Huey Piece Long was born in Winnfield, Louisiana into a large
farming family. He attended local schools before leaving in
1910 and becoming a salesman.
He then attended the University
of Oklahoma and Tulane University, passing the bar exam in
1915. He practiced law in Shreveport and specialised in compensation
suits. He was elected chaiman of the Louisiana Railroad Commission
in 1918. That body was renamed the Public Service Commission
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 was elected governor,
campaigning under the slogan of "every man a king, but
no one wears a crown". Long took the nickname Kingfish
after a character on the popular Amos & Andy radio program.
Once in office Long financed a wide-ranging program of public
works; over 12,000 miles of road were paved and education
funding was greatly increased.
The program was financed by
increased taxes on the rich and on big business. Long was
determined to have his own way and, bypassing the state legislature,
he put considerable effort into ensuring that his own people
controlled every level of the state political system.
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 survived an attempt
to have him impeached. It was often alleged that Long had
abused his power to the point where he had become a dictator
of sorts; his consolidation of power was quite unprecedented.
In 1930 he was elected to the United States Senate. He went
to Washington in 1932 after having ensured that O.K. Allen
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 Lousiana legislature,
which remained controlled by his supporters. He was vigorous
in his efforts to try to combat the damages of the Great Depression.
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 him.
In 1933 he was part of the three
week Senate filibuster against the Glass-Steagall Act. In
1934 he created the Share Our Wealth program, proposing heavy
new taxes on the super-rich. He positioned himself to run
against Roosevelt in the 1936 elections, announcing his bid
in August, 1935.
On September 9, 1935 he was shot once by Carl Weiss in the
Capitol building at Baton Rouge. Weiss was immediately shot
dead by Long's bodyguards. (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 the
following day 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. Huey's brother, Earl Long,
was elected governor of Louisiana on three occasions. Huey
Long's son Russell B. Long also became a Senator.
The book All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, charting
the corruption of a politician, Willie Stark, is clearly based
on Long. The same is said to apply to the hero of Sinclair
Lewis' novel It Can't Happen Here.
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.
Listen to, and read the text of one of his Share the Wealth
speeches at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5109/.
Information provided by wikipedia.org