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Huey Long

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Huey Long

Huey Pierce Long (August 30, 1893September 10, 1935), known as "The Kingfish," was an American politician of the Democratic Party; he was governor of Louisiana (19281932), Senator (19321935) and a presidential hopeful before his assassination. He was a populist who is often alleged to have had many dictatorial tendencies that made many of his actions quite unprecedented in modern American politics.

Contents

Early life

Long was born in Winnfield, Louisiana, the seventh of nine children. He attended several local schools before leaving in 1910 and becoming a salesman. He then attended the University of Oklahoma and Tulane University Law School, passing the bar exam in 1915. He practiced law in Shreveport and specialised in compensation suits. He was elected chairman of the Louisiana Railroad Commission in 1918. That body was renamed the Public Service Commission in 1921. In the 1920s he was one of the early adopters of radio for political campaigning and also took to always wearing a white linen suit in public. He ran for governor of Louisiana in 1924 but failed, although he was re-elected to the Public Service Commission. However, in 1928 he ran again for Louisiana governor, campaigning under the slogan of "every man a king, but no one wears a crown." Long's attacks on the utilities industries and the privileges of corporations were popular and he won the election by the largest margin in the state's history (92,941 votes to 3,733). Long took the nickname "Kingfish" after a character on the popular Amos & Andy radio program.

Governorship

Long introduced several major reforms once in office, including free textbooks and free night courses for adult learning, increased expenditures on the state university, and a program to build a school within walking distance of every child in the state. Once in office Long also financed a wide-ranging program of public works; over 12,000 miles of road were paved and over 100 bridges were built, as well as a new airport in New Orleans, and a medical school at Louisiana State University (LSU). The programs were financed by increased taxes on the rich and on big business; the new roads were paid for with a tax on gasoline. Long was so determined to have his way that, bypassing the state legislature, he put considerable effort into ensuring that his own people controlled every level of the state political system. His efforts in Louisiana were the subject of an IRS investigation; he had increased annual state government expenditure three-fold and the state debt over ten-fold. In 1929, he was impeached on charges of bribery and gross misconduct, but the state senate did not convict him by a narrow margin of two votes. It was often alleged that Long had concentrated power to the point where he had become a dictator of sorts; this was quite unprecedented.

In the Senate

In 1930 he was elected to the United States Senate. He went to Washington in 1932 after having ensured that Alvin Olin King was elected to replace him as governor. Long continued to be in effective control of Louisiana while he was a senator. Though he had no constitutional authority to do so, he continued to draft and press bills through the Louisiana legislature, which remained controlled by his supporters. He was vigorous in his efforts to try to combat the damages of the Great Depression. By 1934 he began a reorganization of the state that all but abolished local government and gave himself the power to appoint all state employees.

He was a vocal supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1932 election, but when Long was not offered a federal post, he turned against Roosevelt. In 1933 he was part of the three week Senate filibuster against the Glass-Steagall Act. In another famous filibuster on June 1213, 1935, Long made the longest speech of his Senate career. The speech took 15 1/2 hours and was filled by 150,000 words. [1] (http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Huey_Long_Filibusters.htm) In 1934 he created the Share Our Wealth program, proposing heavy new taxes on the super-rich. Though he was a Democrat, President Roosevelt considered Long a demagogue and privately said of him that "he was one of the . . . most dangerous men in America." He positioned himself to run against Roosevelt in the 1936 elections, announcing his bid in August, 1935.

Assassination and legacy

On September 8, 1935 he was shot once by Carl Weiss in the Capitol building at Baton Rouge. Weiss was immediately shot dead by Long's bodyguards. The walls of the capitol hallway are still nicked from the bullets fired at Weiss after Long was shot. (Persistent rumors allege that Weiss actually had no gun and only struck Long with his hand, and Long was accidentally shot by his own guards when they opened fire on Weiss.) Weiss was the son-in-law of Judge Benjamin Pavy, a long-time political opponent of Long. Long died two days later from internal bleeding following an incompetent attempt to close the wounds by Dr. Arthur Vidrine. Some say that Huey should have recovered from the wounds, and that his doctors killed him. According to his sister, Lucille Long, his last words were: "Don't let me die, I have got so much to do."

Huey's brother, Earl Long, was elected governor of Louisiana on three occasions. Huey Long's wife, Rose McConnell Long, was appointed to replace him in the Senate, and his son Russell B. Long was elected to the Senate in 1948, serving from 1949 until his retirement in 1987.

His book, My First Days in the White House, was published posthumously.

In culture

The character of Buzz Windrip who in Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here becomes US President ("The Chief") on a strongly populist platform that quickly turns into home-grown American fascism was speculated to have been based on either Long or Gerald B. Winrod. The book 1946 All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, charting the corruption of a politician, Willie Stark, is clearly based on Long. The book was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1949, and a 2005 remake is also set to be released.

Huey Long by T. (Thomas) Harry Williams won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. Huey P. Long was also the subject of an early documentary film by Ken Burns, who went on to direct epic documentaries about jazz, baseball, and the American Civil War. Long's career is the subject of the biographical song "Kingfish" by Randy Newman on his 1974 album, Good Old Boys. The album also features a cover of Long's campaign song, "Every Man a King", which Long himself co-wrote; Long is also said to have helped compose the LSU marching band pregame song.

Disney comic strip artist and creator of the Huey, Dewey and Louie ducklings, Al Taliaferro, named Huey after Huey Long.

The Life and Assassination of the Kingfish (1977) and Kingfish (1995) are two made-for-TV docu-dramas about Long.

In the Timeline-191 series's subseries American Empire trilogy, Louisiana is somewhat of a Soviet-like Dictatorship run by Huey Long, with prison camps.

External links

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