Six decades after his violent death, Huey Pierce Long
remains the most dominant personality in
Huey Long is remembered for his flamboyant but unsuccessful
first campaign for governor in 1923 and for subsequent victorious races for the
governorship in 1927 and the U.S. Senate in 1930. Louisianians
had never witnessed campaigns in which automobiles, loudspeakers, and
aggressive, personal grass-roots campaigning were featured. Long
achieved notoriety portraying himself as the champion of the little man and the
foe of big business interests and city politicians. After being elected
to the United States Senate, Long shocked the nation when he threatened to
challenge President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Democratic Party in the
upcoming 1936 presidential election, promoting his vague “Share Our Wealth”
plan as a radical alternative to the New Deal. Long’s
brief but tumultuous career ended on
Admirers credit Long for breaking the long-time political control of Louisiana’s business-industrial interests, building roads, bridges and hospitals, contributing to the growth of Louisiana State University, providing free textbooks to Louisiana school children and creating jobs in depression times for a multitude of followers. Opponents emphasize his high-handed manipulation of state legislators for his own purposes, as well as questionable practices regarding taxation and the use of public monies. Finally, they allege he was guilty of bribery and fraud, and of collaborating with leaders of organized crime.
But who was Huey Long? What did he achieve as governor and
Alan Brinkley analyzes Williams’ and Warren’s depiction of Long and concludes that Warren is the more perceptive because he detects the danger of granting power to a leader in order to rationalize neglect of personal political responsibility. According to Glen Jeansonne, Long’s pursuit of power was an end in itself and overrode any desire to promote the welfare of Louisianians. Huey’s book, My First Days in the White House, Edward F. Haas claims, reveals clues to what Long might have aspired to but probably could not have fulfilled had he been elected president. Henry C. Dethloff contrasts Long’s program to Populist reform and concludes that Longism contradicted Populism. In his essay, Matthew J. Schott criticizes favorable interpretations of Long, such as that of T. Harry Williams, and rejects the “moral relativism” that has characterized recent political biography.
Looking at Longs and Anti-Longs, Mark T. Carleton concludes
that Huey Long’s detrimental politics continue to
In the forum on Long’s death, Ed Reed and David Zinman offer quite different challenges to the official version that the senator died as a result of a premeditated assassination attempt by Dr. Carl Austin Weiss. For his part, Captain Donald Moreau, who headed the reopened Louisiana State Police inquiry in 1992, holds to the conclusion of the original 1935 investigation that Weiss sacrificed his life for personal reasons and because he deplored Long’s dictatorial political practices.