Great Depression worsened, Long made impassioned speeches in the Senate charging a few powerful families with hoarding the nation’s wealth. He urged Congress to address the inequality that he believed to be the source of the mass suffering. How was a recovery possible when twelve men owned more wealth than 120 million people?

In 1934 Long unveiled a program of reforms he labeled “Share Our Wealth” designed to redistribute the nation’s wealth more fairly by capping personal fortunes at $50 million (later lowered to $5 – $8 million) and distributing the rest through government programs aimed at providing opportunity and a decent standard of living to all Americans. Long believed the programs he initiated in Louisiana were effective in lifting people out of poverty, and he wanted to implement this philosophy nationally.

By 1935, Long’s Share Our Wealth Society had over 7.5 million members in 27,000 clubs across the country. Long’s Senate office was flooded with thousands of letters daily, prompting him to hire 32

typists, who worked around the clock to respond to the fan mail. As the nation’s third most photographed man (after President Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrity aviator Charles Lindberg), Long was recognized from coast to coast simply as “Huey.”

To President Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, Long was “one of the two most dangerous men in America.” (The other was Gen. Douglas MacArthur.) Roosevelt sought to undercut Long’s clout by putting some of his enemies in charge of federal spending and patronage in Louisiana. The President also ordered unproductive investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI into Long’s finances and other dealings. Long was also the subject of the first nationwide political poll, used by the Roosevelt campaign to assess how great a threat a Long candidacy would be to the President’s re-election in 1936.

President Roosevelt also moved to deflate Long’s appeal by incorporating some of his ideas as part of the Second New Deal, a more liberal version of FDR’s Great Depression reforms. For example, the Social Security system reflected Long’s proposal for old-age pensions, the Works Progress Administration mirrored public works programs begun by Governor Long in Louisiana, and the National Youth Administration reflected his student financial aid proposal.

Long’s Enemies Organize: After death threats, arson attempts, and a drive-by shooting at his New Orleans home, Long increased his personal security, surrounding himself with armed bodyguards from the state police. Long also worried about his family’s safety and was concerned that his children might be kidnapped. The threats only strengthened his resolve to crush his political opponents.

Completely stymied by Long’s political maneuvers and legislative victories, some of his enemies formed a paramilitary organization called the Square Deal Association to plot armed insurrection. In July 1935, Long declared that he had discovered an assassination plot against him. Long’s associates had eavesdropped on a secret meeting in New Orleans, which included four Louisiana congressmen, the New Orleans Mayor, and two former Governors.

On September 8, Long was in the State Capitol in Baton Rouge for a special session of the Louisiana legislature, pushing through a number of bills including a measure to gerrymander opponent Judge Benjamin Pavy out of his job. According to the generally accepted version of events, Pavy’s son-in-law, Dr. Carl Weiss, approached Senator Long in a corridor and shot him at close range in the abdomen. Long’s bodyguards immediately opened fired on Weiss as Huey ran to safety. Weiss was killed instantly, and Long was rushed to a nearby hospital, where emergency surgery failed to stop internal bleeding.

Senator Huey Long died two days later on September 10, 1935, eleven days after his 42 nd birthday. His last words were, “God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do.”

Source: The Huey Long Project Web site – www.hueylong.com

For More Information: Huey Long has been the subject of more than 70 books, countless articles, and a documentary film. A list of the most credible and accurate resources is available on the Huey Long Project Web Site: www.hueylong.com.

How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Long Legacy Project (2016). Huey P. Long (1893-1935): Governor, U.S. senator, radical populist and founder of the “Share Our Wealth Society.”Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved [date accessed] from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/eras/great-depression/long-huey/

THE SHARE OUR WEALTH SOCIETY

By Huey P. Long, United States Senator

People of America: In every community get together at once and organize a share-our-wealth society–Motto: Every man a king

1. To limit poverty by providing that every deserving family shall share in the wealth of America for not less than one third of the average wealth, thereby to possess not less than $5,000 free of debt.

2. To limit fortunes to such a few million dollars as will allow the balance of the American people to share in the wealth and profits of the land.

3. Old-age pensions of $30 per month to persons over 60 years of age who do not earn as much as $1,000 per year or who possess less than $10,000 in cash or property, thereby to remove from the field of labor in times of unemployment those who have contributed their share to the public service.

4. To limit the hours of work to such an extent as to prevent overproduction and to give the workers of America some share in the recreations, conveniences, and luxuries of life.

5. To balance agricultural production with what can be sold and consumed according to the laws of God, which have never failed.

6. To care for the veterans of our wars.

7. Taxation to run the Government to be supported, first, by reducing big fortunes from the top, thereby to improve the country and provide employment in public works whenever agricultural surplus is such as to render unnecessary, in whole or in part, any particular crop.

To explain the title, motto, and principles of such a society I give the full information, viz:

Title: Share-our-wealth society is simply to mean that God’s creatures on this lovely American continent have a right to share in the wealth they have created in this country. They have the right to a living, with the conveniences and some of the luxuries of this life, so long as there are too many or enough for all. They have a right to raise their children in a healthy, wholesome atmosphere and to educate them, rather than to face the dread of their under-nourishment and sadness by being denied a real life.

Motto: “Every man a king” conveys the great plan of God and of the Declaration of Independence, which said: “All men are created equal.” It conveys that no one man is the lord of another, but that from the head to the foot of every man is carried his sovereignty.

Now to cover the principles of the share-our-wealth society, I give them in order:

We propose that a deserving family shall share in our wealth of America at least for one third the average. An average family is slightly less than five persons. The number has become less during depression. The United States total wealth in normal times is about $400 billion or about $15,000 to a family. If there were fair distribution of our things in America, our national wealth would be three or four or five times the $400 billion, because a free, circulating wealth is worth many times more than wealth congested and frozen into a few hands as is America’s wealth. But, figuring only on the basis of wealth as valued when frozen into a few hands, there is the average of $15,000 to the family. We say that we will limit poverty of the deserving people. One third of the average wealth to the family, or $5,000, is a fair limit to the depths we will allow any one man’s family to fall. None too poor, none too rich.

The wealth of this land is tied up in a few hands. It makes no difference how many years the laborer has worked, nor does it make any difference how many dreary rows the farmer has plowed, the wealth he has created is in the hands of manipulators. They have not worked any more than many other people who have nothing. Now we do not propose to hurt these very rich persons. We simply say that when they reach the place of millionaires they have everything they can use and they ought to let somebody else have something. As it is, 0.1 of 1 percent of the bank depositors nearly half of the money in the banks, leaving 99.9 of bank depositors owning the balance. Then two thirds of the people do not even have a bank account. The lowest estimate is that 4 percent of the people own 85 percent of our wealth. The people cannot ever come to light unless we share our wealth, hence the society to do it.

Everyone has begun to realize something must be done for our old people who work out their lives, feed and clothe children and are left penniless in their declining years. They should be made to look forward to their mature years for comfort rather than fear. We propose that, at the age of 60, every person should begin to draw a pension from our Government of $30 per month, unless the person of 60 or over has an income of over $1,000 per year or is worth $10,000, which is two thirds of the average wealth in America, even figured on a basis of it being frozen into a few hands. Such a pension would retire from labor those persons who keep the rising generations from finding employment.

4. To limit the hours of work:

This applies to all industry. The longer hours the human family can rest from work, the more it can consume. It makes no difference how many labor-saving devices we may invent, just as long as we keep cutting down the hours and sharing what those machines produce, the better we become. Machines can never produce too much if everybody is allowed his share, and if it ever got to the point that the human family could work only 15 hours per week and still produce enough for everybody, then praised be the name of the Lord. Heaven would be coming nearer to earth. All of us could return to school a few months every year to learn some things they have found out since we were there: All could be gentlemen: Every man a king.

5. To balance agricultural production with consumption:

About the easiest of all things to do when financial masters and market manipulators step aside and let work the law of the Lord. When we have a supply of anything that is more than we can use for a year or two, just stop planting that particular crop for a year either in all the country or in a part of it. Let the Government take over and store the surplus for the next year. If there is not something else for the farmers to plant or some other work for them to do to live on for the year when the crop is banned, then let that be the year for the public works to be done in the section where the farmers need work. There is plenty of it to do and taxes of the big fortunes at the top will supply plenty of money without hurting anybody. In time we would have the people not struggling to raise so much when all were well fed and clothed. Distribution of wealth almost solves the whole problem without further trouble.

6. To care for the veterans of our wars: A restoration of all rights taken from them by recent laws and further, a complete care of any disabled veteran for any ailment, who has no means of support


The Truth about Huey Long

Huey P. Long in 1935 (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)

D r. Carl A. Weiss Jr. died on August 1, 2019. It’s not typically considered newsworthy by the New York Times when a retired orthopedic surgeon passes away at the age of 84, but Weiss was more than a physician. He was the son of the man who shot Huey P. Long.

Or so we were taught. As a child growing up in Louisiana in the 1990s, I learned that there was absolutely no doubt that in the 1930s, the state’s best governor and all-around great man died at the hands of a political opponent out for blood. That story, like so much about Long, is a lie.

The myth of Long’s assassination is just one in a long line of tales meant to lionize the former governor and U.S. senator, painting over his lengthy track record of corruption and brutality in his pursuit for power. Huey P. Long, historian Arthur Schlesinger explained in a 1986 Ken Burns documentary about the populist politician, was the closest thing to a dictator the U.S. has ever seen.

“It’s a mistake to regard Huey Long as an ideological figure, a man committed to a program,” Schlesinger said. “I think Huey Long’s great passion was for power and money, and he stole a lot of money and accumulated a lot of power and destroyed all those who got in the way of these two ambitions.”

Many Louisianans have instead chosen to remember Long as the flamboyant politician who gave pencils to poor schoolchildren and built sparkling new bridges across the waterways of the swampy state. Some fetishize his authoritarian regime as the zaniest chapter in Louisiana’s colorful history, ignoring the long-term damage he caused in both governance and reputation to the state.

His supporters, then as now, happily overlooked his tremendous moral failings and their institutional consequences for Louisiana because he supposedly fought for the common man. He was among the earliest American politicians advocating for redistribution of wealth, insisting that true equality would only be achieved when big corporations — in his case, Standard Oil — were forced to pay higher taxes to fund a more robust welfare state.

In public, Huey P. Long boasted of his populist policy bona fides, hiding his well-to-do upbringing to convince Louisiana’s poor and working class that he understood their plight. But in private, Long lived lavishly at taxpayer expense.

In speeches, he condemned J. P. Morgan Jr. for owning 100 suits, which Long said he stole off the backs of working people. Meanwhile, Long used state funds to outfit a luxurious wardrobe of as many suits or more. Deciding that the existing governor’s mansion wasn’t grand enough for him, Long demanded that a new one be constructed. When the legislature wouldn’t approve the funds for the project, Long simply ordered construction to begin, and it did.

Long’s penchant for diverting state funds for his own purposes became especially flagrant when, as governor, he appointed himself chief legal counsel for the state in its lawsuits against private businesses. He billed liberally, lining his pockets with so much taxpayer money that he could afford to maintain multiple residences, including one at the luxurious Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.

Long also required every state employee to direct 5 to 10 percent of each paycheck to his “deduct box,” a mysterious fund that subsidized his political machine. Fearing Long, Louisiana’s sizeable civil-service population contributed at least $1 million to his “deduct box” each year.

Long controlled everything in Louisiana public life, from using the Louisiana National Guard as his personal police force to coaching LSU’s football team. When the media wouldn’t do his bidding, Long created and distributed his own newspaper. In it, he mocked his political adversaries and smeared anyone who spoke against him, endangering their livelihoods and the safety of their families.

To maintain his schemes, Long demanded unwavering allegiance from everyone, ranging from elected officials to low-level civil servants. If you resisted, you paid dearly.

My grandmother’s grandfather, Walter Burke, was a prominent anti-Longite who had previously served in the Louisiana state senate. When other notable Louisianans signed bribery-backed loyalty oaths, Burke testified in support of Long’s impeachment for a laundry list of corruption charges. Long responded by sending his henchmen to Burke’s home to threaten his family.

Other Long critics fared much worse. When one legislator became too vocal in his criticism of Long, the governor drilled a hole in the state capitol’s ceiling above his desk to pour a steady stream of water upon him. Another learned his father had been fired from his job after the young state representative voted against a piece of Long-backed legislation.

Standing opposite Long often meant endangering your life. When Long worried that two political opponents would expose the identity of his alleged mistress, Long arranged for them to be kidnapped, only to be released after he won his U.S. Senate election. During his gubernatorial administration, Long was even accused of attempting to facilitate the murder of a state representative who opposed him.

Long’s proclivity for payback extended far outside the state legislature and into the lives of thousands of ordinary Louisianans. Because so many relied upon civil-service employment during the Great Depression, Long effectively controlled the most secure jobs in the state. State workers, even janitors, were forced to pledge fealty to Long, and those who did not soon learned that they had been fired. Meanwhile, small-business owners who refused to sign loyalty oaths would lose vital contracts with state hospitals, schools, and prisons.

Though many people were hurt at the hands of Long and his cronies, perhaps none suffered more gravely than the Pavy and Weiss families. Benjamin Pavy was an anti-Longite judge in St. Landry Parish whose judicial district Long gerrymandered in hopes of preventing him from winning reelection. Judge Pavy had planned to retire, but for insurance, Long allegedly began spreading a rumor that Pavy had “Negro blood,” hoping to delegitimize him in the eyes of voters.

On September 8, 1935, Long was making the rounds at the Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge, a regular occurrence for the then–U.S. senator who still maintained total control of the state, both through a constant physical presence and by extension through his vast network of political cronies working on his behalf. Dr. Carl Weiss, Sr., a 29-year-old physician married to Judge Pavy’s daughter, lived near the capitol and decided to confront Long after wrapping up his house calls for the day.

When he challenged the Senator about his harassment of Judge Pavy, Long allegedly dismissed the young doctor by using a racial slur. According to sworn testimony consistent with forensic evidence, Weiss responded by punching Long in the jaw. Long’s bodyguards panicked, showering Weiss with bullets. After sustaining 61 gunshots, Dr. Weiss died, leaving behind a young wife and 3-month-old son, Carl, Jr.

During the altercation, Long, too, was shot in the abdomen, but he was well enough to walk down the capitol steps, hail a cab, and ride to the hospital without medical assistance.

According to Bayou Brief, Weiss’s patients testified that he was of sound mind and normal demeanor during his visits that day, and Weiss had even scheduled a surgery for the next morning. Additionally, two hospital nurses revealed in sworn testimonies that Long only said Weiss punched him in the jaw. And most importantly, his bullet wound was inconsistent with the gun Weiss carried as security on his house calls — a gun that Weiss’s son says was not even in his possession during the argument with Long.

It is almost certain that when Weiss punched the senator for allegedly using a slur about his family, Long’s bodyguards overreacted, firing their guns needlessly and indiscriminately into the skirmish. Long was simply caught in the crossfire.

Of course, the truth was not politically expedient for Long’s allies, who indubitably feared public backlash to the bodyguards’ negligence. So, as he underwent surgery, they began their cover-up. They moved Weiss’s car. They tampered with and hid evidence. They removed Weiss’s gun from his glove compartment and planted it on the scene. And they launched their smear campaign against Weiss, portraying him as a bloodthirsty assassin determined to stop the good works of Huey P. Long who was thwarting the best efforts of the bad guys to keep the little guy down.

Long died a day and a half after his altercation with Weiss. Experts contend his death was largely preventable, but significant mistakes on the part of the hospital — a hospital he effectively controlled — made his recovery impossible.

Approximately 100,000 people, largely poor and hailing from every corner of the state, attended Long’s funeral at the new Louisiana state capitol. They mourned the death of a man they naïvely thought was a martyr for the cause of the poor and downtrodden of Louisiana. His supporters lamented that he never became president, certain that, if given the opportunity, he would have made “every man a king.”

The entire premise of his assassination was a lie, and people in power knew it. In 1993, Colonel Frances Gavemberg, a former superintendent of the Louisiana State Police in the 1950s who was well-respected for his work combating organized crime, swore in an affidavit that he knew the identities of the men responsible for Long’s death.

Long’s family had their doubts, too. While his son, Senator Russell Long, publicly maintained that Weiss killed his father, he insinuated in private letters to Carl Weiss Jr. that he was unsure of the circumstances of his father’s death.

A few weeks after Long died, Louisiana officials conducted a bogus investigation, fraught with corruption and stacked with Long insiders. They relied upon key witness testimony from individuals who were not present that day. Investigators refused to perform an autopsy or ballistics test.

In the decades that followed, Weiss’s innocence became historical consensus. In the 1990s, the case was reopened. Six decades after Long’s death, Louisiana State Police held firm in their original determination of Weiss’s guilt, doubling down on demonstrably false statements widely rejected by scientists and historians.

“We believe from a law enforcement standpoint that he had a motive. We believe had opportunity. And we believe he had the means to do the job. And we know he was there,” they said.

By all accounts, that is the position of the Louisiana State Police in 2019. As a result, Weiss is still recorded as Long’s murderer. When Carl Weiss Jr. died last month, his life’s work of affirming his father’s innocence remained unfinished.

Today, Long haunts Louisiana in the form of a notoriously dysfunctional government and economic stagnation. In the physical sense, he is an omnipresent force in the shape of a once-majestic infrastructure system bearing his name that now crumbles in disrepair.

Per Long’s wishes, Louisiana’s state capitol remains the tallest in America. A proud statue of him stands before it. Long is buried in front of the building, making the state capitol, as former lieutenant governor Jay Dardenne once quipped, the tallest tombstone in the country.

In addition to the buildings and bridges bearing his name in Louisiana, the state honors him in Washington, D.C. One of the two statues representing Louisiana in the U.S. Capitol is of Long, and, astonishingly, the Architect of the Capitol’s website still lists Dr. Carl Weiss as his assassin.

Thus, a family that for generations has been forced to live with the lies of Long and his cronies must continue to do so. Even if one is unconvinced by the overwhelming evidence confirming Weiss’s innocence, there is simply not enough proof to conclude he was guilty of murdering Long either. For that reason, Weiss must be exonerated, and his family’s name must be cleared.


Huey P. Long

The seventh of nine children, Huey Pierce Long was born near Winnfield, Winn Parish, Louisiana on August 30th, 1893. His father was a poor farmer. Just before World War I, a populist movement grew in the area and Winn Parish became the stronghold of socialist sentiments. As a child, Long absorbed many of the movement`s ideas, which molded a young man determined to be heard. Long attended high school in Winnfield where he quickly had run-ins with the staff, and left before graduating. His first employment ventures were book peddling, auctioneering and door-to-door sales. In 1911, he found a traveling position with a packing company that provided a good salary plus an expense account. On one occasion, he conducted a cake-baking contest and subsequently married the winner, Rose McConnell, in 1913. He told his wife about his aspirations to go into politics, all the way to president of the United States. Long briefly attended the University of Oklahoma to study law, then enrolled in Tulane University Law School in New Orleans in 1914. Completing the three-year course in only eight months, at the age of 21, Long obtained his degree. In 1915, having been admitted to the bar, he began to practice law, first in Winnfield, then later in Shreveport, Louisiana. He prospered as an attorney who usually defending the underdog, then used his career as a springboard into politics. As a member of the Democratic Party, Long supported Senator S.J. Harper. Opposing America`s involvement of World War I, Harper`s activities led him to being charged under the Espionage Act. Long, however, successfully defended Harper. In 1918, Long was elected as the state railroad commissioner for the Northern District. It was during that time that Long supported John M. Parker for governor of Louisiana. Then in 1919, Long began to attack the newly minted governor for failing to increase taxes on Standard Oil. As chairman of the Public Services Commission, Long successfully achieved lower utility rates, railroad and streetcar fares as well as initiating a severance tax on oil. It was in 1921 that Long called himself “Kingfish” after a popular radio character. His slogan was, "Every Man A King." Long was unsuccessful as a candidate for governor in 1924. However, as a Democratic National Committeeman, he continued to impress the electorate, and thus made another run for the governorship in 1928. With educational reform as his platform, and fighting for the common people, his campaign was a huge success by the largest margin in the state’s history (92,941 votes to 3,733). Once in office, he condemned the entrenched hierarchy and tried diligently to replace them with his own supporters. Gaining control of the Hospital Board, the Highway Commission, the Levee Board and the Dock Board, he compelled state employees to distribute his newspaper, the Louisiana Progress. He produced such reforms as free school textbooks, night school classes for illiterate people and increased expenditures for the state university, but his critics accused him of being a dictator. Louisiana had only 331 miles of paved roads in 1928, so Governor Long launched a program aimed at improving road conditions. His highway program resulted in nearly 13,000 miles of paved roads. Among his educational achievements, he established schools within walking distance of children`s homes. To pay for those schools, Long increased taxes on local corporations. He also attempted to increase revenues by imposing a new tax on the oil industry. The legislature not only rejected that measure, but made attempts to impeach Long, accusing him of misappropriating state funds and making illegal loans. The senate failed to convict him by only two votes. They claimed that Long had bribed several senators to ensure the outcome. During his term as governor, Long was also elected to the United States Senate in 1930. Long installed an old friend, Alvin King, the president of the state senate, to act as governor — while still retaining full control. A New York Times headline read, "Senator Long sets up a Fascist government in Louisiana." His plan was to fill virtually every local government position with those of his own choosing and ousting those who spoke against his efforts. Although he had delivered on many of his promises to the people, eventually his heavy-handedness would lead to his demise. Long served in the Senate as a Democrat from 1930 to 1935. He was critical of President Herbert Hoover for the way he was handling the growing Depression. Furthering his political aspirations, Long decided to support Hattie Caraway, the first woman to be elected to Congress. Caraway had asked Long for his help after she was discouraged by leaders of the Democratic party in Arkansas. Caraway won by a margin of two to one. Huey Long fought for political participation for blacks and poor whites through removal of the poll tax. His endeavors expanded the Charity Hospital System, built the LSU Medical School and brought natural gas to the city of New Orleans. Not a modest man, Long was also known as the "determined enemy" of Wall Street as well as the Roosevelt administration. He at first supported Franklin D. Roosevelt, then claimed that the president had done too little to redistribute wealth. When Roosevelt refused to place ceilings on personal incomes, Long launched his "Share our Wealth Society" in February 1934. His plan involved taxing all incomes over a million dollars and imposing a tax levy of one percent on the second million, two percent on the third and so on. Freely admitting that part of his scheme was socialistic, Long felt strongly that it was the answer to redistribute wealth to the American people, and even some economists agreed that it would end the Depression. Speaking on national radio in January 1935, Long put his philosophy very succinctly:


Assassination

In the final year of his life, Huey Long faced a number of challenges to his control of Louisiana. He also claimed to be receiving of death threats, and he surrounded himself with bodyguards.

On September 8, 1935, Long was in the Louisiana capitol building, overseeing efforts to remove a political enemy—Judge Benjamin Pavy—from office. After a bill was passed accomplishing Judge Pavy's removal, Long was approached by Pavy's son-in-law, Carl Weiss. Weiss lunged within a few feet of Long and fired a pistol into his abdomen.

Long's bodyguards opened fire on Weiss, striking him with as many as 60 bullets. Long was taken to a hospital, where doctors attempted to save his life. He died 30 hours later, on the morning of September 10, 1935.


&bull Every Man A King: The Autobiography of Huey P. Long, 1993
&bull My First Days in the White House, a second autobiography published posthumously, 1935

&bull Cinnamon Seed by Hamilton Basso, 1934
&bull Sun in Capricorn by Hamiton Basso, 1942
&bull Number One by John Dos Passos, 1943
&bull All the King's Men Pulitzer-prize winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, 1949
&bull All the King's Men three-time Oscar winner including Best Picture, 1949
&bull All the King's Men starring Sean Penn, 2006


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