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Huey Pierce Long

Long, Huey Pierce, 1893–1935, American political leader, b. Winnfield, La.; brother of Earl Long. Originally a farm boy, he was an extremely successful traveling salesman before studying law at Tulane Univ. He was admitted to the bar in 1915 and practiced in Winnfield and Shreveport. Long was elected to the Louisiana railroad commission in 1918; in 1921 it became the public service commission. He was reelected to the commission in 1924, served as chairman, and was attorney for the state in public utility litigation.

Narrowly defeated for governor of Louisiana in 1924, Long was swept into office four years later. When the state legislature obstructed his program of economic and social reform, he severely lessened the influence of the moneyed oligarchy that had dominated Louisiana government since Reconstruction and established his own control of the state through extensive use of patronage. Long was responsible for the building of badly needed roads and bridges, the expansion of state-owned hospitals, and the extension of the school system into remote rural regions. He also increased the taxes of large Louisiana businesses, especially the oil companies. The state legislature was bludgeoned or bought into passing his laws. In 1929, Long was impeached on charges of bribery and gross misconduct, but he was not convicted.

"The Kingfish," as Long was called, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930, but he did not take his seat until Jan., 1932, after he had assured the succession as governor of one of his own supporters. From Washington, Long continued to direct the Louisiana government. In 1934 he began a reorganization of the state, which virtually abolished local government and gave Long the power to appoint all state employees. As a senator, Long was at first a supporter of the New Deal, but soon became one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's most vociferous critics.

A presidential aspirant, Long gained a steadily increasing national following. Early in 1934 he introduced his plan for national social and economic reform, the "Share-the-Wealth" program; it proposed a guaranteed family annual income and a homestead allowance for every family. Meanwhile, in Louisiana, Long continued to expand his powers. In Sept., 1935, on a trip to the state, Long was assassinated. The assassin, Dr. Carl A. Weiss, was slain by Long's bodyguards. Long's political machine flourished for several years after his death, and the Long family remained important in the state.

See his autobiography, Every Man a King (1933, repr. 1964, 1996) and his My First Days in the White House (1935, repr. 1972); H. M. Christman, ed., Kingfish to America, Share Our Wealth: Selected Senatorial Papers of Huey P. Long (1985); biographies by T. H. Williams (1969, repr. 1981), W. I. Hair (1991), S. LeVert (1995), and D. R. Collins (2003); G. Boulard, Huey Long: His Life in Photos, Drawings, and Cartoons (2003); studies by H. T. Kane, (1941, repr. 1971), H. C. Dethloff, ed. (1967), A, P. Sindler (1972), A. Brinkley (1982), G. Jeansonne (1993), R. C. Cortner (1996), O. Handlin and G. Jeansonne, ed. (1997), and R. D. White, Jr. (2006).

His son, Russell Billiu Long, 1918–2003, b. Shreveport, La., was also a politician. A graduate of the Louisiana State University (1941) and its law school (1942), he served (1948–87) as U.S. senator from Louisiana. A Democrat, he was the longtime chairman of the Senate's finance committee and was important in the creation of tax laws. His last significant accomplishment was helping to write simplified national income tax legislation in 1986.

See biography by R. Mann (1992).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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