Earl Long

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Earl Long
Earl Long portrait.jpg
Earl Kemp Long
45th Governor of Louisiana
In office
June 29, 1939 – May 14, 1940
LieutenantColeman Lindsey
Preceded byRichard W. Leche
Succeeded bySam H. Jones
In office
May 11, 1948 – May 13, 1952
LieutenantWilliam J. "Bill" Dodd
Preceded byJimmie H. Davis
Succeeded byRobert F. Kennon
In office
May 8, 1956 – May 10, 1960
LieutenantLether Frazar
Preceded byRobert F. Kennon
Succeeded byJimmie H. Davis
34th Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
In office
1936–1939
GovernorRichard W. Leche
Preceded byJames A. Noe
Succeeded byColeman Lindsey
Personal details
BornEarl Kemp Long
August 26, 1895 (1895-08-26)
Winnfield, Louisiana
DiedSeptember 5, 1960 (1960-09-06) (aged 65)
Alexandria, Louisiana
Resting placeEarl K. Long Memorial Park

Winnfield, Louisiana

Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Blanche Revere Long
ChildrenNo children
ReligionBaptist
 
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Earl Long
Earl Long portrait.jpg
Earl Kemp Long
45th Governor of Louisiana
In office
June 29, 1939 – May 14, 1940
LieutenantColeman Lindsey
Preceded byRichard W. Leche
Succeeded bySam H. Jones
In office
May 11, 1948 – May 13, 1952
LieutenantWilliam J. "Bill" Dodd
Preceded byJimmie H. Davis
Succeeded byRobert F. Kennon
In office
May 8, 1956 – May 10, 1960
LieutenantLether Frazar
Preceded byRobert F. Kennon
Succeeded byJimmie H. Davis
34th Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana
In office
1936–1939
GovernorRichard W. Leche
Preceded byJames A. Noe
Succeeded byColeman Lindsey
Personal details
BornEarl Kemp Long
August 26, 1895 (1895-08-26)
Winnfield, Louisiana
DiedSeptember 5, 1960 (1960-09-06) (aged 65)
Alexandria, Louisiana
Resting placeEarl K. Long Memorial Park

Winnfield, Louisiana

Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Blanche Revere Long
ChildrenNo children
ReligionBaptist
The Earl K. Long Gymnasium at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Earl Kemp Long (August 26, 1895 – September 5, 1960) was an American politician and the 45th Governor of Louisiana for three non-consecutive terms. Long termed himself the "last of the red hot poppas" of politics, referring to his stump-speaking skills. He served from 1939 to 1940, 1948 to 1952, and 1956 to 1960.

He was also lieutenant governor, having served from 1936 to 1939, but he failed in three other bids to be elected lieutenant governor. In 1932, he lost to state House Speaker John B. Fournet of Jennings in Jefferson Davis Parish; in 1944, he was defeated in a runoff by J. Emile Verret of Iberia Parish, and in 1959, the position went to the conservative Clarence C. "Taddy" Aycock of Franklin in St. Mary Parish. In that first defeat, Earl's brother, Huey Pierce Long, Jr., endorsed Fournet, but the rest of the Long family stood with Earl. The outraged Earl, at thirty-six, called Huey "the yellowest physical coward that God had ever let live." Huey Long said of Earl: "Earl is my brother but he's crooked. If you live long enough he'll double cross you." In the 1944 contest, Earl Long lost to a man whose previous political position had been no higher than a school board presidency. In the latter contest, Aycock won a second primary over the mayor of Alexandria, W. George Bowdon, Jr., as Long failed even to secure a runoff berth.

At the time of his death, Long's last term as governor had expired, and he was the Democratic nominee in the now defunct Eighth Congressional District, based in central Louisiana.

Early career[edit]

Long was born in Winnfield, the seat of Winn Parish in north central Louisiana to Huey Pierce Long, Sr. (1852–1937), and the former Caledonia Palestine Tyson (1860–1913), a native of neighboring Grant Parish. He was the younger brother of U.S. Representative George Shannon "Doc" Long and Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Pierce Long, Jr. Long's younger sister was Lucille Long Hunt (1898–1985) of Ruston, the seat of Lincoln Parish in north Louisiana and the mother of future Louisiana Public Service Commissioner John S. Hunt, III (1928–2001), of Monroe. Long attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where his college roommate was future State Senator John Jones Doles, Sr., of Plain Dealing in northern Bossier Parish.[1] Long thereafter graduated from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

Governorships[edit]

Long became governor in 1939, after the resignation of Governor Richard Leche, but he failed to win a term of his own in 1940. During his brief term, Long appointed a cousin, Floyd Harrison Long, Sr., as the custodian of the Central State (Mental) Hospital in Pineville. Floyd Long was the father of future U.S. Representative Gillis William Long and U.S. Army Colonel Floyd H. Long, Jr. Long's brief first tenure corresponded with the "Louisiana Hayride" scandals that engulfed the president of Louisiana State University, James Monroe Smith.[2]

Long was defeated in the Democratic primary by the conservative attorney Sam Houston Jones of Lake Charles.

In 1944, Long did not run for governor though he wished to have done so. Instead he ran for lieutenant governor on an intraparty ticket with former U.S. Representative Lewis Lovering Morgan of Covington, the seat of St. Tammany Parish north of New Orleans. Long led the party balloting for the second position in state government, but he lost the runoff to Verret, whose only previous elected experience had been as a member and president of the Iberia Parish School Board. Had Morgan not entered the second primary against James Houston "Jimmie" Davis, Long would have become lieutenant governor without a runoff. At the time, Louisiana law provided that there would be no statewide constitutional runoff elections unless there was also a contest for governor. That rule did not apply to state legislative races, however.

Long blamed his failure to become lieutenant governor on Secretary of State Wade O. Martin, Jr., a former ally with whom he quarreled for many years thereafter. In 1957, Martin lost jurisdiction over both insurance and voting machines as a result of a law pushed through the legislature by Long. Rufus D. Hayes of Baton Rouge became the first insurance commissioner, and Drayton Boucher of Webster Parish was named over voting machines until he was replaced by Douglas Fowler of Red River Parish, when Boucher decided not to run for the office in the 1959–1960 election cycle.

In 1948, Long was elected governor to succeed Jimmie Davis, who had defeated Morgan in the 1944 runoff. To win the first of his two full terms from 1948 to 1952, Long defeated his old rival Sam Jones by a wide margin. Eliminated in the first primary was U.S. Representative James Hobson "Jimmy" Morrison of Hammond, who made his third and final gubernatorial bid.

Term limited for the 1951–1952 elections, Long essentially sat out the statewide elections won by Judge Robert F. Kennon of Minden though most loyal Longites lined up with Judge Carlos Spaht of Baton Rouge. According to the book, The Big Lie, by Garry Boulard (2001), Long proved instrumental in charges levied against gubernatorial candidate Hale Boggs of New Orleans in the 1951–1952 campaign that Boggs was a communist. The charges were made by rival candidate Lucille May Grace and engineered by St. Bernard Parish boss Leander Perez. At a stormy session of the state Democratic committee, Long attacked Perez and Grace for making the charge against Boggs, but prevented Boggs from publicly defending himself, a ploy that some thought greatly contributed to Boggs' defeat.

Long surfaced again in 1955–1956, when he scored an easy victory over a field that included New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Story "Chep" Morrison, Sr. (no relation to James H. Morrison but a law partner of Hale Boggs), state highway director Fred Preaus of Farmerville, the choice of outgoing Governor Robert Kennon, former state police superintendent Francis Grevemberg, and businessman James M. McLemore of Alexandria, who in his second race for the office ran on a primarily segregationist platform.

Earl Williamson, a local politician in Caddo Parish became personally close to both Huey and Earl Long. Williamson's son, later State Senator Don W. Williamson recalls Earl Long coming into Vivian and picking up his father, Earl Williamson, as the Earl Long entourage headed on a buttermilk-drinking and horse racing trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Long demanded absolutely loyalty among his inner circle, often saying that he did not need them to back him when he is right but when he is wrong.

Governor Long became close to Margaret Dixon, the first woman managing editor of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. She often advised him on political strategy. He appointed her to the LSU Board of Supervisors in 1951.

The journalist Iris Kelso, based in New Orleans, covered Long only during his last year in office, having interviewed him once in his long-handles underwear.[3]

From 1948 to 1950, Long's executive secretary was former college president and state Senator A.A. Fredericks of Natchitoches. Long later recalled Fredericks as his secretary for the last two years of Long's last term as governor. Another Long confidante, former legislator Drayton Boucher of Springhill and later Baton Rouge, was named as interim "custodian of voting machines" from 1958 to 1959, only to be replaced by still another ally, Douglas Fowler of Coushatta, who won the position when it became an elective office in 1960.[4]

On three occasions, Long tapped Lorris M. Wimberly of Bienville Parish as Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives. He also named Wimberly director of public works in Long's last term. In Louisiana, the powerful governor chooses the House Speaker despite the separation of powers.

In his last gubernatorial term, Long relied heavily on his legislative floor leader, state Representative Willard L. Rambo of Georgetown in Grant Parish. Rambo was a Long by marriage, having wed the former Mary Alice Long.

In 1956, Long vetoed funding for the work undertaken by the LSU historian Edwin Adams Davis to establish the state archives. Davis appealed to the State Board of Liquidation for temporary relief until funding could be restored in the next legislative session, and the archives would become a permanent institution in Baton Rouge.[5]

In 1959, Long actually considered resigning as governor,[6] a move which would have made his loyal lieutenant governor, Lether Edward Frazar of Lake Charles, the Louisiana chief executive for some seven months. Under the scenario, Long would then run for governor himself in the December 1959 Democratic primary and thereby avoid Louisiana's ban (at the time) on governors succeeding themselves. The plan never developed. Instead, the term-limited Long unsuccessfully sought the lieutenant governorship on a "ticket" headed by fellow Democrat and wealthy former Governor James Albert Noe, Sr. Jimmie Davis succeeded Long as governor in 1960. It was said that in 1948 Long followed Davis, and in 1960, Davis followed Long. Long was nevertheless a testament to the persistence and power of the Long brand of populism in southern politics.

"Uncle Earl"[edit]

The colorful "Uncle Earl" (so-named because of his relatives, including nephew and U.S. Senator Russell Long) once joked that one day the people of Louisiana would elect "good government, and they won't like it!" Beneath his public persona as a simple, plain-spoken rural Louisianan of little education was an astute political mind of considerable intelligence. Earl Long was a master campaigner, who attracted large crowds when his campaign caravan crisscrossed the state. He would not allow a local person to introduce him or his ticket mates at a rally. Only out-of-parish people could do the honor. Long reasoned that nearly any local person would have made some political enemies who might reject Earl Long just because that person's "enemy" was pro-Long. Long was determined to get every vote possible even if that meant forbidding the local leadership to introduce him when he came to town on a campaign swing.

Long's feud with Dave Pearce[edit]

W. E. Anderson of Tangipahoa Parish was renominated without opposition to a second term in the 1952 primary for Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. In the 1948 Democratic primary, Anderson defeated Dave L. Pearce, a legislator from West Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana. On Anderson's death in 1952, outgoing Governor Long appointed Pearce to finish the term, and Pearce then won a special election and served as commissioner during the administration of the anti-Long Governor Robert F. Kennon of Minden.[7]

Long's first lieutenant governor, William J. "Bill" Dodd, in his memoir entitled Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics (named for Earl Long's "Peapatch Farm" in Winn Parish), writes that Earl Long developed a "hatred" for Pearce and encouraged Sidney McCrory of Ascension Parish, the state entomologist and a later supporter of John F. Kennedy, to run against Pearce in the 1956 primary election. Dodd did not explain why the relationship between Long and Pearce had dissipated, but McCrory defeated Pearce. Then Pearce rebounded for the first of four consecutive terms as agriculture commissioner in the 1959 primary, the same contest in which Earl Long ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

Dodd noted with humor how Long also became irritated with McCrory, who had been invited on Long's intraparty ticket

to harass and, we hoped, defeat Uncle Earl's old political enemy, Dave Pearce. All McCrory could talk about was pesticides and how to get rid of different kinds of crop-killing bugs. His main topic and claim to fame, which dominated all of his speeches, whether he was in cotton country, forestry areas, or the city of New Orleans, was his eradicating the pink boll worms from Louisiana cotton fields. Uncle Earl almost went crazy when he had to listen to ... McCrory kill enough pink boll worms to fill the Atlantic Ocean.

Bill Dodd analyzes Earl Long[edit]

In his memoir, Dodd assesses Long, accordingly:

He had no formal speech training, but he was a great, forceful, and effective speaker. He had no university background in psychology, yet he practiced psychology in his political life, which was his whole life. He had no training in either economics or governmental administration, yet as governor he was an expert in both. Somewhere along the line, Earl Long changed from an amateurish shoe-polish salesman and political camp follower into a sound businessman and excellent government administrator. Other governors ... drew from their formal educational training and varied business and political experiences to operate the governor's office. But none of them surpassed old Earl in the politics of getting elected or handling the job after being elected.

Dodd said that Long "was as conservative as Ronald Reagan and as prejudiced as a Cyclops in the KKK about blacks, but he gave the state many liberal laws, was good to blacks, and strong for welfare. He called women lobbyists "poor things who couldn't get enough at home" and "man-crazy nuts".

Dodd repudiated the 1989 film Blaze about Blaze Starr, a burlesque performer who has an affair with Earl Long, played by Paul Newman, with Lolita Davidovich as Starr. According to Dodd:

Blaze has done much to distort the truth about Earl Long...He never loved Blaze or any of the many strippers and camp followers who came when he whistled...The vulgar language and lurid sex scenes are bad enough to get this movies rated too bad for young people. The unreality of the events and actions of Earl Long make it worthless as a true picture of Earl or Louisiana politics. On a scale of nothing to something, I would rate Blaze a perfect zero.

Yet, it was widely reported at the time that Earl Long, on more than one occasion, introduced Ms. Starr to the press as "the future first lady of Louisiana". Earl Long left her $50,000 in his will, but Starr refused to accept the money.

Eccentricity and hospitalization[edit]

Long was well known for eccentric behavior, leading some to suspect that he suffered from bipolar disorder.[8] In his last term in office his wife, Blanche Revere Long (1902–1998), and others attempted to remove him on the grounds of mental instability. For a time, Long was confined to the Southeast Louisiana Hospital in Mandeville, but his legal advisor, Joseph A. Sims, was said to have "rescued" Long from the institution. Long was never formally diagnosed with any mental illness, and a large part of the motivation for this effort may have been political; his wife's involvement may have been related to his connection with Blaze Starr. Some have even speculated that he may have suffered from dementia in his last days.

Additionally, in his later years he was alleged to have suffered from strokes, resulting in further mental impairment. He also had a severe heart attack in 1951.

Grave of Earl Kemp Long in Winnfield, Louisiana
Bench at Earl Long grave inscribed, but blocked from view by the glare, with words of the C. Austin Miles hymn "In the Garden" (1912)

While confined in the mental hospital in Mandeville, Long kept his political machine running via telephone. His staff discovered that nothing in Louisiana law required him to relinquish power because he was confined to the mental hospital; so Long ordered Jesse Bankston, the head of the state hospital system, fired and replaced him with a supporter, who had Long released. Bill Dodd, who experienced times of positive association with Long followed by alienation, defended Long over the mental hospital confinement. So too did long-time State Senator Sixty Rayburn of Bogalusa, a personal and philosophical ally of Long's. Earl and Blanche separated, and he died before a divorce could be finalized.

Congressman-elect[edit]

Only a few months after his term as governor expired in 1960, Earl Long ran for the United States House of Representatives from Louisiana's 8th congressional district, since disbanded. An entourage of Long backers from over the years flocked to support him in the race, including Bill Dodd, former Senate floor leader C. H. "Sammy" Downs, state Senator Sixty Rayburn, the Long attorney Joseph A. Sims, and A. A. Fredericks, Long's former executive assistant.[9]

Because of a third candidate, former State Representative Ben F. Holt of Rapides Parish, Long finished in second place in the primary election and was compelled into a runoff contest for the Democratic nomination with the short-term incumbent, Alexandria attorney Harold B. McSween. No Republican filed for the seat, and Long was unopposed in the general election set for November 8, 1960, when Long's choice for president, John F. Kennedy would defeat Richard M. Nixon. Soon he suffered a fatal heart attack while in the Baptist Hospital (later Rapides General Hospital) in Alexandria. The 8th district seat had once had been held by Earl Long's late brother, George Long, who had been succeeded by McSween. After Earl Long's death, the Democratic State Central Committee gave the nomination to McSween anyway. McSween was hence unopposed in the 1960 general election for a second consecutive term in the U.S. House. McSween was, however, defeated in the 1962 primary by his fellow liberal Democrat, Gillis William Long, who claimed to be the rightful heir to the Long dynasty.

The American journalist A.J. Liebling wrote about Long's unusual career in a series of the articles for The New Yorker which were published in 1961 as The Earl of Louisiana by Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-3343-9.

Peoples and Kurtz biography[edit]

Morgan D. Peoples and Michael L. Kurtz, in Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics, noted that the only thing certain about Long was his "unpredictability, for no one, and probably not even Long himself, knew what he would say or do next. Yet, whatever he did or said, Long acted from political motives—he was a political animal through and through. 'While the rest of 'em are sleeping,' he once told his rivals, 'I'm politicking.'"

Legacy[edit]

While not attempting to dismantle the Jim Crow laws of his state, he was notable for easing the governmental indignities placed on African-Americans and allowed a considerable number to vote. He also convinced the legislature to equalize teacher pay between the races. In 1959, in response to legislative attempts to restrict the suffrage even further, he called for full participation by blacks in Louisiana elections. He of course realized that he would get most of the black vote himself. He also quarreled with the state's leading segregationist in the 1950s, then state Senator William M. Rainach of Claiborne Parish in north Louisiana.

Long was reluctant to anoint a successor as governor in 1952 and 1960, for he hoped to return to office in 1956, which he did, and 1964, which was impossible because he died in 1960. William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, in The Louisiana Election of 1960 viewed Long, accordingly:

"Long knew that a term of office on the part of a relatively inactive and conservative administration would create the type of situation for which his [populist] appeals were ideally suited. Furthermore, he had always played down the race issue (after all, there were [then] 150,000 Negro voters in the state), and he certainly clearly foresaw that the issue could furnish only a limited amount of mileage for political travel in the face of current national developments. In point of fact, his victory in the congressional primary within nine months of the second gubernatorial primary was indicative of the shrewdness of his calculation. If Earl Long had not died immediately following that congressional race ... few observers doubted that he would have been an odds-on favorite to rebuild his machine sufficiently to capture the governorship in 1964. As it happens, the death of Earl Long leaves a tremendous hiatus—in a sense deliberately created by Earl himself—in the leadership of the Long faction. . . . "[10][11]

After a heavily-attended funeral in Baton Rouge, Long was interred at the Earl K. Long Memorial Park in Winnfield. His nephew Senator Russell Long was among the pallbearers.

The Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge is named in his honor, as is the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans. There also is a music venue in Baton Rouge called Uncle Earl's named after him.

One of Long's dedicated followers, John Kenneth Snyder, Sr., became a controversial mayor of Alexandria. Snyder attempted to govern in the Long style and repeatedly met the opposition of the city's business establishment.

Long appointed John Sparks Patton, a Claiborne Parish school administrator, as superintendent of the Louisiana School for the Deaf. It was Patton who had worked for taxpayer-funded school textbooks, an idea implemented by Huey Long.

Long named two widows, Lizzie P. Thompson of Doyline and Mary Smith Gleason of the Evergreen Community near Shongaloo, to fill the Webster Parish seat in the Louisiana House after their husbands, C.W. Thompson and E.D. Gleason, died consecutively in office.

Long was a classmate of Alexandria businessman Morgan W. Walker, Sr. (1893–1983), a co-founder of what became Continental Trailways. Walker was appointed by a Long intraparty rival, Governor Jimmie Davis to the State Mineral Board.

Long was an avid boar hunter and used Catahoula Leopard dogs. Today, Catahoulas as well as Blackmouth Cur, Redmouth cur, Yellow blackmouth cur, and other cur dogs are showcased at Uncle Earl's Hog Dog Trials, named after him and held in Winnfield. In the alternate history strategy game, Hearts of Iron II, Earl Long is one of the few options for head of state of the Confederate States of America, but he was more unionist than confederate in political orientation.

In 1993, Long was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in his native Winnfield, along with two other Winnfield-area governors, Huey Long and Oscar K. Allen.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting under president Beth Courtney of Baton Rouge produced the documentary Uncle Earl about the colorful former governor.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Verified by Mai Doles, daughter-in-law of John Doles, Sr., and adopted daughter of the historian T. Harry Williams
  2. ^ "Smith, James Monroe". A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (Louisiana Historical Association). Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Iris Turner Kelso: Introduction". beta.wpcf.org. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Three Custodians in Four Years". Louisiana.gov. Retrieved June 24, 2009. 
  5. ^ "A Historical Sketch of the Louisiana State Archives". sos.la.gov. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  6. ^ - 1959 Year In Review: Governor Earl Long Goes Crazy – UPI.COM – http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1959/Governor-Earl-Long-Goes-Crazy/12295509433704-5/ -
  7. ^ "Bill Sherman, "Louisiana ag chiefs: past and present", July 3, 2008". ldaf.state.la.us. Retrieved May 1, 2013. 
  8. ^ Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl and Louisiana Politics. Louisiana State University Press. 1992. ISBN 978-0-8071-1765-1. 
  9. ^ Michael Kurtz and Morgan D. Peoples, Earl K. Long: The Saga of Uncle Earl in Louisiana Politics, 1990 ISBM: 0-8071-1577-0. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, The Louisiana Election of 1960, Baton Rogue: Louisiana State University Press, 1963, p. 53
  11. ^ Havard, Heberle, and Howard mistakenly refer on page 53 to Long's congressional opponent, savings and loan official Harold McSween of Alexandria, as a "conservative" incumbent in 1960; McSween's voting record was on the political left.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert F. Kennon
Governor of Louisiana
1956–1960
Succeeded by
Jimmie H. Davis
Preceded by
Jimmie H. Davis
Governor of Louisiana
1948–1952
Succeeded by
Robert F. Kennon
Preceded by
Richard W. Leche
Governor of Louisiana
1939–1940
Succeeded by
Sam H. Jones