Huey Long

1893 - 1935

Huey Pierce Long, Southern politician, governor of Louisiana (1928-1932), and United States senator (1932-1935), known for his autocratic methods and colorful speech.

Long was born on August 30, 1893, in Winnfield, Louisiana, and educated at the University of Oklahoma and Tulane University. Admitted to the bar in 1915, he practiced law in Winnfield and Shreveport, and was elected Louisiana railroad commissioner (later called public service commissioner) in 1918; he remained on the commission until 1926, serving as chairman for five years. In 1928 he won the Democratic party nomination and was elected governor. As such, he instituted many social reforms and built roads, bridges, and schools, but every officeholder was under his influence, municipal government was reduced to subservience, and the courts were powerless. He was impeached in 1929 on charges of bribery and misappropriation of state funds, but the case was dropped.

During the Great Depression millions of Americans cheered the colorful, grandiose oratory of the “Kingfish,” as Long was called. He ingratiated himself with a program to eliminate poverty that would give every family a minimum income of $5000 per year by limiting individual incomes to a maximum of $1 million per year and would provide old-age pensions of $30 per month to elderly people who had less than $10,000 in cash.

Long succeeded in establishing himself as virtual dictator of Louisiana. In 1930 he was elected to the U.S. Senate; he stayed on as governor, however, and did not take his Senate seat until 1932, when a handpicked successor became governor and he was assured of control of the Louisiana legislature.

Long supported Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election, but, disappointed by lack of patronage after Roosevelt became president, Long fought him openly in the Senate, using the filibuster to delay passage of New Deal measures. In 1934 and 1935 Long himself was discussed as a presidential possibility. He wrote two books in which he explained his program: Every Man a King (1933) and My First Days in the White House (1935). On September 10, 1935, Long was assassinated by the son-in-law of a political opponent.

Others in Long's family active in politics were his wife, Rose McConnell Long, who completed his Senate term (1936-37); his brother, George Shannon Long, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1953-58); another brother, Earl Kemp Long, three times governor of Louisiana (1939-40, 1948-52, and 1956-60); and his son, Russell Billiu Long, a U.S. senator (1948-86).